If you are one of the 3-5 people who read this blog on a regular basis (make that 6 whenever my Aunt Gertie can figure out how to turn her computer on) then you have probably become exhausted by the virtual Poe fest it has become around here as of late.
What can I say? ‘Tis the season for spookyness. And few authors are as spooky as Edgar Allan Poe. Don’t worry. By Saturday it will be the season of stuffing your face full of game bird and arm twisting your loved ones into purchasing you high end electronics that will coincidentaly become outdated by next Christmas when a slightly modified version arrives.
“Buy the iPad. No, buy the iPad 2. No, buy the iPad 3, now with flavor crystals!”
So let’s talk about The Cask of Amontillado, Poe’s 1846 short story. I’ve posted the full text. If you haven’t read it yet, you should. It’s ok. We’ll wait.
You’re back? OK good. For starters, we have Montresor, a character that you might refer to as “an unreliable narrator.” He introduces the story by informing the reader that Fortunato has irreparably insulted him. Montresor does not describe in detail what exactly happened, so have no idea if Fortunato did indeed engage in an unspeakable, unforgivable act upon Montresor, or if Fortunato just doled out one of those insignificant slights that we all have to deal with on a daily basis. Someone accidentally bumps into you on the street and doesn’t say excuse me, someone eats the last slice of pizza you were saving – these things just happen, and most normal people just let them go.
But most people are not Montresor.
For purposes of this blog, let’s just assume that Fortunato erased Montresor’s DVR, on which had been stored an entire season’s worth of Dancing with the Stars. Montresor will now have to face a life where he not only a) does not know which star danced with who but also b) which stars were judged to in fact be, the better dancers. Truly, a gruesome fate I would not wish on my worst enemy.
At a carnival in Italy, Montresor meets up with Fortunato and informs him that he has purchased a pricey wine – Amontillado. Montresor worries that he may have been ripped off, that the wine may only be an Amontillado knock-off. (And hey, if you ask me, if you’re buying your Amontillado off the back of a truck or from a shady character on some dark street corner instead of from a reputable, licensed and bonded Amontillado dealer, well then frankly sir, you takes your chances).
Fortunato fancies himself a wine aficionado and Montresor takes advantage of this. Montresor drops hints that he’d love it if Fortunato would accompany him to his family catacombs (because apparently in the Europe of yesteryear, people would just have an underground area where they would store a) the bones of their dead relatives and b) booze because it stays cooler underground) to taste the wine and confirm whether or not it is actually Amontillado. Montresor furthers adds he’ll get Luchresi to taste the Amontillado instead. This infuriates Fortunato, as he considers Luchresi to be a rival to his own wine tasting abilities.
It’s basically the equivalent of telling Superman, “Oh no, Superman, you take a rest. I’ll call Batman to come get the bad guy.” Superman would totally kick the bad guy’s ass rather than be one-upped by the Caped Crusader.
Montresor leads Fortunato deep into the catacombs. Now, all this time, Fortunato has been wearing a jingle belled jester’s hat (Poe’s heavy handed way of letting you know that you should consider Fortunato to be a fool). Fortunato is also three sheets to the wind and drunk off his behind having spent the day at the carnival drinking anything not nailed down. So in other words, Fortunato is in a very vulnerable state and Montresor takes advantage of this.
At one point, Fortunato does reveal his condescending side by poking fun at Montresor for not being a mason. Fortunato says he is a mason and shows Fortunato a trowel – an ominous sign of things to come. However, Fortunato meant the Mason organization, not an actual person that works with brick and mortar.
Montresor chains Fortunato to a wall in a small area and then walls it up with bricks. As he does so, Fortunato states a hope that this is just a joke and then eventually says the famous line, “For the love of God, Montresor!” In other words, he’s essentially telling Montresor to show him some pity and let him go, that this whole idea of bricking him up in a wall is pretty dang unreasonable (the understatement of the year).
When Montresor is about to put in the last brick, he calls Fortunato’s name. Fortunato does not answer? Why? Who knows? It could be Fortunato did not want to give Montresor the satisfaction, could be that he just gave up and did not want to talk anymore, could be that the exhaustion of the whole experience wore him out and he died. The real question – did Montresor care that Fortunato did not answer?
Montresor ends the tale by noting that Fortunato has been in the wall for 50 years untouched.
All in all, a spooktacular piece of literature by one of the horror genre’s classic masters.