In the "The Cask of Amontillado" how does specific language and sentence structure contribute to tone?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Since Poe strove for a singular effect in his stories, language and sentence structure contribute significantly to the singular effect of nervousness and horror in "The Cask of Amontillado." In fact, from the onset of the story, Poe carefully chooses language that stirs the reader to wonder about the sanity of the narrator:  "The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult, I vowed revenge. Montesor, the narrator, explains his devious plan almost breathlessly as the dashes indicate in the third paragraph:  "Fortunato, like his countrymen, was a quack--but in the matter..." or at the end of the story:  "I reechoed--I aided--I surpassed them in volume..."

At times there is a swiftness to the dialogue as Montesor asks Fortunato if he is all right:  "we will go back; your heath is precious.  You are rich...(short, quick phrases)"

Yes, yes,"  I said, "yes, yes." (Here there is a frenetic pace.)

"You? Impossible! A mason?"

As Fortunato is walled in, his words are staccato

"Ha!ha!ha!--he!he!--a very good joke indeed--an excellent jest.  We will have many a rich laugh about it at the palazzo--he! he! he!--over our wine-he! he! he!"

Horror is created in the fast-moving pace of the structure of the sentences. Then, in contrast to the horrific death that Montesor deals Fortunato, Montesor finishes with a dignified Latin motto:  "In pace requiescat!"  This contrast creates a tone of inconguity, which also contributes to the gothic/horror tone.

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The Cask of Amontillado

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