How does the setting of "The Cask Of Amontillado" by E.A.Poe change as the story progresses?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The setting of Poe's gothic story, "The Cask of Amontillado," is ideal for Montesor's dastardly deeds as it progresses with the evil intent of the narrative:

  • Disguise during the Carnival

Fortunato, costumed as a fool in his harlequin, is deceived into coming to Montesor's catacombs where he keeps the Amontillado about which he pretends to desire Fortunato's opinion.  Montesor dissembles his intentions; he feigns concern for Fortunato's health in the cold of the catacombs; he, like the revelers, engages in aberrant behavior, although his differs from what others do.

  • Underground catacombs

Montesor lures Fortunato into dark, dank, subterranean regions to taste his Amontillado.  With the intent of burying his adversary alive, the catacombs are the perfect setting as there are already bones "scattered promiscuously."

  • Arabesque -winding, narrowing, and darkening of catacombs

Poe's setting of the catacombs contain various rooms that narrow and turn, each one more confining and damp.  Like his technique, which he termed arabesque, Poe winds his narrative, returning to the motif of the dampness and cold of the catacombs.  Montesor repeatedly tells Fortunato, "We will turn back," and declaring that he will call upon Luchesi.  When he shows Fortunato the coat of arms and wields the trowel, Fortunato does not comprehend the twistings and turnings of Montesor's devious plot, but moves forward on his own.

  • The macabre setting and actions in the final room

Montesor shackles Fortunato and walls him into a small dark place.  When Fortunato cries, "For the love of God!" Montesor answers mysteriously, "Yes, for the love of God!"  Without explanation to the man, Montesor completes his burial of Fortunato, who himself makes no sound.  Montesor tells his tale fifty years later, after no one has learned his secret.


pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As this story goes along, the setting really changes along with the action.  At first, both the setting and the action are pretty light hearted.  The action takes place above ground, in the middle of a carnival.  This is a pretty happy setting.

As we go along, however, the setting gets darker both figuratively and literally.  As we start to really see how dark and evil Montresor's plans are, we also enter a much darker and more foreboding setting.  We go underground into these mysterious catacombs with their piles of bones.

So the setting mirrors the action and helps to emphasize how evil Montresor's action is.

Read the study guide:
The Cask of Amontillado

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