Compare and contrast the narrator/narratee relationship in Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado” and Hemingway's "A Clean Well-Lighted Place". How do these stories call attention to and complicate...

Compare and contrast the narrator/narratee relationship in Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado” and Hemingway's "A Clean Well-Lighted Place". How do these stories call attention to and complicate this relationship?

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liesljohnson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

For anyone unfamiliar with this interesting word, the "narratee" is the reader to whom the narrator seems to be talking while telling the story. The concept will become more clear with these examples:

1. In Poe's "A Cask of Amontillado," the narrator says this:

"You, who so well know the nature of my soul, will not suppose, however, that gave utterance to a threat."

That shows us that the narratee is a person who personally knows this narrator and is familiar with the narrator's personality and values. With that statement, the story calls attention to a close friendship between the narrator and narratee. The narrator then keeps telling the story as if he is revealing his careful, clever act of revenge to a close friend. That imaginary, invisible close friend is the narratee.

2. In Hemingway's "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place," the narrator allows the characters to think and speak in a few Spanish words (like "hombre" and "loco" and, most importantly, "nada") and this narrator lets one of the characters say the Lord's Prayer--all without the narrator bothering to explain to the reader what these things mean or what the prayer is. This shows that the narratee is a person who understands a bit of Spanish and knows what the Lord's prayer is, although this narratee may or may not be a stranger to the narrator. These foreign terms and the religious prayer are the features that call attention to the assumed relationship between narrator and narratee: the former assumes that the latter has at least a small measure of linguistic and cultural literacy.

As these two examples show, the narrator/narratee relationship in Poe's tale is much deeper and more salient than the one in Hemingway's. "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place" reveals a loose, generalized narrator/narratee relationship, giving a general and universal appeal to the tale that's amplified by the fact that the characters remain unnamed. But with "The Cask of Amontillado," as with many other stories by Poe, we instantly understand that we're being pulled into the tale as a narratee, almost another character in the story who plays the role of a friend who listens and hears the shocking details of the narrator's morbid confession.

 

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The Cask of Amontillado

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