illustration of Fortunato standing in motley behind a mostly completed brick wall with a skull superimposed on the wall where his face should be

The Cask of Amontillado

by Edgar Allan Poe

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What is the falling action, resolution, and denoument?

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A basic plot analysis includes exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution. Gustav Freytag, a nineteenth-century German novelist, added to this basic diagram, creating what is known as Freytag's pyramid. Freytag's pyramid adds an inciting incident, which is something that begins the action, and denouement. Denouement is a French word which means to untie. In Freytag's pyramid, the denouement is when any secrets are revealed after the main conflict is solved. Questions can be answered in the denouement, and mysteries, if there are any, are revealed. These are solved by the characters, or sometimes explained by the author. The climax, falling action, resolution, and denouement are described below for Edgar Allan Poe's short story, "The Cask of Amontillado." 

1. Climax: The climax, or moment of greatest tension, is the event that the rising action has led up to. In this story, the inciting event is an unknown insult that Fortunato has made toward Montresor. The rising action is Montresor's plot of revenge against Fortunato. The climax of the story occurs when Montresor, having lured the inebriated Fortunato into his catacombs, chains him inside. Here is the quote:

"In niche, and finding an instant he had reached the extremity of the niche, and finding his progress arrested by the rock, stood stupidly bewildered. A moment more and I had fettered him to the granite. In its surface were two iron staples, distant from each other about two feet, horizontally. From one of these depended a short chain, from the other a padlock. Throwing the links about his waist, it was but the work of a few seconds to secure it. He was too much astounded to resist. Withdrawing the key I stepped back from the recess."

2. Falling Action refers to the events that occur after the climax. In this story, the falling action includes Montresor using brick and mortar to wall Fortunato into the niche, as well as his taunts as Fortunato's panic increases. 

3. Resolution The resolution comes when Montresor has laid the last brick and thus entombed Fortunato. Here is the quote:

"No answer still. I thrust a torch through the remaining aperture and let it fall within. There came forth in return only a jingling of the bells. My heart grew sick; it was the dampness of the catacombs that made it so. I hastened to make an end of my labour. I forced the last stone into its position; I plastered it up. Against the new masonry I re-erected the old rampart of bones."

4. Denouement The denouement of "The Cask of Amontillado is this: "For the half of a century no mortal has disturbed them. In pace requiescat!" It is in the denouement that we learn that this murder took place fifty years ago and that Montresor has literally gotten away with murder.  

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The falling action of a story consists of the events that happen after the climax, but before the resolution.  In "The Cask of Amontillado," the climax of the story occurs when Montresor chains Fortunato to the wall of the catacombs.  Fortunato's entrapment is the event that the story has been leading up to until this point (rising action); now, the story begins to lead downhill, toward the ending (falling action).

After Fortunato is chained and Montresor begins to brick his "friend" in.  By the time Montresor is ready to position the last brick, which will seal Fortunato's fate, Fortunato becomes frantic and desperate, then, finally, unresponsive.  Montresor completes his masonry work and leaves.

The terms "resolution" and "denoument" both refer to the ending of a story, in which an insight or change is made evident to the reader.  In the case of "The Cask of Amontillado," the resolution is revealed in the last few sentences:

I forced the last stone into its position; I plastered it up.  Against the new masonry I reeerected the old rampart of bones.  For the half of a century no mortal has disturbed them.  In pace requiescat!

The resolution of this story comes when the reader realizes that Fortunato's murder took place fifty years ago.  He was already dead as Montresor told his tale.

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