Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Edgar Allan Poe - The Cask of Amontillado - Discussion

This is a short one, but really no less profound. Funny how Poe understood human nature. Obviously, as we learn very early in the story, Montresor has been wronged by Fortunado, but how was he wronged? Was it a wrong hearkened to being continually cut off in traffic, or was it more of a constant injury of pride? We shall never know. But, as I said, Poe knew human nature, and knew it wouldn't be hard for the reader to believe this revenge plot, which really is a brilliant one.

So, as usual, I did my Google searches and came across some tidbits. Of course, I must touch on the Vincent Price version of the story. This story is portrayed along with two other tales (Morella, one of my favorites, and The Case of M. Valdemar) in a 1962 film titled, Tales of Terror. Amontillado in this film is actually told as a kind of mash up with another story and is titled The Black Cat. I remember this one well and I kind of liked this variation on the story, although it's a bit more comical.

I then came across this YouTube video of the story, kind of a short film. It's pretty good and I swear I think that's John Heard portraying Montresor, but I'm not sure. The video is poor quality, but I embedded it below, in case your might want to watch. I enjoyed it nonetheless. (My goodness, the way Montresor mocks Fortunado by making those screaming sounds...quite made me shudder)

Shmoop had some interesting discussion questions. I'll paste them below and then attempt to answer them as to my own thoughts. Feel free to do so as well in the comments, if you like.
  1. What if Montresor is a woman? Most people assume Montresor is a man. Why? Would it change the way you think about the story if Montresor is a woman?
  2. What kind of clown is Fortunato? We see lots of scary clowns in the movies and in books. Is Fortunato a scary clown? If so, what is scary about him? If not, why?
  3. How do you feel when you read "The Cask"? Claustrophobic? Tired? Something else? What about the story makes you feel this way?
  4. Could Fortunato narrate this story? Why, or why not? Make an argument for both sides of this debate.
If Montresor was a woman, I think it would be pretty kick ass. I, for one, think a woman would be quite adept at devising this kind of plot. Men, even enemies, seem to revert to good ole boy buddies when they're drinking and seem to temporarily forget past wrongs. The only thing that Montresor being a woman would change my thinking about the story is I would believe that Fortunado had wronged her by corrupting her innocence, or something to that effect.

I think Fortunado is portrayed as dressed up as a clown as a symbolism of his clown-like nature. What I'm thinking of is the person who is always clowning around and insulting people, thinly disguised as joking around. You know the type of person I'm talking about. I don't find him scary at all (well, unless was dressed as a circus clown. Yes, I have a phobia of those kinds of clowns).

I feel a bit bothered because I don't know how someone could kill another human being. And then I wonder what could Fortunado have done to Montresor to make him kill him in this way. And claustrophobic...yes! Who would ever want to be walled up alive. Ack! 

I suppose it would be interesting for Fortunado to narrate since he really has no idea how much Montresor hates him and so it would be equally suspenseful, perhaps more. Feeling the horror of being walled up from his point of view would be pretty creepy. Also, we might get some insight into how Fortunado really feels about Montresor. He might say, in his narrative, "Montresor is such a prat. He knows nothing about good Amontillado." And so we would get a glimpse of why Montresor can't stand him. 

I hope you will share your thoughts in the comments, or leave a link to your blog post.

Looking forward to next week and The Fall of the House of Usher!

Another story under my belt for R.I.P. X!

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  1. My post: http://carolsnotebook.com/2015/09/14/the-cask-of-amontillado-by-edgar-allan-poe/

    I actually think the story would be a bit different if Montresor was a woman. First, the question of whether or not she was a Mason would never have been asked. I get the impression that whatever "insult" happened was not as major as Montresor believed and I think women don't overreact to that kind of thing as much as men can. I do think the method of killing Fortunato could have been done by a man or a woman.

    I didn't think of Fortunato as a scary clown either, but I kind of felt like Montresor either was over-reacting to something that was said / done or entirely misunderstood something. I don't feel like Fortunato was really at-fault.

    And yeah- I don't want to read this from Fortunato's point of view.

  2. Yep, that's John Heard in that video with Rene Auberjonois as Fortunato. I found Montresor out-screaming Fortunato to be one of the most chilling parts of the story too. That one moment feels like the only time that Montresor is maybe a little out of control.

    Montresor as a woman, hmm... I think we assume that Montresor is male because the writer is male and there is nothing to change that notion. But we don't have much other than that to support the notion either. Montresor mentions clothes minimally: a black mask, a cape, a sword; which could be women's fancy dress. Montresor's manipulation of Fortunato relies on flattery of ego which is a more soft power way of dealing with someone. Men do seem to let go of slights more easily, but Montresor isn't exactly a well-balanced person, male or female.

    Fortunato isn't a clown, but a fool. We don't get much of a sense of him, but the only thing scary about him is his obliviousness. He has no clue that he's wronged Montresor. Which might make for an interesting story in itself. Honestly, I couldn't remember before I started reading whether this story was from Fortunato's POV or not, and whether I would end up reading a prolonged description of being bricked up and, in darkness, running out of air. Okay, I'll stop just there. ;)

    More thoughts at https://katenread.wordpress.com/2015/09/14/gothic-september-the-cask-of-amontillado/

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