Freemasonry in The Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Poe

Edgar Allan Poe is a famous American writer, literary critic, poet, and the creator of the Gothic genre in American Literature. He gained his prominence due to his grim and horrifying short stories. Also, he is considered being the creator of the detective fiction genre and psychological prose. Poe’s most famous work is the poem called The Raven. But The Cask of Amontillado takes a worthy place in the gallery of the nightmares of the American writer. The topic of people buried alive in Poe’s works is often and relevant, but the way it displayed in The Cask of Amontillado is special. The story contains a reference to the secret organization called Freemasonry that has a significant function in the story.

The Cask of Amontillado Summary

The actions take place in the Italian city during the carnival, when all the citizens are drunk and dizzy, wearing masks and costumes – a perfect time and place for a criminal to commit a murder. The protagonist of the story, Montresor, decides not to miss a chance to revenge on his abuser Fortunato and “punish him with impunity” (Poe). Under the pretext of tasting a rare and expensive wine Amontillado, Montresor lures Fortunato, who is already fairly drunk, in the basement. On the way to the pipe of Amontillado, they go through the long corridors and catacombs of a wine cellar. When Fortunato starts coughing because of nitre, Montresor offers him wine in order to “defend him from the damps” (Poe). At one point, Fortunato laughs and throws the bottle upwards with a gesticulation. That gesture is unknown for the narrator and bewilders him. Fortunato asks: “You are not of the masons?” (Poe) Montresor states the opposite and shows him a sign – a trowel, which he uses later to bury his enemy.

The Cask of Amontillado Analysis

The fact that Edgar Poe in his short story refers to the brotherhood of Masons can be treated and interpreted in different ways and has three different functions. First of all, the mentioning of this organization can be used in order to support the character of Fortunato. He wants to gain respect, admiration and to look more important than he really is. The fact that he displays the gesture of that mysterious brotherhood, probably knowing that Montresor is not a Mason, makes him arrogant and haughty person. In the end, it seems that he deserves such a punishment. Secondly, Fortunato’s belonging to Freemasonry can be seen in the opposite way. Fortunato, as a victim, who wants to help his dear friend, gets into the hands of an insane Montresor. Edgar Poe wanted to shed some lite on Masons and picture them as ordinary people, who lead a normal life and visit carnivals. The author tried to dispel their secrecy and break some stereotypes concerning their wealth and total control and power. Finally, the emergence of the Freemasonry can be treated as irony in the text. The word ‘mason’ originally means a person, who works with stone. So, when Fortunato asks Montresor if he a Mason, the latter affirms it by displaying him a trowel – a tool of a mason, a bricklayer. Montresor’s joke becomes funnier when he buries Fortunato in the niche with that very trowel.
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