The singular effect in Edgar Allan Poe’s The Cask of Amontillado is made clear to the
reader from the first sentence of the short story. In the first paragraph Poe writes: “The thousand
injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could; but when he ventured upon insult, I vowed
revenge.” This introductory sentence informs the reader of the main point of the story and leaves
him or her anticipating the events that are to follow as the plot progresses.
The last sentence of the whole story also
Every other sentence in this story works towards the unified effect that Poe seeks to
impart on his readers.
All the elements of fiction are present in this story and the author uses this elements to
help him achieve the unity of effect that he often spoke about. In the paragraphs that follow, I
will discuss each element of fiction as used in this story and I will explain how each one of them
helps in achieving the singular effect that the author aimed at achieving.
Plot refers to the sequence of events in the story. In this story the exposition sets up the
background of the conflict between Montresor and Fortunato. The rising action begins with a
short explanation of how the adversaries met on that day when Fortunato met his fate: “It was
about dusk, one evening during the supreme madness of the carnival season, that I encountered
my friend.” After a sequence of events involving Montresor ill-intentionally guiding Fortunato
through a maze of crypts in his vaults, a turning point occurs. The author writes: “In an instant he
had reached the extremity of the niche, and finding his progress arrested by the rock, stood
stupidly bewildered.” The emotional high point of the story stretches from the point where
Fortunato screams from inside the crypt, until when he shouts: “For the love of God,
Montresor!” The falling action then follows and ends when Montresor puts the last stone in
position. The author writes: “I plastered it up. Against the new masonry I re-erected the old
rampart of bones.”
All the aspects of plot in the story point to the singular effect that Poe aims to make the
reader appreciate. The deletion of one aspect???? The protagonist, Montresor has finally
achieved his goal of seeking revenge against Fortunato. The main point of the story is reinforced
at the very end when the Author speaks of the bones that cover the newly erected wall: “For the
half of a century no mortal has disturbed them.”
This story has two main characters. The characters are somewhat dynamic rather than
static. We the readers also know that Fortunato is a proud man judging from the way he speaks
of Luchesi. It is this pride that leads him to his demise even when he is offered a chance to avert
his death. In the case of the protagonist Montresor, his hatred for Fortunato exposes his sadism.
Poe writes: “I replied to the yells of him who clamored. I reechoed – I aided – I surpassed them
in volume and strength.”
The characteristics of both characters are in line with the end orientation desired by the
author. Montresor’s sadism and scheming ways are desirable ingredients in a vengeful person
while Fortunato’s pride is bound to lead him right into Montresor’s trap. The attributes of both
characters work for the benefit of the singular effect.
Setting refers to the location where the events described in the story unfold. The author
vividly describes the place where Montresor buries Fortunato alive. He writes: “Within the wall
thus exposed by the displacing of the bones, we perceived a still interior recess, in depth about
four feet, in width three, in height six or seven.” The author also describes the atmosphere of that
particular location. He writes: “It was in vain that Fortunato, uplifting his dull torch, endeavored
to pry into the depth of the recess. Its termination the feeble light did not enable us to see.” The
author’s description of Montresor building up the wall also plays a big role in vivifying the
The time when the story unfolds is yet another part of the setting. The adversaries met at
“about dusk” and by midnight, Montresor had already plastered the tenth layer of bricks on the
An image and feeling of impending danger is created in the readers mind by Poe’s
description of the setting. This image reinforces the singular effect desired by Poe in this story.
At every step when Montresor and Fortunato are walking through the vaults, the reader is left
anticipating the events that are to follow ending with Fortunato’s demise and Montresor’s
accomplishment of revenge.
Point of View:
Point of view refers to the person who narrates the story to the readers. In this case, Poe
decides to have the major character in the story Montresor tell the story. This is known as first-
person narration, where an author chooses to have a character tell the story from his or her own
perspective. We the readers get to appreciate the story from Montresor’s subjective view. “A
succession of loud and shrill screams, bursting suddenly from the throat of the chained form,
seemed to thrust me violently back,” Poe writes of Montresor’s reaction to Fortunato’s cries.
From Montresor’s vantage point, the audience is able to appreciate his anger towards
Fortunato. His heartless viciousness against Fortunato comes to life in the story in a better way
than if anyone else were to narrate the story. Poe uses Montresor as the narrator so as to heighten
the apathy that he feels towards Fortunato. It builds right in to the Unified effect that the other
elements of the story are aimed at achieving.
Voice and Style: