What are some examples of an inverted sentence in "The Cask of Amontillado"?

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William Delaney | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The opening sentence of "The Cask of Amontillado" is a good example of an inverted sentence.

THE THOUSAND INJURIES of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult I vowed revenge. 

The more common order of the words would be:

I had borne the thousand injuries of Fortunato as best I could, but when he ventured upon insult I vowed revenge.

Another inverted sentence is:

It was about dusk, one evening during the supreme madness of the carnival season, that I encountered my friend.

The more common order would be:

I encountered my friend about dusk one evening during the supreme madness of the carnival.

It is a principal of good writing that the most important word in a sentence should come last. The same applies to paragraphs. The most importance sentence in a paragraph should come last. This rule isn't always easy to follow. The first paragraph of Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado" shows that he is following that rule and that he is a master of English prose. Notice how the last words in every sentence of the first paragraph are the most important in conveying the meaning and spirit thrust of the story. The first sentence ends with the word "revenge." That is why he inverted the order of the sentence. He wanted to end with "revenge," which is the most important word in the story. The next sentence ends with the word "threat.' it is important that Montresor should not give utterance to a threat because that would warn Fortunato to beware of him. The third sentence in the first paragraph ends with the word "risk." Montresor wants to commit a murder with what he calls "impunity,' so he must be careful to avoid any risk. The next sentence ends naturally with the word "impunity." Impunity is of extreme importance to him, and we will see throughout the story how he guarantees his impunity. The last two sentences end with the words "redresser" and "wrong." "Wrong" is the very last word in the paragraph, and it is placed there to suggest that Montresor is right and Fortunato is in the wrong. This implies that Montresor is justified in committing the crime he intends to commit.

In reading the whole story it will be seen that there are numerous instances in which the last word of a sentence is the most important one. In order to achieve this, Poe sometimes had to construct the sentence in such a way that the desired word would come out at the end. In some cases this meant using inverted sentences. It would not have been impressive to construct inverted or convoluted sentences just for stylistic legerdemain. That is show-off writing and quickly becomes annoying to a discriminating reader. It shows ignorance and vulgar taste to write like the man on the flying trapeze. Poe was a masterful prose writer and can be used as a model by any aspiring writer.

Alfred Strunk and E. B. White cover this subject in their indispensable book, The Elements of Style. It is available in paperback and sells by the hundreds of thousands.

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