The Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allan Poe

The Cask of Amontillado book cover
Start Your Free Trial

Describe the catacombs in "The Cask of Amontillado" by Edgar Allan Poe.

Expert Answers info

carol-davis eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2004

write1,291 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Social Sciences, and History

Sinister is a good word to describe the main character in Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado.” Montresor has planned the perfect murder and carries it out.  The reader knows this because the entire story is told fifty years later by the elderly Montresor who narrators the story.  Monstresor decides to murder Fortunato because he has insulted him.  Not a good reason, but apparently it is all that Montresor has. 

The time of the story is during the carnival season probably much like the Mardi Gras today.  Apparently, it is a very rowdy time because Montresor uses the word “madness.” There are two settings for the story: the carnival scene and then Montresor’s home and the catacombs beneath his palace. 

The Catacombs-

Monstresor had made careful preparations for the murder. The catacombs were the perfect place for a murder.  All of the servants had been dismissed to go to the carnival, so there was no one at home.  Catacombs were underground burial tunnels.  The corpses would be laid in indentions in the walls of the catacombs. 

As they begin their descent down into the catacombs, Montresor grabs two torches.  Obviously, this is a dark and damp place.  The use of the word descent would imply that the catacombs lie far beneath the base of the house.  Along the walls of the cavern were frames that had been built to hold wine bottles. Everything is moist and moldy since it is so far beneath the ground.

As the men travel through the vast cavern, they pass by many walls with bones and skeletons piled up and mixed in with large and small barrels of wine.

'The nitre!' I said; 'see, it increases. It hangs like moss upon the vaults. We are below the river's bed. The drops of moisture trickle among the bones. Come, we will go back ere it is too late. Your cough -'

Nitre is potassium nitrate.  In the sun, it hardens, but in moist areas is clings together and has a mossy appearance.  The nitre is everywhere along the walls and ceilings. Moving through the catacombs becomes more difficult because there are low arches which support the ceiling of the tunnel.

At the farthest end of the cavern is another crypt.  All three granite walls are lined with more skeletons piled to the top of the ceiling.  In the farthest corner, there was an inset or recess which was to be the burial place for the unsuspecting Fortunato.  

(The entire section contains 829 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial