What gothic elements are present in "The Cask of Amontillado?"

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teachersage eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Gothic literature features dark, gloomy settings, often in a castle with secret passageways, as well as isolation, death or the threat of death, a dream-like or nightmare-like setting, and an atmosphere of foreboding or horror. Poe's story takes place in a dark catacomb as Montresor and Fortunato thread their way alone through narrow passageways, underground and far from any other living humans. A sense of foreboding permeates the tale, as we know Montresor is bent on revenge. The fact that it is Mardi Gras, a day when normally out-of-bounds behavior is allowed and even encouraged, coupled with Fortunato's drunkenness, adds a kiltered, dream-like quality to events. Gothic literature often features a vulnerable female victim. In this case, there is no female character, but there is a vulnerable victim. Finally, Montresor murders Fortunato in a horrible way, chaining him in the dark catacombs and then walling him in with bricks. A major element of Gothic literature is the revelation of the shadow side in people's psyches, the darkness humans can hide under a facade of civilized behavior, and Poe clearly reveals Montresor's darkness. All of this points to the uncanny or unhomelike quality of Gothic literature: it functions to unsettle us rather than comfort us, and this story does unsettle us.

favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Another aspect of Gothic Literature is that it often aims to produce terror in its audience. The Gothic is sort of a subgenre to Romantic literature, and the Romantics believed in the primacy of feeling and intense emotion over reason and logic. In their minds, since we do not have to be taught how to feel intense emotion, it is more meaningful and fundamental to the human experience than reason, something we must learn later. And what emotion could be more intense than terror? Fear is a very powerful feeling.

Poe's story produces this sense of terror in the reader in part because of the sheer cruelty and horror of Montresor's method of killing Fortunato. It is not a quick, painless death but rather one that will be long and drawn out. Moreover, the idea that a person might resort to murder in exchange for another's mere words, however harsh those words are, is equally terrible.

belarafon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"The Cask of Amontillado" is a classic Gothic horror tale. Poe uses many tropes of Gothic stories, including dark imagery, underground chambers, and violent revenge. The most important element in the story utilizes Poe's longtime fear of being buried alive; although this itself is not directly indicated in the Gothic tradition, it plays well into other elements, including the underground chambers. As Montresor takes his revenge, the wine-cellar becomes almost a medieval torture chamber instead of a repository for wealthy wine collectors; the torches on the walls sputter instead of shining brightly, and the walls are not clean and dry but covered by nitre, which adds to the claustrophobic mood.

revolution | Student
  1. has an atmosphere of suspense and mystery in the environment
  2. it has an ancient prophecy beneath it
  3. it has disturbing omens and visions in his dreams that frightens him
  4. there is some supernatural, out of the world and inexplicable experiences that he had encountered in his life
  5. He has high level of emotions  and suffering from strong feelings of apparent doom and trouble that may hit him anytime
  6. there is always a women in distress, threatened  by a tyrannical king
  7. there is always gloom and doom and a bit of horror element inside
a-b | Student
  • macabre and dark story
  • aristocrat in old house as main character
  • scenes underground and in dark places
  • set in an old, crumbling, antiquated place
  • old crime buried from sight
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The Cask of Amontillado

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