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

Start Free Trial

Carnival sets the stage for murder in "Cask" but does Poe use it in any way as a gothic death symbol? What are some other gothic death symbols in the story?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Ah, an interesting question. Yes, he uses carnival in other ways. To make sure you've covered the setting the stage aspect, in carnival the whole world is turned upside down, and the unspeakable is done. The devil is freed, in a way, and that's what happens here.

Carnival is also used as motif throughout through the costumes worn. The mason "costume" worn by the narrator turns out to be literal; he walls someone in. By contrast, Fortunato's jester costume is made deeply ironic; rather than entertaining someone for fun, he dies.

As for the cask, there are several ways it is a very Gothic symbol of death. It is like a grave, and is stored in a catacomb. In casks a kind of transformation happens, in which juice is made into a more powerful and intoxicating drink. In the narrator's heart, Fortunato's many tiny insults are distilled into a poison that makes him drunk with the desire for revenge.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team