Monday, September 17, 2007

"The Cask of Amontillado" -- the Postmodern Take

"The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult, I vowed revenge. You, who so well know the nature of my soul, will not suppose, however, that I gave utterance to a threat. At length I would be avenged; this was a point definitively settled -- but the very definitiveness with which it was resolved precluded the idea of risk. I must not only punish, but punish with impunity. A wrong is unredressed when retribution overtakes its redresser. It is equally unredressed when the avenger fails to make himself felt as such to him who has done the wrong."
-- "The Cask of Amontillado" Edgar Allan Poe

It was approaching October last year when I posted about Poe's complex and clever story, "The Cask of Amontillado" (go here for the original work). In that brief period, technology has changed rapidly, allowing me to include an update with a YouTube video -- an interpretation of the story. It is interesting to see which elements are removed and which remain -- and which were added, perhaps giving it that postmodern take. Many readers complain about the original story's ending, and it seems this video expands upon that aspect.

Rather than cover old ground from my previous post, I'll head in a different direction. It has been argued that Poe's story of revenge might be a tale about two poets; a story where Poe exact revenge through the many layers of his writing, instead of layers of masonry.

It is usually supposed that one poet is Poe (Montresor?), but who is the other? There are many answers, so I'll focus upon my favorite: Ralph Waldo Emerson. Many times in reviews, Poe sharply critiqued Emerson's writings. Likewise, Emerson is known for referring to Edgar Allan Poe as "the jingle man" (because of Poe's meter and rhyme in poems). There is probably too much dusty history to prowl through in this post, so I'll mostly leave the matter with: it seemed the two men did not get along -- not unlike Fortunato and Montresor in Poe's story. I did say mostly. For those who want to make the leap in logic, there is the matter of the "bells" on Fortunato's conical cap: "There came forth in return only a jingling of the bells." (And they did plenty of jingling throughout the story, which works wonderfully as foreshadowing).


Charles Gramlich said...

I always enjoyed that story (CASK). I didn't know of the possible historical interpretation of Poe and Emerson. Fascinating. I'm going to look into this some more. I much prefer Poe to Emerson myself.

William Jones said...

Hey Charles,

It it just that, a possible interpretation. Given the history and the fates of the two men, I suppose there is catharsis in reading the story that way. Emerson did have much influence over Poe's appearance in particular American literature texts. Once Emerson passed away, Poe quickly became a part of most high school and college literature classes. I'm not sure if there are any YouTube videos of Emerson's works or not. :)