Verbal Irony In The Cask Of Amontillado

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bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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Edgar Allan Poe's classic short story, "The Cask of Amontillado," is loaded with irony, and there are several excellent examples of verbal irony to be found. My favorite comes when Fortunato, who is suffering from a cold and is bothered by the nitre on the walls of the catacombs, tells Montresor that

     "... the cough's a mere nothing; it will not kill me. I shall not die of a cough."
     "True—true," I replied...

Montresor already knows how Fortunato's end will actually come.

Another example comes when Fortunato asks Montresor if he is a Mason (a secretive fraternal organization). Montresor answers in the affirmative.

     "Yes, yes," I said; "yes, yes."
     "You? Impossible! A mason?"
     "A mason," I replied.
     "A sign," he said, "a sign."
     "It is this," I answered, producing from beneath the folds of my roquelaire a trowel. 
     "You jest," he exclaimed, recoiling a few paces.

The trowel Montresor produces is a tool for masonry, and within a few minutes, Fortunato will recognize the true nature of this ironic twist.

Another example of verbal irony comes when Montresor and Fortunato toast one another.

     "I drink," he said, "to the buried that repose around us."
     "And I to your long life."

Fortunato unknowingly toasts to himself, for he will soon join the dead that repose; Montresor jokingly toasts to Fortunato's life, which he knows will not be a long one.

Yet another example comes when Fortunato ironically congratulates Montresor for the vengeful nature of his family motto.

     "And the motto?"
     "Nemo me impune lacessit."
"Good!" he said.

The Montresor motto means "No one attacks me with impunity." Fortunato has just applauded the motto that will soon be implemented upon him by Montresor.

A final irony is bestowed upon Fortunato, who still does not recognize that it is not Luchesi who is the fool.

     "Proceed," I said; "herein is the Amontillado. As for Luchesi—"
     "He is an ignoramus," interrupted my friend, as he stepped unsteadily forward...

In the end, it is Fortunato who is the "ignoramus" for blindly following Montresor to the exact location marked for his final resting place.