“The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allan Poe (pp. 372-379)
LESSON FOCUS: Comprehension of Pre-20th Century Text, Plot Analysis, Figurative Language, Theme
BACKGROUND INFORMATION CATACOMBS AND CARNIVAL (from English Textual Power Level 4): Centuries ago, in Italy, the early Christians buried their dead in catacombs, which are long, winding underground tunnels. Later, wealthy families built private catacombs beneath their palazzos, or palatial homes. These dark and cool chambers, or vaults, contained nitre, a crystallized salt growth. In order to find their way in their underground tunnels, the owners would light torches or flambeaux.
These crypts were suitable not only for burial, but for storage of fine vintage wines such as Amontillado, DeGrave, and Medoc. A wine expert, or connoisseur, would store wine carefully in these underground vaults. Wine was stored in casks or puncheons, which held 72 to 100 gallons, or in pipes, which contained 126 gallons (also known as two hogsheads).
Poe’s story takes place in the catacombs during Carnival, a celebration that still takes place in many countries. The day before Ash Wednesday is celebrated as a holiday with carnivals, masquerade balls, and parades of costumed merrymakers. During Carnival, people celebrate by disguising themselves as fools, wearing parti-striped dress or motley, and capes, known as roquelaires. Women would celebrate wearing conical caps. Carnival is also called Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, because of the feasting that takes place the day before Ash Wednesday. Starting on Ash Wednesday, which is the beginning of Lent, some Christians fast and do penance for their sins.
DURING READING SECTION 1: PAGE 372 (LINES 1-20)
POINT OF VIEW: From what point of view is the story told? How do you know?
PARAPHRASE: In your own words, what does the first paragraph of the story say?
COMPREHENSION: Why has Montresor chosen to take such action against Fortunato?
COMPREHENSION: What two things does the narrator say have to happen in order for revenge to be complete?
CHARACTERIZATION: What kind of a person is Montresor? How do you know? Cite three quotations from the first three paragraphs and explain what you learn about Montresor from them. Be sure to cite whether the quote you have chosen is an example of direct or indirect characterization.
Quotation from Text
What Do We Learn?
Direct or Indirect?
IRONY: The narrator tells his audience of his plans to end Fortunato’s life, but Fortunato has no idea. What sort of irony is this?
SECTION 2: PAGES 372-374 (LINES 21-58)
MOTIVATION: Why does Montresor say that he was “so pleased to see” Fortunato at the beginning of the story?
MAKING INFERENCES: How does Montresor manipulate Fortunato into following him home?
MOOD: In lines 27-55, how does Poe build a suspenseful mood in the conversation between Fortunato and the narrator?
SECTION 3: PAGES 374-375 (LINES 59-98)
MAKING INFERENCES/MOTIVATION: Why does Montresor tell his servants not to leave the house?
MOTIVATION: Why does Montresor keep suggesting that he and Fortunato turn back, and why does he keep mentioning Luchesi?
SECTION 4: PAGES 375-376 (LINES 99-137)
ALLUSION: Explain the allusion in the Montresor family seal (arms).
FORESHADOWING: What is the Montresor family motto? What does it foreshadow?
IMAGERY: What sensory details help you to visualize the setting in this part of the story? Provide at least two.
SECTION 5: PAGES 376-378 (LINES 138-168)
MAKING PREDICTIONS: Having read to this point, how do you think Montresor plans to get his revenge against Fortunato?
COMPREHENSION: What does Montresor do when they reach their destination?
SECTION 6: PAGES 378-379 (LINES 169-219)
MOOD: Read the paragraph from lines 173-184. What images and details make this description especially horrifying?
MAKING INFERENCES: Why does Montresor take a break while he is laying the brick?
MOTIVATION: At the end, why does Montresor keep seeking a supply from Fortunato?
ANALYZE SENTENCE STRUCTURE (SYNTAX): In the sentence, “My heart grew sick – on account of the dampness of the catacombs,” what is the purpose of the dash?
What is the effect of telling the story from this point of view? How would the story be different if told from a different point of view?
Is Montresor a reliable narrator? Why/why not?
PLOT STRUCTURE: Using the Freytag’s Pyramid provided, diagram the major plot events in “The Cask of Amontillado,” ensuring that you address all seven elements: Exposition, Inciting Moment/Incident, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, Resolution, and Denouement (if applicable). Use the blank space below if you need more room for notes.
Provide at least two (2) examples of foreshadowing from the story, and indicate what each instance foreshadows.