What are some examples of mood and tone in "The Cask of Amontillado"?

Edgar Allan Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado" presents an excellent example of his stylistic originality through its mood and tone. From the opening sentences, Poe sets an anxious and suspenseful tone by right away pulling the reader into Montresor's vengeful obsession. This creates an air of tension as the story builds toward its climax, which Poe contrasts with satiric humor. He also sustains a mood of eerie foreboding throughout the story by using many overt symbols of death and decay.

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Montresor's rather diabolical nature is conveyed as early as the first paragraph of the text when he explains his philosophy regarding revenge. He says that he

must not only punish, but punish with impunity. A wrong is unredressed when retribution overtakes its redresser. It is equally unredressed when the avenger fails to make himself felt as such to him who has done the wrong.

He goes on to say that he continues to smile in the face of his enemy, never giving the man cause to doubt his good will or friendship, and Montresor says that Fortunato "did not perceive that [Montresor's] smile now was at the thought of [Fortunato's] immolation." These descriptions help to establish an ominous mood of foreboding, in part, by creating dramatic irony. The reader knows that Montresor plans to destroy Fortunato, but Fortunato himself does not know, and this irony makes for a very tense mood.

In terms of tone, which refers to how the author feels about the subject of the text, it would seem that Poe's tone is rather knowing or matter-of-fact and, perhaps, even a little judgmental. Montresor claims to be speaking to someone who he says "well know[s] the nature of [his] soul" and, later, that it has been "half of a century" since he committed this heinous act of revenge. He evidently believes that he has gotten away with the revenge, that he has incurred no negative consequence as a result of it—just as he specified he must early on in the telling of the story—but one might argue that there are grounds to suggest that he has been punished by his own guilt. First, he could be confessing to a priest on his deathbed, as why else would he tell the story now? If he wishes to be absolved and forgiven, then he must be feeling the weight of guilt on his conscience. Second, Montresor admits that, when Fortunato ceased to speak from behind the wall, his own "heart grew sick," and he "struggled with [the] weight" of the final stone. He chalks up the feeling of sickness to the dampness of the catacombs, but this dampness has not bothered him before, and he has just bricked an entire wall without struggling with a single stone's weight. Poe punishes him with his own conscience, nullifying his revenge and making Montresor just a simple murderer.

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Much like in Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart," the narrator of "The Cask of Amontillado" begins by telling the reader of their murderous intention. This creates tension for the rest of the story, as the reader knows what will eventually come, even when the narrator's victim does not. By setting the action during the Venetian carnival and putting his characters in costume, Poe accentuates the story's pervasive mood of eerie macabre as well as its pervasive irony and satire. Fortunato, the doomed connoisseur is dressed in "motley," the clothes of a court jester or "fool," with bells on his hat that clearly make him look ridiculous. The name "Fortunato" sounds like the word "fortunate," meaning lucky-something—something the drunken Italian so despised by the French aristocrat Montresor certainly is not. Montresor, fitting his plot, is dressed in a black mask and cloak, which suggests the grim reaper or other deathly specter.

Fortunato and Montresor's journey through the palace's catacombs is filled with symbols of death that accentuate the eerie mood and suspenseful tone, that also continue to poke fun at the haughty ways of the European upper classes. For example, bones are stacked everywhere below ground, which the many bottles of fine wine seem to be mixed in with. The deeper the two characters go into the bowels of the palace, the more Fortunato's drunkenness increases, the torchlight fading away to darkness. Poe openly critiques the secret society of Freemasons through Fortunato's character, suggesting its pretentiousness and corruption justifies its interment with the rest of Old Europe's bones. These stylistic and contextual elements, along with the Old World setting, combine into the fictional genre known as gothic, which Poe helped popularize in American fiction.

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Author Edgar Allan Poe mixes several moods in his short story "The Cask of Amontillado." Outside of Montresor's home there exists the "supreme madness of the carnival season," where Montresor's servants have headed for a night of celebration. It is from this madness that Fortunato comes, hoping to further his drunken state with a taste of the rare Amontillado. But within Montressor's palazzo their exists a state of deadly seriousness. He has planned Fortunato's death carefully, luring the victim deep into the gruesome depths of the catacombs, where centuries of bones are strewn about the bottles of wine that also are stored there. Fortunato does not foresee the danger that awaits him, nor does he recognize the irony of some of Montresor's comments, such as the double meaning of the trowel and Montresor's agreement that Fortunato will not die of a cough. Poe maintains an ominous mood as well: We know that Montresor plans to kill Fortunato, but we don't know how until the end.

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The mood is psychologically disturbing as is made clear by Montresor's choice to sit "down upon the bones" and listen to the lament of Fortunato's "low moaning cry" and the "furious vibrations of the chain":

I laid the second tier, and the third, and the fourth; and then I heard the furious vibrations of the chain. The noise lasted for several minutes, during which, that I might hearken to it with the more satisfaction, I ceased my labours and sat down upon the bones. When at last the clanking subsided, I resumed the trowel,...

The narrator is obviously disturbed, bitter and hateful: "A thousand injuries I had suffered" he exclaims in the opening sentences. Then Montesor gives a psychotic justification for his actions against wrongs that must be redressed and avenged.

With his obsessive hatred he always explains to the reader how well he has prepared his plan. Then, when Fortunato makes the sign of a Mason, Montesor returns with a bizarre movement and laughs, enjoying his sick pun on stone mason. Later, as he gently lures his unsuspecting victim into a dark, narrow recess in the granite catacomb wall, Montesor fetters his victim to the granite rock wall with the steel of chain and padlock.

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