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Discuss Poe's use of irony and black humor in the story."The Cask of Amontillado" by...

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rainbow333 | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted March 30, 2010 at 11:36 AM via web

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Discuss Poe's use of irony and black humor in the story.

"The Cask of Amontillado" by Edgar Allan Poe

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bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted March 30, 2010 at 11:53 AM (Answer #1)

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Edgar Allan Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado" is loaded with irony and black humor. Examples include:

  • Fortunato's dress as a court jester is a beautiful irony, since he proves to be as foolish as his costume.
  • Montressor produces a trowel when Fortunato asks him for a sign indicative of the Brotherhood of Free Masons. This bit of humor--a trowel is a bricklaying mason's primary tool--is both ironic and black.
  • Fortunato is already sick, but he proceeds into the nitre-encrusted catacombs, which only make his cough--and physical condition--worse.
  • When Fortunato begs to go on, he tells Monstressor that "I shall not die of a cough." "True--true!" Montressor knowingly replies.
  • Montressor's coat-of-arms is a that of a foot crushing a serpent. The motto: (simplified) "No wrong goes unpunished."
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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted March 30, 2010 at 12:21 PM (Answer #2)

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Perhaps the most salient irony and black humor is in Montresor's mention of Fortunato's throwing up of the bottle "with a gesticulation" I did not understand--"He repeated the movement--a grotesque one." [but Montresor's actions are not?=irony]  Then, when Fortunato asks if Montresor is not a mason, the narrator ironically replies, "Yes, yes."  Of course, he is a brick mason this night that he buries Fortunato.  And, herein lies the black humor.

After Montesor fetters Fortunato to the wall, he tells Fortunato to run his hand along the wall and feel the niter that he has ironically brought to Fortunato's attention earlier as though he were concerned about him.  Now with black humor again, Montesor instructs Fortunato that he must notice it.

Once more let me implore you to return.  No?  Then I must positively leave you.  But I must first render you all the little attentions in my powers.

This passage contains black humor, as well, since Montresor is merely toying with Fortunato, having no intention of letting the man return and since Montresor will, indeed, leave Fortunato--leave him to die and rot.

When Fortunato tries to tease Montresor out of his sinister intentions, there is much contrast between what is said and what is meant.  Fortunato starts,

'But is it not getting late?....Let us be gone.'  (Let us get out of this place.)

'Yes,' I said, 'let us be gone'  (Fortunato will die/be gone, but Montresor will leave/be gone)

'For the love of God, Montresor.'  (begging)

'Yes,' I said, 'for the love of God.' (making an oath: he will be revenged)

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