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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How does the setting of "The Cask of Amontillado" affect the story?

Quick answer:

The two primary settings in this short story, a festive carnival and eerie catacombs, stand in sharp contrast to each other. This contrast serves to highlight Fortunato's confusion and to hide the true motives of Montresor.

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The setting of the story is absolutely crucial to establishing the overall mood. The story takes place against the backdrop of a carnival when everyone's out and about enjoying themselves, getting blind drunk and wearing silly costumes. Yet the action itself takes place in the dark, dank catacombs, where the wicked Montresor will confine the hapless Fortunato to his final resting place.

The juxtaposition of two such radically different events—a joyous celebration and a cold-blooded murder—is entirely in keeping with Poe's black humor and makes the horror that finally unfolds all the more effective when it comes. Right up until the very end, we entertain the barest of hopes that this is all some gigantic prank by Montresor and that he won't really wall up poor old Fortunato alive inside a crypt. In fact, that's precisely what Fortunato himself believes, though it's probably just wishful thinking on his part.

Montresor actually confesses his crime right at the start of the story. But as so many of Poe's narrators are notoriously unreliable, we're never quite sure whether or not to believe him. That this brutal, sadistic murder takes place during a carnival, when so many people play the fool, might suggest that Montresor's playing a huge prank on us, the very people to whom he's relating his story.

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"The Cask of Amontillado" by Edgar Allen Poe is a classic tale of revenge in which a man named Montresor prepares and executes the elaborate murder of the drunken nobleman Fortunato. Poe uses the settings in the story to create foreshadowing and draw the reader deeper and deeper into the horror of the conclusion.

In the beginning of the story, the setting is described as "the supreme madness of the carnival season." This explains Fortunato's outlandish outfit and the fact that he is drunk and therefore pliable to Montresor's suggestions. The imagined gaiety of the carnival also serves as a contrast to the dark, damp, lonely catacombs into which they descend.

Once Montresor lures Fortunato into 'the vaults," Poe uses numerous aspects of the setting to create an atmosphere of dismal terror. They go "down a long and winding staircase" to "the damp ground of the catacombs." The narrator mentions that nitre (a white mineral) "hangs like moss on the vaults." They pass under "a range of low arches" and arrive at a deep crypt in which the air is foul. Within the crypt are human remains, meaning skeletons and scattered bones. Poe uses all these details of setting to build up a sense of eerie dread to prepare the reader for the horror at the end.

The last setting is past the human remains, in the darkest chamber at the end, where Montresor chains Fortunato to the wall and then bricks up the entrance. This setting is meant to convey the darkness and isolation of the tomb and the ultimate horror of Fortunato's death.

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The setting of the story is ironic, given the fact that Montresor kills Fortunato during the carnival season, and takes place in both the festive streets of an unspecified European city, as well as in Montresor's eerie family catacombs. The jovial carnival season is juxtaposed with Montresor's malevolent plans and the gloomy atmosphere of the catacombs. Montresor's deceptive nature is further emphasized and revealed by his evil plans to murder Fortunato during such a happy time. The setting of the carnival season is depicted as a confused, chaotic atmosphere, which also correlates with the main characters' complex relationship. As the characters travel through the bright streets of the carnival to the depths of Montresor's catacombs, the atmosphere of the story becomes more ominous and foreboding. Montresor and Fortunado's journey beneath the palazzo also symbolically represents Montresor's descent into darkness as he embraces his wicked nature.

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In contrast to the previous answer, the setting of a story includes time frame in which the tale takes place. It is sheer irony that this story is taking place during Carnival, a jovial, festive time of the year in Italy. It is ironic that the brightly clothed Fortunato is taken from the festivities and thrust into the darkness of Montressor's vaults to meet his death.

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In "The Cask of Amontillado," a short story written by Edgar Allan Poe, the setting of the story plays a critical role in such elements as the mood of the story.  The mood of Poe's story is eerie and full of suspense; the use of descriptive words and imagery add to the sense of tension and foreboding experienced by the reader.

"The niter!" 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..."

By describing the Fortunato and Montresor's descension into the catacombs, Poe also symbolizes Montresor's descent into darkness and evil.  As the two continue onward, the mood becomes more sinister as the setting of the story becomes increasingly frightening.

