What sound and visual imagery contribute to the spooky mood of the story?Edgar Allan Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado"

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Employing Gothic conventions in his story "The Cask of Amontillado," with the sinister appearance of Montesor and the foreboding, dark catacombs and its dampness and niter, Edgar Allan Poe generates an atmosphere of terror with visual and sound imagery supplementing these conventions.  Here are some examples of this imagery:


Montesor, wears a black silk mask and a dark cloak while Fortunato, who is later completely fooled, wears the harlequin costume of a court jester, or fool.

Entering the catacombs that are dark with "two flambeaux" which  cast eerie shadows, the men descend a long, winding staircase which leads to damp ground.

Fortunato looks at Montesor with eyes described as "two filmy orbs that distilled the rheum of intoxication."

There is the Montesor coats of arms:  a golden human foot in a field of azure (blue) that crushes a moving snake whose fangs are embedded in the heel of the foot. Underneath this is the same motto as that of the royal arms of Scotland, "No one assails me with impunity."

They pass large casks of wine and the niter is throughout the catacombs, hanging like moss.

When Fortunato makes the movements of the secret sign of the Masons, Montesor ridicules him by holding a mason's trowel in a sinister pun.

Bones lay "pomiscuously upon the earth forming at one point a mound of some size," perhaps foreshadowing what Fortunato's bones will do.

The men enter a small recess with two "colossal supports" and walls of granite. 

Here Montesor fetters Fortunato with chains to two iron staples.

After he walls in Fortunato with building stone and mortar, Montesor holds the flambeaux and inspects his work. A few "feeble rays" of light fall upon the victim within. 

Montesor places his hands on the "solid facric of the catacombs," testing its soundness.  He makes tier after tier of stone until he reaches the eleventh, struggling with the last stone to be plastered. 

Finally, after Fortunato cries, laughs, and pleads, Montesor positions the stone and plasters it.  He then places a "rampart of bones."


Fortunato coughs with imbecilic sounds, "Ugh! ugh! ugh!"

All the while that the men traverse the corridors of the catacombs, Fortunato's fool's bells "jingle."

Once fettered to the wall of the small recess, Fortunato utters a "low moaning cry" which is "not the cry of a drunken man," then followed by "a long and obstinate silence." [Poe makes the reader "hear" this silence.]

There are vibrations of the chain that last for several eerie minutes. They clank.

A series of loud and shrill screams emanate from Fortunato after he is walled in; Montesor jabs his sword into the recess.  But, he reassures himself that the structure is sound.  When Fortunato yells, Montesor insanely "reechoes" these screams.

After placing the last stone on the final tier, Montesor hears a low laugh that "erected the hairs upon my head."  This is followed by "a sad voice":  "Ha! ha! ha!--he! he!--a very good joke indeed--an excellent jest...."

After Fortunato desperately begs Montesor--"For the love of God, Montesor!"--there is only the jingling of the bells of his fool's hat that is heard.

Read the study guide:
The Cask of Amontillado

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