How does the setting in "A Cask of Amontillado" build suspense?

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MaudlinStreet eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The setting of ‘‘The Cask of Amontillado’’ builds suspense in many ways. One is that both the location and the time of the story are only hinted at. It seems to take place in Venice during Carnival, yet the year is unclear, as is the nationality of everyone. To bring touches of the exotic to his murky atmosphere, Poe freely combines elements of different nations and cultures. Fortunato and Luchesi are Italians, knowledgeable about Italian wines. Montresor may be a Frenchman. Amontillado is a Spanish wine. Montresor's family motto is in Latin, Nemo me impune lacessit, and is the motto of the royal arms of Scotland. There are also references to Montresor's palazzo, his roquelaire, his rapier, and his flambeaux. This mix of images and phrases suggests a "placelessness" to the story.

The specific location of the catacombs truly adds suspense in the story. The niter growing upon the walls, the water dripping, the stacks of human bones...all this contributes to a mood of eeriness and builds the tension to the point of breaking. When the climax actually comes, one can almost feel the chains around their wrists, hear the clinking and the slap of the mortar, & see the flicker of the candle on the walls. Overall, the intense imagery of the surroundings adds to the suspense of the story.

hstaley eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The setting in "A Cask of Amontillado" is very appropriate to the story.  Montresor is getting revenge on Fortunato for an unknown reason by taking Fortunato into the catacombs and burying him alive.  The catacombs would be the maze or the hallways or the corridors that were built underneath the houses or the city.  It was where wine was stored (which was the bait Montresor used to get Fortunato to follow him).  They are approrpriate because they are dark, isolated, and to be blunt, scary.  The story talks about how as they are walking through the corridors they see skeletal remains and the entire area is essentially a maze -- where anyone could get lost.  The setting is also ironic because a party is happening above all of this treachery.  While everyone is enjoying themselves, they are completely unaware that a murderous act is occurring beneath them.

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The Cask of Amontillado

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