The Cask of Amontillado: Literary Devices & Quotes

Instructor: Eric Reeder

Eric has taught adult learners in writing courses as well as middle and high school students in English/language arts classes. He has a master's degree in education.

In this lesson, we will explore Edgar Allan Poe's short story ''The Cask of Amontillado.'' Specifically, we will examine some of the literary devices used as well as textual support and quotes from the text to show how these literary devices were used.

''The Cask of Amontillado''

Ever been slighted by a friend and wanted to get back at them? Edgar Allan Poe's ''The Cask of Amontillado'' takes this feeling to the extreme. In it, Montresor is a man exacting revenge on another man, Fortunato, by leading him into a cellar, chaining him to the wall, and then building a brick wall around him and leaving him to die. His motive is not strictly explained, but left as vague grievances that even Fortunato doesn't seem to realize. Let's take a look at some of the literary devices Poe uses in this story.


One of the literary devices used most effectively in ''The Cask of Amontillado'' is verbal irony, or when a speaker says one thing but means something very different. Early in the story, Montresor runs into Fortunato at the carnival. Montresor says, ''I was so pleased to see him, that I thought I should never have done wringing his hand.''

This early in the story, before the reader knows what is going to happen, so it would be easy to assume that Montresor was simply happy to see his friend and socialize. As we find out, Montresor is only glad to see Fortunato so that he can ultimately enact revenge on him.

Later, as Montresor is taking Fortunato down in the cellar, supposedly to see the wine, Fortunato says that he is not going to die of a cough. ''True--true,'' Montresor says, since he, in fact, knows exactly how Fortunato will die, in a manner unrelated to his persistent cough.

Point of View

The point of view of a story is the perspective from which it is told. The first sentence tells us that it is written in first person point of view: ''The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could; but when he ventured upon insult, I vowed revenge.'' We learn that the narrator is Montresor. The fact that he, who killed Fortunato, is telling the story, means that it is told from his perspective.

Imagine how different the story would be if it had been told from Fortunato's point of view; he might not have even known why Montresor wanted to get revenge, or he might have realized what it was but thought it was a small matter. If the story was told in third person point of view, maybe from the perspective of the person Montresor is telling this story to, we would probably have a very different story also.


The whole story is a flashback, in other words, it is being told after it happened, and as the narrator remembers it. In this case, the narrator is Montresor, and he is telling unknown listeners around 50 years later. Notice that the entire story is told in past tense. At the end of the story, we learn that Montresor is actually telling the story many years later: ''Against the new masonry I re-erected the old rampart of bones. For the half of a century no mortal has disturbed them.''


Imagery helps readers to imagine the story in a more vivid way with phrases that help the reader see, hear, taste, smell, or hear various aspects. In this story, imagery is used quite effectively. The outfit that the narrator describes Fortunato as wearing is a ''tightfitting parti-striped dress, and...conical cap and bells'' meant to indicate fun and happiness. These party clothes are in direct opposition to the dark tone of the story and the murder that befalls Fortunato.

Another vivid example of imagery occurs as Montresor describes Fortunato being bricked in behind a wall and yelling and screaming: ''A succession of loud and shrill screams, bursting suddenly from the throat of the chained form, seemed to thrust me violently back. For a brief moment I hesitated--I trembled. Unsheathing my rapier, I began to grope with it about the recess; but the thought of an instant reassured me. I placed my hand upon the solid fabric of the catacombs, and felt satisfied. I reapproached the wall. I replied to the yells of him who clamored. I re-echoed--I aided--I surpassed them in volume and in strength. I did this, and the clamorer grew still.'' Montresor yells and screams even louder until Fortunato finally becomes quiet.

We can imagine all of these sensory images from the story quite vividly, making these effective and useful literary devices.

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