Introduction

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Last Updated on September 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 582

So you’re going to teach Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado.” Whether it’s your first or hundredth time, “The Cask of Amontillado” has been a mainstay of English classrooms for generations. While it has its challenging spots—suspense, murder, and unsympathetic characters—teaching this text to your class will be rewarding for you and your students. Studying “The Cask of Amontillado” will give them unique insight into the tropes of gothic fiction, characterization, irony, and the topic of revenge. This guide highlights some of the most salient aspects of the text before you begin teaching.

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Facts at a Glance

  • Publication Date: 1846
  • Recommended Grade Level: 7 and up
  • Approximate Word Count: 2,300
  • Author: Edgar Allan Poe
  • Country of Origin: United States
  • Genre: Gothic
  • Literary Period: American Romantic
  • Conflict: Person vs. Person 
  • Narration: First-Person
  • Setting: Italy during Carnival, Mid-18th Century
  • Structure: Short Story
  • Dominant Literary Devices: Verbal and Dramatic Irony
  • Mood: Macabre, Confessional, Vengeful


Texts that Go Well with “The Cask of Amontillado”

“Afterward” (1910) is a five-part short story by Edith Wharton. It follows a nouveau-riche American couple living in a haunted home in England. The story’s ghost eventually takes revenge on the narrator’s husband, who caused the suicide of his business partner due to his own greed. The story goes well with “The Cask of Amontillado” in that both feature gothic settings, revenge, and death and can be contrasted due to differing narrative style, purpose, and length. 

“The Black Cat” (1843) by Edgar Allan Poe is a short story about a man’s descent into alcohol abuse, madness, and violence. Students may compare and contrast “The Black Cat” and “The Cask of Amontillado,” which contain similarities such as murder and entombment but have large differences between not only narrative tone but also each narrator’s purpose for murder.

“The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” (1820) is a gothic short story by Washington Irving. It follows the rivalry between schoolmaster Ichabod Crane and the mischievous Brom Bones, who both vie for the love of Katrina Van Tassel. Ichabod is attacked one night by the headless, “Galloping Hessian” of local legend. It is implied that Brom Bones dressed up as the headless horseman to frighten Ichabod away in order to win the hand of Katrina, whom he marries. The story goes well with “The Cask of Amontillado” in that both stories offer a rivalry between characters and classic, although different, gothic elements.

“The Lottery” (1948) by Shirley Jackson is a short story that considers human nature in a small, nondescript American town. The townspeople unite on a summer day for a yearly ritual. One family “wins” the lottery, and each family member draws a slip of paper from the communal hat. The mother in the family wins, and the town unites to stone her to death. The story pairs well with “The Cask of Amontillado” in that both stories push readers to question the morality of each character’s actions. 

“The Raven” (1845) is an iconic poem by Edgar Allan Poe. The poem’s speaker, who is grieving over the loss of a loved one, experiences an eerie and maddening night in which a talking raven enters his bedchamber. The poem is written in strict poetic form and borrows many of the tropes of gothic literature. This poem pairs well with “The Cask of Amontillado” in that both are examples of gothic fiction that can be contrasted in both form and story.

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Key Plot Points