A Cask of Amontillado Essay: Theme of Masonry Cask

Amontillado EssaysThe Theme of Masonry in A Cask of Amontillado
The fundamental question in Edgar Allan Poe’s “A Cask of Amontillado” is the nature of Montresor’s motive for the revenge he “vowed” to obtain when Fortunato “ventured upon insult” (209). Montresor believes a wrong is “unredressed when the avenger fails to make himself felt as such to him who has done the wrong”(209). While Montresor endeavors to make his vengeance known to Fortunato, the author’s references to Masonry in his use of characterization, setting and irony indicate Montresor’s motive.
Fortunato throws back a bottle of wine in a “gesticulation Montresor did not understand,” a sign of the Masons, a secret society of which he affirms he is a member (212). This secrecy is emulated in Montresor’s slaughter of his foe.
Montresor’s deadly act, he himself, and ultimately Fortunato are shrouded in secrecy. Montresor’s destruction of his foe is carried out at dusk. He leads Fortunato through the darkness “down a long and winding staircase” “into the inmost recesses of the catacombs” “at the most remote end of the crypt” (211). Montresor dons an appropriate “mask of black silk” and wraps a “roquelaire closely about his person” (210). Within this cloth is concealed a trowel, the instrument of Fortunato’s destruction. Masonry is cloaked. The reader again sees this when presented the bones that “lay promiscuously upon the earth” beneath which lay the “building stone and mortar” that are used to forever seal Fortunato’s fate (212-13). Montresor’s use of secrecy in the destruction of his adversary is significant as it relates to Fortunato’s status as a Mason.
A mason shrouds a Mason in masonry. In addition to this fundamental instance of situational irony, there is also a dramatic irony that Poe creates by allowing the reader to know Fortunato’s ultimate destruction while Fortunato is entirely unaware. When Montresor asserts that he is indeed a mason (aware that he did not recognize the sign) the reader begins to realize what is to come. As he relates the motto of his Scottish arms: “No one insults me with impunity,” the reader perceives that Montresor’s vengeance may extend to the history of his ancestors, scorned by the brotherhood, to which Fortunato thinks only to reply, “Good!” (211-12). As Montresor’s ancestors have been condemned by the Masons, he will condemn a Mason with his own sort of masonry.
Poe informs the reader that Montresor wants to make himself known to Fortunato as an “avenger” of a “wrong” (209). He had not before the night of his destruction, “by word or deed given Fortunato cause to doubt his good will” (209). He must, therefore, disclose to Fortunato his motive on the night of his murder. As the reader is related the details of his execution, he or she can identify that the theme of Montresor’s evil deed is Masonry, as a study of the characterization, setting, and irony makes especially obvious. By knowing that it is Montresor’s goal to make himself known to Fortunato, it can only be concluded that it is Montresor’s motive for committing the murder of his adversary.
Works Cited
Poe, Edgar Allan. “A Cask of Amontillado.” Literature: Reading, Reacting, Writing. Ed. Laurie G. Kirszner and Stephen R. Mandell. Orlando: Harcourt, 1997. 209-14.