Another approach to an essay on Poe's chilling story is to examine the Gothic conventions which Poe employs in a most unique way. For, while Poe utlilizes the dark, sinister catacombs and the victim and victimizer; he also employs the atmosphere of terror, but then subverts this convention by using human beings rather than supernatural beings for the terrible deeds. Thus, it is that people should fear the real horror that lies in what human beings themselves are capable of. This real horror is what Montresor realizes at the end of his narrative as he cries out, too, "Yes...for the love of God." His heart, he states, "grew sick--on account of the dampness," but Montresor tries to hide his own horror; rather, it is the evil of his deed which sickens his heart and causes the "erected...hairs upon [his]head."
In an essay that examines this original approach to the use of Gothic conventions, the writer may, perhaps, compose a thesis which states that is Montresor who, in his act of revenge against Fortunato seeks to terrorize his victim, but, in actuality, horrifies himself. (In fact, Montresor is much like Kurtz of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness who in realization utters, "The horror! the horror!")
There are many different approaches a person could take, depending on the topic of the essay, of course, but one way to begin this essay might be to ruminate on the chilling irony Poe created when he chose as the setting for his story a carnival, generally associated with recreation and fun, and the choice of the name for the character who is destined to die, "Fortunato", since clearly, being murdered at the carnival might not fit most people's definitions of the word "fortunate". Another example of irony that might provide an interesting opening would be to begin with some sort of commentary on Montresor's self-articulated code of personal honor, which, apparently involves premeditated murder when one feels slighted or insulted by a friend or acquaintance. Yet another approach might be to tie the carnival and costumes to this time of year, with Halloween approaching, and comment on the presence of evil in the story, perhaps contrasted with some of the less-than-child-friendly associations Halloween has had over the years.