The Sanity of the Insane
A trait in the horror/mystery books that makes them so terrifying at times is the sanity of the insane. The careful, methodical, and logical planning, that that of reasonable mind could boast. In “The Cask of Amontillado” byEdgar Allen Poe, this is shown so well when Montresor is convincing Fortunato to follow him to the dark catacombs of Montresor’s palazzo.
“ ‘As you are engaged, I am on my way to Luchesi. If anyone has a critical turn, it is he. He will tell me___’ ”
“ I suffered him to hurry me to my palazzo.” (pg. 210)
…When he says, “I suffered him”, It more than likely means that he was feeding more complements about Luchesi, and the cold which
The only inkling that Montresor is raving mad is the forewarnings that Poe so artfully provides. The foreshadowing in “The Cask of Amontillado” makes the reader gradually see the insanity of Montresor and his plan.
Foreshadowing, a clever method of literature, and a fundamental element in horror and mysteries, is to present an indication or a suggestion beforehand. He slowly tells us of his plan, all the while wishing us to sympathize with him on the injustice that Fortunato has given him, and applaud his cleverness of the plan. This is not unlike the narrator in “The Tell Tale Heart” in which he tells of how cleverly he sneaks into the old man’s room. Poe had the skill of using unreliable narrators to tell the story, and with their mad viewpoint, it made it all the more terrifying still. Montresor had a bad tendency to be resentful to all extremities and exaggerate intolerably, when he talks about the "thousand injuries" that he has put up with.
A foreshadowing point that is really quite major, although it is near to the end, is Montresor’s family motto and coat of arms. It bears a huge golden foot, in a field of azure. The foot is crushing a snake whose fangs are embedded in the heel. Moreover the motto follows as: "Nemo me impune lacessit." ("No one assails me with impunity.") which is also the motto of Scotland. It is important for Montresor to have his victim know what is happening to him, and as Fortunato’s drunkenness wears off, and he’s chained up in a catacomb, he’ll realize that the man in a fool’s costume has been fooled himself!
A hint that Montresor gives in the beginning, and follows through until the end, is the constant friendliness towards Fortunato. If you had not read the first page, you would be bewildered at such kindness, but Montresor will not have us think so well of him!
“ It must be understood, that neither by word nor deed had I given Fortunato cause to doubt my good-will. I continued, as was my wont, to smile in his face, and he did not perceive that my smile now was at the thought of his immolation.” (pg. 209)
“ ‘You do not comprehend?” he said.
‘Not I,’ I replied.
‘Then you are not of the brother hood.’
‘You are not of the masons.’
‘Yes, yes.’ I said. ‘yes, yes.’
‘You? Impossible! A mason?’
‘A mason,’ I replied.
‘A sign.’ He said.
‘It is this,” I answered, producing a trowel from beneath the folds of my roquelaure.”
Though we believe that Montresor will stab Fortunato with the trowel, but I will leave the irony there to my peers that have chosen that for their essay.
By such a bitter remark, we see that the entire time of complements and “your health!” ’s, we, as the reader, know of the treacherous thoughts that pass through his head all the while. It foreshadows the hatred he has, but does not show, in order to lay the proper bait for our unsuspecting Fortunato.
The stab of knife, the shot of gun, or choking of necks do most murders (We will exclude Agatha Christie from this), but in “The Cask of Amontillado”, we do not find out how exactly Montresor will do his dirty deed until he gives us a major clue on how he will, as he puts it, “punish with impunity.”
Edgar Allen Poe’s use of foreshadowing has a very powerful impact. The sheer terror of being walled up by one who claims to be your friend and confidant is a death that of no one wishes another. The pure madness of Montresor’s plan, and the far-fetched foreshadowing in “The Cask of Amontillado” makes it one of Poe’s greatest short stories.