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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How does the setting of "The Cask of Amontillado" affect the story?

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The setting of the story is absolutely crucial to establishing the overall mood. The story takes place against the backdrop of a carnival when everyone's out and about enjoying themselves, getting blind drunk and wearing silly costumes. Yet the action itself takes place in the dark, dank catacombs, where the...

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The setting of the story is absolutely crucial to establishing the overall mood. The story takes place against the backdrop of a carnival when everyone's out and about enjoying themselves, getting blind drunk and wearing silly costumes. Yet the action itself takes place in the dark, dank catacombs, where the wicked Montresor will confine the hapless Fortunato to his final resting place.

The juxtaposition of two such radically different events—a joyous celebration and a cold-blooded murder—is entirely in keeping with Poe's black humor and makes the horror that finally unfolds all the more effective when it comes. Right up until the very end, we entertain the barest of hopes that this is all some gigantic prank by Montresor and that he won't really wall up poor old Fortunato alive inside a crypt. In fact, that's precisely what Fortunato himself believes, though it's probably just wishful thinking on his part.

Montresor actually confesses his crime right at the start of the story. But as so many of Poe's narrators are notoriously unreliable, we're never quite sure whether or not to believe him. That this brutal, sadistic murder takes place during a carnival, when so many people play the fool, might suggest that Montresor's playing a huge prank on us, the very people to whom he's relating his story.

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"The Cask of Amontillado" by Edgar Allen Poe is a classic tale of revenge in which a man named Montresor prepares and executes the elaborate murder of the drunken nobleman Fortunato. Poe uses the settings in the story to create foreshadowing and draw the reader deeper and deeper into the horror of the conclusion.

In the beginning of the story, the setting is described as "the supreme madness of the carnival season." This explains Fortunato's outlandish outfit and the fact that he is drunk and therefore pliable to Montresor's suggestions. The imagined gaiety of the carnival also serves as a contrast to the dark, damp, lonely catacombs into which they descend.

Once Montresor lures Fortunato into 'the vaults," Poe uses numerous aspects of the setting to create an atmosphere of dismal terror. They go "down a long and winding staircase" to "the damp ground of the catacombs." The narrator mentions that nitre (a white mineral) "hangs like moss on the vaults." They pass under "a range of low arches" and arrive at a deep crypt in which the air is foul. Within the crypt are human remains, meaning skeletons and scattered bones. Poe uses all these details of setting to build up a sense of eerie dread to prepare the reader for the horror at the end.

The last setting is past the human remains, in the darkest chamber at the end, where Montresor chains Fortunato to the wall and then bricks up the entrance. This setting is meant to convey the darkness and isolation of the tomb and the ultimate horror of Fortunato's death.

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The setting of the story is ironic, given the fact that Montresor kills Fortunato during the carnival season, and takes place in both the festive streets of an unspecified European city, as well as in Montresor's eerie family catacombs. The jovial carnival season is juxtaposed with Montresor's malevolent plans and the gloomy atmosphere of the catacombs. Montresor's deceptive nature is further emphasized and revealed by his evil plans to murder Fortunato during such a happy time. The setting of the carnival season is depicted as a confused, chaotic atmosphere, which also correlates with the main characters' complex relationship. As the characters travel through the bright streets of the carnival to the depths of Montresor's catacombs, the atmosphere of the story becomes more ominous and foreboding. Montresor and Fortunado's journey beneath the palazzo also symbolically represents Montresor's descent into darkness as he embraces his wicked nature.

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In contrast to the previous answer, the setting of a story includes time frame in which the tale takes place. It is sheer irony that this story is taking place during Carnival, a jovial, festive time of the year in Italy. It is ironic that the brightly clothed Fortunato is taken from the festivities and thrust into the darkness of Montressor's vaults to meet his death.

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In "The Cask of Amontillado," a short story written by Edgar Allan Poe, the setting of the story plays a critical role in such elements as the mood of the story.  The mood of Poe's story is eerie and full of suspense; the use of descriptive words and imagery add to the sense of tension and foreboding experienced by the reader.

"The niter!" I said; "see, it increases.  It hangs like moss upon the vaults.  We are below the river's bed.  The drops of moisture trickle among the bones..."

By describing the Fortunato and Montresor's descension into the catacombs, Poe also symbolizes Montresor's descent into darkness and evil.  As the two continue onward, the mood becomes more sinister as the setting of the story becomes increasingly frightening.

...We passed through a range of low arches, descended, passed on, and descending again, arrived at a deep crypt, in which the foulness of the air caused our flambeaux rather to glow than flame.

The poor quality of the air, which can barely even keep a torch's flame burning, foreshadows Fortunato's death (dying of the flame).  This remote underground location is the perfect setting for a murder.

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“We had passed through long walls of piled skeletons, with casks and puncheons intermingling, into the inmost recesses of the catacombs.”

The setting in many stories becomes as important as the characters.  In “The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allan Poe, there are many layers of the setting. This contributes to the perfect crime committed by Montresor.

Montresor, an interesting protagonist, makes plans to kill Fortunato.  His detailed design includes every possible angle to ensure the fulfillment of his desired revenge against the man who has harmed him many times but now has insulted him. 

The time of the year is the carnival season. Everyone will be dressed in a costume and masked.  No one will be able to recognize the other people. 

Other plans had to be made before this. First, Montresor makes sure that his servants will not be at his house by forbidding them to attend the carnival.  Naturally, they go anyway. 

Next, in advance, Montresor prepares everything in the catacombs for the last part of his revenge. The catacombs are an important part of the plot.  Used as burial sites for the families, the catacombs go deep under the ground.  Niches in the walls were made to place the corpses which often would fall on to the floor as the flesh wore away from the skeleton. 

Because of the eerie surroundings, smell, and dampness, no one would enter the catacombs unless they had to go.  The farthest reaches of the tunnel would never be touched because they would have already been filled with the bodies of ancestors of long ago.  This was the perfect place to bury someone alive.

Montresor already had placed his accoutrements down in the catacombs: shackles in place; mortar and bricks; and the niche where he would build the wall ready.  The preparations were complete.

Fortunato fancies himself a connoisseur of wine. Montresor knows this and makes plans to lure the unsuspecting Fortunato to his catacombs where he keeps his wine.  He tells Fortunato about a rather rare wine, Amontillado, that Montresor is not sure is real. Entreating his help to be sure about the wine, Montresor gains Fortunato’s agreement to go to his house and taste the wine.

Suffering from a cold and too much alcohol, Fortunato easily follows his murderer to the appointed end of the catacombs to taste the amontillado.  Unfortunately for Fortunato, Montresor has something else in mind. 

At the most remote end of the crypt there appeared another less spacious.  Its walls had been lined with human remains, piled to the vault overhead, in the fashion of the great catacombs of Paris. Three sides of this interior crypt were still ornamented in this way. The walls were made solid granite.

Easily chained to the wall, Fortunato does not understand in the beginning. Slowly, he realizes what is happening and begins to yell and scream. Montresor accompanies him with the screaming telling Fortunato that no one will ever hear because they are so deep in the catacombs. Finally, all that can be heard are the bells of his jester’s hat.

Montresor completes his brickwork with just a bit of guilt.  The setting enabled him to attain his desired revenge. Fifty years later, the bones have not been disturbed. 

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