What is the mood of Edgar Allan Poe's short story "The Cask of Amontillado"?

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The narrative of "The Cask of Amontillado" by Poe generates a mood of dreadful suspense that leads to horror.

In this disturbing story of deranged revenge and terror, the reader is in suspense from the beginning because of the ambiguities of the offense that Fortunato has purportedly committed against Montresor, and of the "redress" that Montresor has outlined. These ambiguities are created by the circuitous plan of Montresor that prolongs any definitive action as he seduces his victim with psychological tricks and provokes him with perverse puns. 

The inebriated Fortunato is certainly no match for the devious Montresor. For, this man who prides himself as a connoisseur of wine is led deeper and deeper into the catacombs as he is deceived by Montresor who feigns concern that the niter is bad for Fortunato's cough. As they turn and twist through these chambers of the catacombs, the reader fears what will be the result of this subterranean venture. Furthermore, these winding movements of the men are often halted by Montresor's sinister puns such as the double meaning connected to the trowel and a mason as well as Montresor's agreeing with Fortunato that he will not die of a cough.

The dark and horrifying mood of Poe's psychologically disturbing story continues to the very end as Fortunato is walled in without the reader's ever having been informed of Fortunato's actual offense. Added to this, Fortunato foolishly laughs and incongruously urges Montresor, "Let us be gone," suggesting that Lady Fortunato and others are waiting for him. But, of course, Montresor has no intention of disassembling all the tiers of bricks that he has so carefully laid in what one critic calls "a profane rite." Perhaps, then, the real horror lies in what men themselves are capable of doing to others.

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Edgar Allan Poe’s short story “The Cask of Amontillado” is a work of various moods, although most of them are dark and sardonic. Some of the moods presented in the work (which are inevitably also the moods of Montresor, the first-person narrator) are the following:

  • Vengeful, as in the story’s opening sentence.
  • Self-admiring and arrogant, as in the next two sentences:

You, who so well know the nature of my soul, will not suppose, however, that I gave utterance to a threat. At length I would be avenged; this was a point definitively settled -- but the very definitiveness with which it was resolved precluded the idea of risk. I must not only punish, but punish with impunity.

  • Hypocritical, as in the story’s second paragraph.
  • Judgmental, as in the story’s third paragraph.
  • Conspiratorial and self-satisfied, as when Montresor explains how he manipulated his own servants: “I had told them that I should not return until the morning.”
  • Comical and condescending, as when Montresor describes the drunkenness of Fortunato: “The gait of my friend was unsteady, and the bells upon his cap jingled as he strode.”
  • Ironic, as when Montresor says, to the man he intends to kill, “your health is precious.”
  • Gothic, as when one part of the dark, gloomy setting is described as follows: “At the most remote end of the crypt there appeared another less spacious.”
  • Gruesome and horrific, as when the Montresor hears Fortunato awakening before Montresor has completed his scheme to seal Fortunato behind a wall of bricks:

The earliest indication I had of this was a low moaning cry from the depth of the recess. It was not the cry of a drunken man.

  • Terrifying, as when Montresor admits that even he is afraid when he hears Fortunato laughing from behind the bricks: “But now there came from out the niche a low laugh that erected the hairs upon my head.”
  • Somewhat blasphemous and irreligious, as when, hearing Fortunato beg that he be released “[f]or the love of God,” Montresor replies: “Yes," I said, "for the love of God!"
  • Smug, as in the story’s next-to-last sentence.


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