A Halloween brew: the Cask of Amontillado

Saturday , 14, October 2017 11 Comments

The spooky season is upon us once again, and as HP shares his experience with the horror stories of Robert E Howard, I’ve decided to get Gothic. This month is Poctober for me, as I spend some time with a master who inspired Howard, Lovecraft, and many other great succeeding SFF writers. Before now I’d only had the barest exposure to Edgar Allan Poe. Everyone knows “The Raven,” of course, and I read “The Cask of Amontillado” back in school. I’m really glad to be revisiting.

Perhaps what’s struck me most so far is how apparent his influence was on Lovecraft especially. If Lovecraft be one of the fathers of the weird tale, then Poe is just a step back in the genre’s paternal line. The works I’ve read so far feature a dread city where Death is enthroned, madness, a horrible monstrosity, and murder most foul.

“The Cask of Amontillado,” for those unfamiliar, showcases a grim amicicide. This fact itself is not the most horrifying element. The manner in which the narrator, Montresor, slips the metaphorical noose around his friend’s neck, mocks and plays with him, and finally tightens is terrible indeed. The unnamed slight the protagonist speaks of, either real or imagined, and the unclear motive (is this true revenge or is Montresor insane?) are chilling. The way in which the victim meets his end is haunting.

The tale is full to bursting with irony and symbolism. The white nitre deposits in Montresor’s cellar are strands of the web into which the unfortunate Fortunato has fallen. The “supreme madness of the carnival season” mirrors that of the narrator.  And it is noteworthy that not once in the story does anyone refer to an actual “cask” of Amontillado…though “cask” is quite close to “casket,” isn’t it?

It’s not a long tale and I highly recommend giving it a read. Quick to consume with much to digest. H.P. Lovecraft is great for the Halloween season, but if you want a taste of one of his elders, try some Poe. You won’t regret it.

PCBushi can also be found on Twitter or at the PCBushi blog, where he ruminates on scifi/fantasy, games, and other spheres of nerd culture.

 

 

 

 

 

11 Comments
  • deuce says:

    Good post!

    Poe laid the foundations for SO much in American and world literature. “Amontillado” has always been one of my EAP favorites.

  • PCBushi says:

    Thanks, Deuce. It really is amazing to be able to come back to a fixture like Poe and appreciate him all the more for now recognizing his influence on other writers.

    One of these days I want to go back to Mark Twain and I have a feeling it’ll be a similar (if perhaps lesser) affair.

    • deuce says:

      Poe was admired by Dunsany and obviously an influence on all of the major Weird Tales writers. Only Haggard cast a shadow as great during the early 20th century in Anglophone fantasy/”weird” literature.

      Twain is a flawed titan, IMO. Lots of wit and wisdom, but his high level of bile and misanthropy can wear at times.

  • Anthony says:

    Poe is one of my favorites! Probably the scariest story I’ve ever read is “The Fall of the House of Usher” a Gothic and horror masterpiece. I’m also fond of “The Pit and the Pendulum”, which is known for its – for a Poe story – unusual ending.

    • Anthony says:

      Actually – and sorry for clogging up your comments section – come to think of it there are very few writers EVER as influential as Poe. His impact on horror, science fiction, AND fantasy stories was immense, and in all three cases can hardly be overstated.

    • deuce says:

      “Probably the scariest story I’ve ever read is “The Fall of the House of Usher” a Gothic and horror masterpiece.”

      You and Robert E. Howard both. Imagine that.

  • Anthony says:

    And of course the influence of his Dupin stories can hardly be overstated – “The Purloined Letter” in particular is quite a clever little puzzle piece.

  • deuce says:

    BTW, Shadowridge Press has just published what I think will be a classic edition of THE NARRATIVE OF ARTHUR GORDON PYM:

    https://smile.amazon.com/dp/1946808083/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1507992109&sr=8-1&keywords=pym%20shadowridge

    A true labor of love from Shadowridge.

    “Narrative” doesn’t get the credit it deserves as a pioneering work of science-fantasy. Verne loved it so much that he wrote a sequel.

  • I read The Cask of Amontillado when I was eight. Testimony to its effectiveness, it gave me claustrophobia, which I still have. I should read more Poe, though hopefully not gain more phobias therefrom!

  • Perhaps my favorite Poe story and interesting for what it doesn’t have.

    In the normal revenge story, we’d get some detail on the offense so we could sympathize or feel repulsion towards disproportionate revenge.

    Poe doesn’t give us a bit of that except mentioning “the thousand injuries of Fortunato”.

    You can read it aloud in several ways.

    Perhaps some people just got it comin’.

    Perhaps its a confession of contrition 50 years later.

    Perhaps, as Vincent Price played it in “An Evening with Poe”, it’s one long gloat fest.

    P

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