Friday, September 14, 2012

The Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allen Poe

A Commentary by M. J. Joachim

Certainly Poe was chastising his demons when he wrote The Cask of Amontillado. Whether or not he was drinking sherry at the time, is not a path I wish to pursue. However, it seems clear to me that Poe was struggling with his inconsistent status – that of perpetually gaining and losing community prestige, and even more so, that he placed much of the blame on his inability to avoid his vice of drinking and partying when reliable sums of money came to him.

Fortunato, a primary character in The Cask of Amontillado, is immediately cast as a man of a “thousand injuries,” one that Poe was determined, not only to conquer, but to kill in a violent, cruel death – to prevent being ever haunted by its lure. Clearly fortune purchases the finest wine – but a dark wine, one that deceives with its delicate flavor of innocence and intensity, like Amontillado? Truly this was a tell-all about a man intent on standing firm against his vices and temptations.

Such confusion Poe had, bantering (with himself?) back and forth in the story. It’s almost as if he were writing as he walked down the street through carnival at the time. Perhaps he was in a local pub or bar, writing on a napkin or something of the sort. We writers do tend to make use of whatever is handy, don’t we? It seems reasonable to believe that if Poe had a smart tablet like we do today, he may well have composed this story as he journeyed through the steps of it, writing ad lib, if you will…until he reached the catacombs, of course.

Skeletons in the closet come to mind. A man with so many of them, ones which no one should ever have the right to know…

But people did know, and it bothered Poe deeply. He knew many of them saw the man beneath the public face he valiantly tried to present as himself to the world. Local gossip about him was taking its toll. He resolved to defeat it, put an end to the cruelty of his insecurity and personal demise. Such difficult inner turmoil to endure – expressed throughout carefully written dialog in The Cask of Amontillado.

One moment he is surrounded by all his demons – debating the pros and cons of seeking “professional help” (Luchesi). All the while he is making excuses – literally sick with the idea of succumbing to his illness (mental head trash he simply couldn’t overcome).

Expressed in uncontrollable coughing, agitated by cold and dampness, unconquerable by reason and common sense…

Why, you could almost see a devil sitting on one shoulder, while an angel sat on the other, with poor Edgar sitting in the middle at their mercy!

Finally the unsuspecting chains that bound him…the battle and battle cries as he made his final choice! It was time to end the struggle, finish the task and bury (with so many other demons) the debauchery from fortune gone awry!

Next up…

Happy Friday, dear followers! I hope your weekend is truly wonderful!

M. J.

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