What are some elements in the story "The Cask of Amontillado" that might be regarded as humorous?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

While Poe's narrative is sinister, there is a certain black humor in The Cask of AmontilladoHere are some examples:

  • The unfortunate victim of Montresor's revenge is named Fortunato.
  • Fortunato is dressed in harlequin, a foolishly appropriate suit for the position he holds.
  • Against the feigned objections of Montresor, the coughing Fortunato continues through the catacombs, overriding the objections as he says in a way that amuses Montresor's twisted humor since he knows what will really happen:

"Enough...the cough is a mere nothing, it will not kill me. I shall not die of a cough." 

  • After shackling Fortunato and walling him in, Montresor boasts that for fifty years no one has disturbed the place. With dark humor, he declares, "In pace requiescat." (Rest in peace.)

In addition to this black humor, there are puns, or plays on words, such as the one about Montresor being a "mason" as he means that, like a mason, he will build a wall about his victim. Another pun is on the word "De Grâve," the name of the wine that Fortunato drinks before going to his own grave in the catacombs.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Edgar Allan Poe is not usually thought of in terms of humorous writing. His short story "The Cask of Amontillado" is not typically considered to be very humorous. However, this story, like many other stories by Poe, contains elements of humor, it just happens to be very dark humor.

Poe's use of irony creates a great deal of dark humor for the story. In this story there is humor to be found in Montresor's use of reverse psychology as he lures Fortunato to his death. The way he manipulates Fortunato through his pride and using Luchesi to anger Fortunato to blurt drunken insults and insist on continuing. 

There is also ironic humor when Montresor produces  the trowel and shows it to Fortunato as "a sign" of "the brotherhood" of The Masons. This is later used to erect the wall.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The humorous elements in the story would, I think, be uniformly regarded as dark humor, or perhaps sarcasm, knowing what we know of Montresor's intentions and true opinion of Fortunato.

The humor mostly comes from the occasional turn of phrase by Montresor, or an unfortunately comment by Fortunato, both of which are generally foreboding and making light of Fortunato's impending demise. For example, Montresor attempts to get Fortunato even more drunk while in the catacombs, to ensure his compliance with the plan. Montresor drinks to Fortunato's "long life", knowing perfectly well that it won't be very long at all. He also drops little comments like "you are a man to be missed" and the mention of his family motto, which translated means "no one insults me without punishment". 

Perhaps the final point which can be considered humorous is the verbal exchange where Fortunato attempts to determine whether Montresor is a Freemason (a fraternal society commonly referred to as Masons), and Montresor responds by showing him a trowel, a comment tool of masonry, as if he takes Fortunato's term "mason" literally. This is, of course, another foreshadowing of what Montresor intends for him. 

 

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial