Verbal Irony In The Cask Of Amontillado

What are two examples of verbal irony in "The Cask Of Amontillado"?

An example of verbal irony takes place in "The Cask of Amontillado" when Fortunato says that he will not die of a cough and Montresor responds by saying, "True—true." Montresor appears to be agreeing with Fortunato but already knows his fate and plans on burying him alive. Another example of verbal irony takes place after Fortunato gives a toast and Montresor replies, "And I to your long life." Montresor is purposely misleading Fortunato and wants him dead.

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In "The Cask of Amontillado," part of Montresor's delight in committing what he regards as the perfect crime lies in giving the drunken Fortunato various clues to his fate, which he knows his enemy will be too obtuse to notice. When he has already toasted Fortunato's "long life" and reminded him of the sinister motto and coat of arms of the Montresor family, he offers the other man more wine—this time a flagon of the appropriately named De Grave—to revive him. The irony is particularly subtle here. Montresor does not mention the name "De Grave," but if Fortunato is the great connoisseur he pretends to be, he should recognize the name of the wine and the allusion to it being "Of the grave."

Fortunato then makes a strange sign with the bottle, which Montresor does not recognize. This turns out to be part of the masonic ritual, whereby one member of the brotherhood of freemasons can recognize another. Montresor is not a mason, but, when Fortunato asks him about his membership, he claims to be one and produces a trowel from the folds of his roquelaire. Fortunato understands half the joke: a trowel is a tool used by someone who is literally a mason. However, he does not comprehend that this instance of verbal irony is also a sign of how he is going to die.

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As Montresor leads Fortunato to the catacombs, Fortunato begins coughing uncontrollably. Montresor actually wants the old man to follow him, but he also needs to maintain his trust. Turning to him, he tells him that they can go back to protect Fortunato's health. He then adds, "You are a man to be missed. For me it is no matter." Fortunato understands this to mean that the people back at the festival and perhaps his own family will miss him if he is gone for too long. What Montresor really means is that Fortunato is a man who will soon be missed because he will cease to exist. And to Montresor, his absence in this world won't matter.

As the two men walk deep into the vaults, Fortunato asks Montresor to remind him what his family shield looks like. Montresor replies that it reflects a human foot crushing a serpent whose fangs are embedded in the heel. He then adds that his family motto is Nemo me impune lacessit, which is Latin for "no one provokes me with impunity." Fortunato responds, "Good." This is ironic because he has inflicted a "thousand injuries" against Montresor, and he has been brought here to pay for "provoking" him. He likely means that this is a "good" family motto, yet his response proves verbally ironic considering Montresor's plans.

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Verbal irony takes place when a speaker purposely makes a contradictory statement and says one thing but means another. In "The Cask of Amontillado," Poe utilizes verbal irony shortly after Fortunato follows Montresor to his abandoned palazzo and down into his family's spooky vaults. An example of verbal irony takes place when Fortunato remarks that he will not die of a cough and Montresor responds by saying, "True—true." This is considered verbal irony because Montresor's response is purposely misleading and he means that Fortunato will be buried alive without directly saying it. Montresor does not want to give his plan away and knows that the intoxicated Fortunato will not notice his hint. Montresor's comment goes over Fortunato's head as he continues to drink wine and follows him further down the vaults.

Another example of verbal irony can be found when Fortunato toasts to the remains of Montresor's descendants and Montresor responds by saying, "And I to your long life." This is considered verbal irony because Montresor is currently plotting Fortunato's horrific death and wants him dead. Montresor's comment is meant to be misinterpreted by Fortunato, who believes that Montresor genuinely wishes him well. Montresor disguises his wicked scheme by using verbal irony to conceal his evil intentions.

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Irony is a difficult concept to precisely nail down, partly because the word has been so loosely applied in common usage, and partly because its definitions overlap with similar but distinct concepts like sarcasm.

Verbal irony might best be defined as saying something that contrasts with what is meant, or with observable reality. There is also an element of intention, either by the speaker or, in the case of literature, by the author, for the contradictory nature of the expression to be apparent to the audience.

One example in The Cask of Amontillado, and probably the most obvious, is Montresor's cruel "Yes, for the love of God!". This has multiple meanings, such as indicating that Montresor believes his actions are righteous, or that he is mocking Fortunato (as in "yes, yes, blah blah for the love of God, I'm enjoying this"). The irony in this quote is in its implications of Godly love; what Montresor is doing is anything but loving or Godly, and there is no interpretation in which this does not strike the reader as the opposite of the meaning of the words.

Another example might include the following exchange:

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

"True -- true," I replied-

In this case, we can forgive Fortunato for not recognizing Montresor's foreshadowing for the threat that it is; Montresor merely seems to be agreeing and supportive, but of what point is uncertain. Maybe he's agreeing that the cough is a "mere nothing", or he's just hurrying Fortunato along; his words seem innocuous. What is clearly meant, at least to the reader, and only because we know of Montresor's intentions, is that Montresor is saying "It's true that you won't die of a cough; you'll die from being bricked up inside these catacombs."

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