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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Verbal Irony In The Cask Of Amontillado

What are five examples of verbal irony in the story "The Cask Of Amontillado"?

Five examples of verbal irony in "The Cask of Amontillado" are when Montresor mocks Fortunato's exclamation of "For the love of God," when Montresor refers to himself as a "mason," when Montresor says that Fortunato's "health is precious," when Montresor affirms that Fortunato "shall not die of a cough," and when Fortunato toasts to the "buried that repose around [them]" and Montresor to Fortunato's "long life."

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Verbal irony can be defined as the expression of the opposite of what one actually means. Sarcasm is a particularly good example of this. In "The Cask of Amontillado," the wicked Montresor uses verbal irony on a number of occasions as a way of masking his true intentions regarding the hapless Fortunato. He also uses verbal irony to express his immense pleasure at finally gaining revenge on the man who's alleged to have done him a thousand wrongs.

One example of this comes toward the end of the story. At long last, Montresor has finally exacted a most terrible revenge on Fortunato by walling him up alive inside the catacombs. As Fortunato realizes to his horror, this is not an elaborate joke on Montresor's part; he's about to be consigned to his final resting place.

Fortunato desperately pleads for his life, crying out, "For the love of God, Montresor!" Fortunato hopes that by invoking the Almighty he'll make Monstresor realize that what he's doing is wrong. But unfortunately for Fortunato, Montresor doesn't relent; instead, he throws Fortunato's words right back in his face: "Yes," I said, "for the love of God!"

This is a clear example of verbal irony, as Montresor isn't really invoking the name of God at all; he's simply mocking Fortunato's desperate plea.

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Verbal irony occurs when words mean the opposite of or are given a different twist on their overt meaning. For example, the name of Montresor's enemy, Fortunato, is an example of verbal irony. Fortunato's name implies he is a lucky or fortunate man: however, he will experience one of the unluckiest of fates when he is walled up alive in the catacombs.

When Montresor refers to himself as a "mason," Fortunato interprets that to mean Montresor is a member of the same secret society he belongs to, the Freemasons. Ironically, however, Montresor is referring to the masonry work he will embark on to wall up Fortunato.

Third, when Montresor tells Fortunato that his "health is precious" in urging to him to go back from the damp catacombs, where the nitre is giving him coughing fits, Montresor is being ironic. Fortunato's health is anything but precious to Montresor.

Fourth, when he has chained Fortunato in the niche where he will leave him walled up, Montresor says to him: "Once more let me implore you to return." Of course, Montresor has not the least intention at this point of allowing Fortunato to return to the party.

Finally, when the walled Fortunato, wanting the "joke" to end, says to Montresor, "Let us be gone," Montresor repeats the phrase ironically. The "us" now becomes a royal we, which is when a person uses the first-person plural pronoun as a singular. The "us" who will be gone is Montresor himself, who will leave Fortunato to his fate—or conversely, the "us" is Fortunato, who will soon "be gone" from life.

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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 member of 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.

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