What is an example of situational irony in “The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allan Poe?

An example of situational irony in “The Cask of Amontillado” comes in the form of Fortunato's name. “Fortunato” is the Italian word for fortunate, and yet Fortunato is anything but as he is walled up alive in the catacombs.

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Situational irony is defined as a literary technique in which something unexpected happens, resulting in an opposite outcome that is different from what the reader or characters in the story anticipated. There are many examples of situational irony throughout Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado." Fortunato's name is one example of situational irony because he is anything but fortunate in the story. Fortunato is certainly unlucky to interact with Montresor, who is determined to take his life. It is ironic that a man with such a hopeful, auspicious name is in such a grave, dangerous situation.

Another example of situational irony concerns the initial setting of the story. Montresor runs into his unsuspecting victim at the carnival. The carnival is a merry, joyful place where people go to celebrate and have fun. Fortunato attends the carnival and plans on partying the night away. Ironically, Poe transforms this merry setting into a hostile environment, which is the perfect place for Montresor to lure Fortunato into his trap. Fortunato has no idea that attending the carnival will have a disastrous outcome.

Situational irony also concerns Montresor's explicit orders to his servants and their response to his instructions. Montresor informed his servants that he would not be home until morning and instructed them to not "stir from the house," knowing that they would leave once his back was turned. It is ironic that Montresor's servants do the exact opposite of what was asked of them. This works in Montresor's favor, leaving no witnesses to confirm that Fortunato was with him on the evening he disappeared.

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If Fortunato's name is anything to go by, we might expect him to encounter nothing but good fortune. “Fortunato” is the Italian word for fortunate, and so we might think that Poe chose to give him this name to give us an insight into his character.

As it turns out, however, our expectations are thwarted, and herein lies the situational irony. The exact opposite of what we'd expect to happen—Fortunato living up to his name and being lucky—happens, and poor old Fortunato is most unfortunate in being walled up alive in the catacombs by the wicked Montresor.

Further situational irony comes from the jester costume that Fortunato wears for the carnival. Once again, our expectations are confounded. We might expect—as indeed might Fortunato himself—that the carnival would be a fun occasion full of revelry, enjoyment, and laughter. All of this wonderful jollity is symbolized by the jester costume that Fortunato wears.

And yet, once again, situational irony enters into the breach as the fun that Fortunato expected to have turns out to be the exact opposite. As Fortunato isn't some kind of masochist with a death wish, it's safe to conclude that there's nothing remotely fun about his being walled up alive inside the catacombs.

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Situational irony is when what happens is the opposite of what is expected. Situational irony runs throughout the entire story because Fortunato is completely unaware of the danger he is in. Fortunato expects to taste a rare wine, not to be murdered. He thinks Montresor is his friend and that Montresor is doing him a favor. Ironically, it is Fortunato who hurries Montresor towards the catacombs. Fortunato has no idea he is hastening toward his own death. As Montresor says:

Fortunato possessed himself of my arm; and putting on a mask of black silk and drawing a roquelaire closely about my person, I suffered him to hurry me to my palazzo.

Throughout their journey deeper and deeper into the catacombs, Fortunato continues to be completely unaware of the dangerous situation he is in. For example, when Montresor offers to take him back because of his cough, which is worsened by the dampness, it is Fortunato who insists on going forward:

"Enough," he [Fortunato] said; "the cough's a mere nothing; it will not kill me. I shall not die of a cough."

Again, we read the irony in Fortunato's words. He will not die of a cough. He will die of being walled up and left to starve--but he is completely unaware of what is soon to come. 

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One example of situational irony from this story is when Montresor explains that he told his servants that he would "not return until the morning" and had given them "explicit orders" to remain in the home in his absence.  For this reason, he knows that they would not be there and his house would be empty when he returned with Fortunato.  One would expect servants to listen to their master's order, especially when it is given so explicitly, but their behavior defies expectation.

Another example of situational irony is that Fortunato is dressed as a fool or jester.  Montresor says that he "wore motley" with a snug, multicolored outfit topped by a conical hat studded with bells.  It was common to wear a costume associated with one's opposite -- men might dress as women and vice versa, the poor might dress like the rich, and so forth -- and Fortunato is not a fool.  In fact, Montresor himself claims that Fortunato "was a man to be respected and even feared."  However, Montresor makes a fool of Fortunato tonight, condemning Fortunato for his pride, the pride which makes it funny for him to be dressed as a fool.  Therefore, it is ironic that Fortunato believes that he has dressed as his opposite, a fool to his real respectability, and then is actually made foolish by the exploitation of his own flaws.

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