illustration of Fortunato standing in motley behind a mostly completed brick wall with a skull superimposed on the wall where his face should be

The Cask of Amontillado

by Edgar Allan Poe

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Figurative Language In The Cask Of Amontillado

Are there any examples of figurative language in Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado"?

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Double Entendre: A double entendre is a literary device in which a word or phrase is used which can be interpreted two different ways. The first definition of the word or phrase is typically straightforward while the second definition is usually ironic or inappropriate. Poe utilizes double entendres a couple of times throughout the short story.

When Montresor and Fortunato are walking through the catacombs, Montresor encourages him to turn around because of his health, and says, "You are a man to be missed" (Poe, 3). This phrase has two meanings. The first meaning is that people will literally miss Fortunato's company while he walks through the vaults, and the second meaning is that people will miss him because he will never return from the catacombs.

Later on, when Fortunato says that Montresor is not a mason, he replies, "Yes, yes . . . yes, yes" (3). Montresor's affirmative answer has as an ominous double meaning. Montresor proceeds to show Fortunato a trowel, which indicates that Montresor actually meant that he is a mason, which implies that he will build a wall around Fortunato.

Simile: A simile is when two different things are compared using the words "like" or "as." While Montresor and Fortunato are walking through the catacombs, Montresor uses a simile to describe the appearance of the nitre on the walls of the vaults. Montresor says, "The nitre! . . . see, it increases. It hangs like moss upon the vaults" (5).

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That's a good question!  The answer is: Yes!  "The Cask of Amontillado" contains good examples of figurative language.

First, let's work from a common definition of "figurative language."  This literary term refers to the use of words and phrases that go beyond a literal meaning.  The most common examples of these are: metaphor, simile, symbolism, and personification.  There are others that are a little rarer, but these are the big ones.

Now, let's look at the text to try to find examples.  I can give you three pretty easily:

  1. "THE THOUSAND INJURIES of Fortunato I had borne as I best could." Well, here we are with one of the "rarer" ones (I guess they are not all that uncommon after all!)  This is an example of hyperbole.  This is the fancy name given to when a writer makes an exaggeration.  In this case, I doubt the narrator could have actually endured "1000 injuries."  He just says that for effect.
  2. “I drink,” he said, “to the buried that repose around us.” “And I to your long life.” There is a bit of irony used here, considering what the narrator has in store for Fortunado.
  3. “A huge human foot d'or, in a field azure; the foot crushes a serpent rampant whose fangs are imbedded in the heel.” This is his family "sign."  It is a great symbol. Just look at what he is doing...he feels that Fortunato has wronged him (the snake) and it is his destiny to crush him (the foot.)

These are just a few...if you look closely I am sure you will find others.

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