...We passed through a range of low arches, descended, passed on, and descending again, arrived at a deep crypt, in which the foulness of the air caused our flambeaux rather to glow than flame.

The poor quality of the air, which can barely even keep a torch's flame burning, foreshadows Fortunato's death (dying of the flame).  This remote underground location is the perfect setting for a murder.

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“We had passed through long walls of piled skeletons, with casks and puncheons intermingling, into the inmost recesses of the catacombs.”

The setting in many stories becomes as important as the characters.  In “The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allan Poe, there are many layers of the setting. This contributes to the perfect crime committed by Montresor.

Montresor, an interesting protagonist, makes plans to kill Fortunato.  His detailed design includes every possible angle to ensure the fulfillment of his desired revenge against the man who has harmed him many times but now has insulted him. 

The time of the year is the carnival season. Everyone will be dressed in a costume and masked.  No one will be able to recognize the other people. 

Other plans had to be made before this. First, Montresor makes sure that his servants will not be at his house by forbidding them to attend the carnival.  Naturally, they go anyway. 

Next, in advance, Montresor prepares everything in the catacombs for the last part of his revenge. The catacombs are an important part of the plot.  Used as burial sites for the families, the catacombs go deep under the ground.  Niches in the walls were made to place the corpses which often would fall on to the floor as the flesh wore away from the skeleton. 

Because of the eerie surroundings, smell, and dampness, no one would enter the catacombs unless they had to go.  The farthest reaches of the tunnel would never be touched because they would have already been filled with the bodies of ancestors of long ago.  This was the perfect place to bury someone alive.

Montresor already had placed his accoutrements down in the catacombs: shackles in place; mortar and bricks; and the niche where he would build the wall ready.  The preparations were complete.

Fortunato fancies himself a connoisseur of wine. Montresor knows this and makes plans to lure the unsuspecting Fortunato to his catacombs where he keeps his wine.  He tells Fortunato about a rather rare wine, Amontillado, that Montresor is not sure is real. Entreating his help to be sure about the wine, Montresor gains Fortunato’s agreement to go to his house and taste the wine.

Suffering from a cold and too much alcohol, Fortunato easily follows his murderer to the appointed end of the catacombs to taste the amontillado.  Unfortunately for Fortunato, Montresor has something else in mind. 

At the most remote end of the crypt there appeared another less spacious.  Its walls had been lined with human remains, piled to the vault overhead, in the fashion of the great catacombs of Paris. Three sides of this interior crypt were still ornamented in this way. The walls were made solid granite.

Easily chained to the wall, Fortunato does not understand in the beginning. Slowly, he realizes what is happening and begins to yell and scream. Montresor accompanies him with the screaming telling Fortunato that no one will ever hear because they are so deep in the catacombs. Finally, all that can be heard are the bells of his jester’s hat.

Montresor completes his brickwork with just a bit of guilt.  The setting enabled him to attain his desired revenge. Fifty years later, the bones have not been disturbed. 

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Why is the setting in "The Cask of Amontillado" important?

The contrast in the two primary settings of "The Cask of Amontillado" is especially powerful in contributing to the confusion of Fortunato and the eerie mood that Poe creates.

Fortunato encounters Montresor during a carnival. American readers might liken this setting to something akin to Mardi Gras: wild festivities, an abundance of alcohol, and generally convivial crowds. Fortunato is ready to fully engage in the festive atmosphere, as is evident by his dress:

The man wore motley. He had on a tight-fitting parti-striped dress, and his head was surmounted by the conical cap and bells.

Fortunato also prides himself as a wine connoisseur, so this scene would have particular interest for him. Ready to engage in all the Carnival can offer, he is not skeptical of a "friend's" offer to take him to investigate the authenticity of some Amontillado.

As Fortunato leaves with Montresor, the setting changes quickly—and so does Fortunato's health. He begins coughing as they stand on the "damp grounds of the catacombs of the Montresors." The setting is no longer festive and jubilant but ominous and foreboding. Fortunato's body seems to react to this drastic change in setting in a way his mind cannot grasp. Montresor actually provides him with an opportunity to leave, telling him,

We will go back; your health is precious. You are rich, respected, admired, beloved; you are happy, as once I was. You are a man to be missed.

