Art, Writing


Poe’s Gothicism in “The Cask of Amontillado”

When a person thinks of Gothic, they think of dark and gloomy settings. Gothic stories usually contain elements that create this type of atmosphere, and they usually contain a plot that is dark also. Edgar Allan Poe is known for his use of the gothic element in his stories. His short story, “A Cask of Amontillado” is gothic because of its dark imagery, setting, and plot.

           Poe uses an abundance of dark images to create his gothic setting in the story. When the narrator invites his victim down to try his wine, he says, “I am worried about the severe cold in my vaults, which is where I’ve stored the cask” (Poe ). The image of a vault reminds people of death and darkness because people are buried in vaults. During the end of the story, the images get even more dark and creepy as Montresor builds his wall to trap Fortunato. The prisoner screams once he realizes what is happening. This image of a man being buried alive is definitely gothic. Poe uses images throughout the story that make people think of darkness and create a gothic setting.

            Poe also creates a setting that is reminiscent of the gothic. All of the images help create this setting, but the actual setting of the story also gives it a very distinct gothic feeling. He sets the story up during the festival season, which paints the picture of busy streets and people in costumes drinking. This setting is usually one for disaster because people do not know what is going on. When Montresor finds Fortunato, “He greeted me warmly, for he had been drinking a great deal” (Poe ). This was due to the festival, and it allowed Fortunato to be taken off guard. Montresor had also ensured that the house would be empty (Poe ). So, Montresor leads Fortunato “down a long and winding staircase and came at last to the damp catacombs of the Montresors” (Poe ). This is the most dark part of the setting. The place where they were going was actually the burial ground for the Montresor family. Poe’s setting presents the gothic in its darkness and association with death.

            The plot of the story also contributes to the gothic element. Poe uses different plots than most writers. In “The Cask of Amontillado,” Montresor is remembering what he did, so the reader knows that it has already happened. The reader also knows that he got away with it. The plot is one of revenge. Montresor says, “A thousand injuries from Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when he insulted me, I could not bear it” (Poe ). So, his revenge was based on an insult. Another part of the plot that makes it dark is the fact that Fortunato never saw it coming. Montresor says, “For all he knew, I was his good friend” (Poe ). These two things, and the fact that Montresor is describing murdering someone by burying him alive show that Montresor is a bit crazy. This plot sets up the gothic story as one of darkness.

            Edgar Allan Poe was a brilliant writer. His stories are interesting because they present ideas that are different than most stories. His stories are also good to read because he used elements like Gothicism to create them. In “The Cask of Amontillado,” Poe uses dark images like death and darkness to create a gothic feeling. The setting of the story is during a time of crazy parties and it is in a tomb, which makes it creepy. Poe also uses unique plots to add a different level of darkness. In this story, the narrator has already committed murder and is retelling the story. This plot of murder definitely makes the story gothic. Overall, “The Cask of Amontillado” is a very dark story with lots of gothic elements.     


Poe, Edgar Allan. “The Cask of Amontillado.”