What are five images describing the underground setting that contribute to your sense of horror and dread 

1 Answer | Add Yours

mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

"The Cask of Amontillado" by Edgar Allan Poe has a setting that has many of the elements of the Gothic which contribute to the horror and the sense of foreboding and dread, with its atmosphere of mystery and dangerous suspense. Here are five images:

1. The catacombs and their darkness and dampness and foulness of the air
Montresor lures Fortunato underground into the dark and damp catacombs of his family. Beneath the street and all its noise of celebration, Fortunato will not be heard if he screams out. Certainly, the connotation of a burial site seems of itself rather sinister, and its accompanying darkness and dampness increase the eeriness. This setting is classic Gothic.

Later as the men proceed, the foulness of the air causes the torches to merely glow, rather than burn brightly.

2. The niter on the walls and long, narrow passageways with low arches

In his sadism, Montresor takes Fortunato who has a cough into these tombs filled with niter, although he feigns concern by suggesting they return. However, the pride of Fortunato prevents him as he insists that he judge the Amontillado. As they progress, Fortunato also notices how extensive the passageways are and becomes fearful, but Montresor offers him drinks of the wines to bolster his courage and keep him inebriated.

3. The skeletons of those who have died with bones in mounds

As Montresor directs Fortunato farther into the catacombs, in a remote end of the crypt, there is an opening where the walls are lined with human remains "piled to the vault overhead." On the other side, the bones have been thrown into a mound of some size. Then, there is a dark recess to be discovered, backed "by one of their circumscribing walls of solid granite." This place is much like an old-time prison where people were cast away from society.

4.  An air of mystery and foreboding with the signing and the trowel

When they reach a cask of Medoc, Montresor offers a drink to Fortunato, toasting the dead around them. Then, Fortunato makes what Montresor calls a "grotesque gesture" that Montresor does not understand. 

"Then you are not of the brotherhood...the masons?"
"Yes, yes," I said, "yes, yes."
"You? Impossible! A mason?" (Fortunato doubts that Montresor can be a Mason because Catholics were forbidden to belong)

Montresor makes a mockery of the word, punning upon mason as a bricklayer. He produces a trowel from under his cape. Shocked that Montresor would have such a tool, Fortunato "recoil[s] a few paces." They proceed and the air becomes more and more foul as the space narrows. Fortunato lifts his flambeaux, but it barely burns. As he falters, Montresor quickly fetters him to the wall. Fortunato is "too much astounded to resist." Then, Montresor digs through a pile of bones, revealing a stack of building stone and mortar. 

5. The coat of arms of the Montresors

While Montresor and Fortunato pass through the vaults, Fortunato asks the narrator about his coat of arms. Montresor replies that it is a huge golden foot against a background of blue. This foot crushes a serpent that is rising upward to strike, and the motto is in Latin; it means "no one assails me with impunity." (No one can attack me without being punished.)

This coat of arms and Montresor's translation are certainly sinister.

Sources:

We’ve answered 318,957 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question