Yet Montresor gauges Fortunato's personality correctly, knowing that his pride and curiosity will lead him deeper into the catacombs instead of choosing the option which would have ultimately spared his life. From there, the setting grows more eerie. The moisture hangs on the "bones" of the catacombs as they descend again and again until the air is foul.

This descent represents the final fall of Fortunato. Led to his own tomb by an unforeseen foe and his own pride, he is forever cut off from the free-spirited and joyous world above him.

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Why is the setting in "The Cask of Amontillado" important?

The setting of Poe's macabre tale is important to the plot because it happens during the often crazy and unpredictable time of Carnival. In Italy at the time, Carnival was a riotous festival which came just before the religious observances of Lent and Easter. During Lent, practicing Catholics will fast, giving up meat and alcohol for up to six weeks. Fittingly, Carnival is defined as a farewell to meat (carne=meat and vale=farewell). During Carnival, meat and especially alcohol are in abundance. Participants also don masks and wild costumes such as the "conical cap and bells" worn by Fortunato.

Montresor carefully chooses this as the backdrop for his sinister plan. First, he knows that his servants will not be around as witnesses, because they will be busy indulging in celebration. Second, he knows that Fortunato will have been drinking and not in full control of his capacities, making him easier to lure into the depths of the catacombs. Montresor boasts at the beginning of the story that he would get away with the murder of Fortunato. The fact that the entire town is preoccupied aids his success in this endeavor.

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Why is the setting in "The Cask of Amontillado" important?

The setting of "The Cask of Amontillado" is important because of its emotional effect on the reader. Montresor lures Fortunato into the gruesome underground catacombs with the promise of a delicious wine. Poe is luring the reader into this same setting by arousing his curiosity about what is going to happen and at the same time making the reader want to see that cask in his imagination and taste it vicariously. But in order to follow Montresor and Fortunato, the reader, in imagination, has to travel through that dark, evil-smelling setting full of human bones. The setting is part of the total experience of the story. It is almost as harrowing as Dante's descent into hell or the earlier descent into hell by Odysseus.

Poe begins the story up on the streets where everybody is making merry. The reader doesn't know what he is in for. He is gradually drawn into Montresor's palazzo, down a flight of stairs into a wine cellar, then along a series of darker passages full of human bones, and finally to the site of Fortunato's immolation. The reader can appreciate the full horror of Fortunato's fate because he can now understand what it would be like to be left down there forever.

Poe also had a plot problem. He wanted to keep Fortunato from talking because his intended victim would surely be asking questions about the Amontillado. Who did you buy it from? How much did you pay?  Have you told anyone else about it?  Why haven't I heard about the shipment? Why did you store the cask so far from the bottom of the stairs? Where are you taking me? Fortunato could become suspicious if Montresor could not provide satisfactory answers to all the questions he might think of. And Poe has established that Fortunato knows more about Amontillado than does Montresor. Fortunato could ask questions that neither Montresor nor Poe could answer. So Poe provided Fortunato with a bad cold and a cough, making it hard for "his poor friend" to talk. But if there is going to be limited dialogue as the two men wend their way through the catacombs, then Poe will have to fill the space with description, which he does.

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What impact does the setting have in "The Cask of Amontillado"?

Poe's story is somewhat like Dante's Inferno. The setting is of the utmost importance because of the effect it has on the reader's imagination and on the reader's nerves. In following Montresor and Fortunato down into the catacombs and along the dark, winding tunnels lined with human bones, the reader is being taken on a trip through a place that resembles hell. This was Poe's intention. Montresor lures Fortunato underground, and Poe lures the reader underground. By describing the actual horror of the setting, Poe makes the reader experience the horror that must have been felt by Fortunato when he found himself trapped down there and realized that he was going to be left to die there. Just as Fortunato is lured by the Amontillado, the reader is lured by the nonexistent cask of wine. The reader wants to see that cask and to taste that exquisite wine in imagination. An interesting question would be: When does it become apparent to Fortunato and to the reader that there never was any cask of Amontillado?

