This handout begins with a detailed examination of the three scenes which make up the plot of “The Cask of Amontillado”: the beginning with its presentation of the problem of the story, the middle with its climax, and the ending’s resolution, recognition, and reversal. (During this analysis I digress to point out two inconsequential errors made by Poe; I have found that students enjoy when teachers point out the faux pas of great writers such as Poe since such linguistic “slips” humanize these literary giants.)
The two major themes of the story and its characters (the protagonist Montresor and his antagonist Fortunato) are next discussed, including the symbolism and derivation of their names. After an examination of the story’s contrasting and symbolic settings, the handout closes with an analysis of reverse psychology and eleven other specific instances of irony in the story.
My handout, which has blanks that your students can fill in, is suitable for a homework assignment or as an in-class activity. An answer key is provided on a separate page at the end of the handout.
Prepared by Professor William Tarvin, Ph.D., who has published many articles on literature in scholarly journals.