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What impact does the setting have in "The Cask of Amontillado"?

The word impact means bearing or involvement in the case of the this story. It is asking how strong is the setting in realtion to the story?

 The setting is very important.  It begins on the street at a time when Christians are partying because it is almost time for the season of Lent.  Lent in the Catholic tradition is a very serious, somber time when people sacrifice food and wine for their religious pennance.

The story would not work if it hadn't taken place during what is called "Carnevale" in Europe. That is where the word carnival in English got its roots.  Carne = meat.   It is a time when people party and eat meat and drink wine because they will give all that up during Lent. It is also a time to dress in costumes. Neither Fortunato nor Montresor can be recognized because they are wearing disguises.  A perfect way to set someone up to be murdered.  Just think Mardi Gras in the United States!

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What impact does the setting have in "The Cask of Amontillado"?

Impact means how does it affect you as you read the story. "The Cask of Amontillado’’ is one of those stories that relies heavily on the setting to create the sense of forboding and danger that is present from the very beginning. Although the setting in terms of time and exact location are vague, the hints of being in the catacombs of Montresor's home and being aware of his evil intentions causes increased tension on the part of the reader. The murky atmosphere of the catacombs creates fear and anxiety in the reader that increases as his evil plans of revenge become more and more obvious as the story progresses.

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What impact does the setting have in "The Cask of Amontillado"?

In this sense 'impact' means what effect or impression does the setting give the reader.

Poe's writing is considered to be in the Gothic genre, therefore his setting is similarly Gothic.  The two men go deep down into the dungeon or cellar and all the words used to describe the setting give the reader a creepy feeling.  The fact that they are in a crypt is scary enough but Poe continues to 'scare' the reader by describing in detail the thick stones, the dampness of the room and so on.  

In this way the 'impact' on the story and the reader is very strong.  The story would not be as strong if it were set in a living room.  He could have just as easily chained Fortunato up in a bedroom hidden away, but he did not.  He brought him into a tomb alive, which makes the story much scarier. 

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How does setting contribute to the overall mood of "The Cask of Amontillado"? 

There are several aspects of the setting that contribute to the suspenseful and eerie mood of "The Cask of Amontillado."

First, the story opens in the midst of a festival. The narrator notes that daylight is quickly fading, and there is a "madness" associated with the festival atmosphere. Fortunato arrives dressed as a jester, playing the part of a fool. This heightens the tension, as the narrator has already indicated his desire for "revenge" upon the man. Because of the festivities, Fortunato has already been "drinking much," which likely impedes his judgment.

Montresor lures Fortunato into his family catacombs, which significantly increases the sense of imminent danger. The men continue a steady descent into the bowels of death:

We passed through a range of low arches, descended, passed on, and descending again, arrived at a deep crypt, in which the foulness of the air caused our flambeaux rather to glow than flame.

Montresor has completely isolated himself and Fortunato, and there is precious little oxygen to share. Consequently, the torch fails to emit light, symbolizing the death of hope.

As the men continue forward, the walls are "lined with human remains," which are piled high into the vault. Still, Fortunato is so singularly focused on the Amontillado that he ignores the increasingly morbid signs of danger all around him.

The setting's elements of darkness and mystery enhance an increasingly eerie mood as the conflict between Montresor and Fortunato intensifies.

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What details of the setting contribute to the horror of the story in "The Cask of Amontillado"?

Clearly the setting is used very effectively by Poe in this, as in all his fiction, to help create and sustain the mood of terror and horror that dominates his work. For me, it is highly significant that Montresor takes his victim Fortuanto ever-deeper into his catacombs. Consider the following quote:

We had passed through walls of piled bones, with casks and puncheons intermingling, into the inmost recesses of the catacombs...

At the most remote end of the crypt there appeared another less spacious. Its walls had been lined with human remains, piled to the vault overhead, in the fashion of the great catacombs of Paris.

It is important to note how the description of these catacombs contributes to the general feeling of horror and dread that Poe creates. Upon re-reading the story, we realise that the dead remains they pass actually foreshadow the unfortunate end of Fortunato at the hand of Montresor. However, in addition to this, what is really interesting is the symbolic use of the catacombs. For as we delve ever-deeper we are penetrating not just into the depths of the Montresor catacombs, but also into the psyche of Montresor himself. At the lowest depths of the catacombs Montresor takes off his socially respectable mask and reveals himself for the homicidal maniac he really is, before he presumably goes back above ground and replaces his mask of social respectability.

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How does the setting in "The Cask of Amontillado" influence (or determine, or illustrate) the character of the narrator?

Indubitably, setting is the most important element of Poe's short story, "The Cask of Amontillado."  With the ideal location for his nefarious plan of redressing the hyperbolic "thousand injuries of Fortunato," Montresor feels empowered in his design to lure Fortunato away from the celebrations of the Carnival and lead him through the labryinth of the family catacombs where no one will hear or learn about his deadly plan. 

In addition, the structure of the catacombs with its narrowing passages and increasing niter affords the sadistic Montresor opportunities for increasing torture of his victim. For example, Montresor taunts his victim, knowing that he already has respiratory problems:

"The niter!" I said; "see, it increases. It hangs like moss upon the vaults....The drops of moisture trickle among the bones.  Come, we will go back ere it is too late. Your cough--"

Then, as they traverse the chambers leading to where the cask of wine is supposed to be, Montresor takes Fortunato to a remote part of the crypt where human bones are piled up and thrown "promiscuously upon the earth,"  a sight which surely strikes fear in Fortunato.

After Montresor has Fortunato peer into an especially dark aperture, he surreptitiously fetters the man dressed in harlequin costume to the wall. Perversely, Montresor feigns continued concern for his victim's health. Clearly, the sinister setting of the catacombs fuels and abets the sadisitic nature of the narrator and worsens the chances for the feckless Fortunato.

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How does the setting in "The Cask of Amontillado" influence the story's point of view?

The setting influences the story’s point of view because

Setting is where and when a story takes place.  The important thing to remember is that the setting encompasses the local customs and traditions.  We are who we are because of the setting we in, and our behavior can be influenced by the setting too.  In this case, the fact that the narrator is Italian has a great influence on his behavior and how he views himself.

Few Italians have the true virtuoso spirit. For the most part their enthusiasm is adopted to suit the time and opportunity, to practise imposture upon the British and Austrian millionaires.

This influences not only the narrator's attitudes, but his attitude toward Fortunado.  Montresor, the narrator, describes his “friend” Fortunado as a “quack” in most things.  The importance of being a gentleman in this society is one of the reasons that Montresor is able to convince Fortunado to go down into the catacombs with him.  Another reason is the time of year.

It was about dusk, one evening during the supreme madness of the carnival season, that I encountered my friend.

The carnival made Fortunado more friendly and more susceptible to influence. The general drunkenness and friendliness, as well as the gentleman's code, allows Montresor to take advantage of Fortunado and get his revenge.

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How does the setting influence the mood of the story "The Cask of Amontillado"?

You are right in identifying that Poe uses the setting in part to create the mood. The mood in this story is one that is sinister, threatening and disturbing as we move ever further down into the catacombs of Montresor's family home and we move ever closer to the grim revenge that he has planned against Fortunato. It is important to focus on how the description of the setting is used to create and sustain this mood. Consider the following quote:

We continued our route in search of the amontillado. We passed through a range of low arches, descended, passed on, and, descending again, arrived at a deep crypt in which the foulness of the air causes our flambeaux rather to glow than flame.

Note the repetition of the word "descended" - we are walking ever further deeper into the dark catacombs, so much so that we are disorientated and we have no idea of where we are. What is clear is that we have arrived at a crypt, where dead people are buried, and that the air is so foul that even the torches are subdued. Clearly Poe is trying to set the mood for the shocking events that are about to unfold.

I think another key passage that helps create the mood of horror is when Montresor finally shackles Fortunato into the alcove from which he will never leave:

In 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.

What strikes me about this passage is the way that Montresor is able to describe the chains and their location with cool, calm, precision, even while he is planning a most heinous crime and a terrible death. The tone he takes adds to the mood of horror that dominates this excellent but terrifying work of short fiction where the setting is essential to the overall effect.

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