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The Cask of Amontillado Book Report

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Salinger uses a variety of techniques to develop the major themes of The Catcher in the Rye. The statement that ‘Salinger uses a variety of techniques to develop the major themes of The Catcher in the Rye’ is true in a number of important ways. The major themes of the novel include the problems of alienation, sexual identity and overcoming personal loss within the context of the overall concept of inner journey. Salinger employs techniques such as “unreliable narrator”, colloquial “spoken” syntax and dramatic irony combined with symbolism and the use of recurring motifs. The combined effects of these techniques confirm the overall thesis of the novel in its depiction of the psychological development and struggle of the protagonist Holden Caufield to overcome the alienated conditions of his life. The ultimate triumph of Holden’s humanity in the stunning epiphany that effectively concludes the narrative raises this novel to the level of a modern classic. The theme of alienation is central to an understanding of the overall concept of inner journey in The Catcher in the Rye.

For example, the technique of the “unreliable narrator” is used effectively by Salinger to create the persona of a confused and frightened character who cannot find his place in the world. This can be shown when Holden narrates that “some things are hard to remember” in the context of his fight with Stradlater in chapter 6. Holden attacked Stradlater because he was filled with uncontrollable rage when he believed Stradlater had had sex with Jane Gallagher (an old childhood friend of Holden). Holden cannot conceptualise and articulate his feelings in this situation and therefore cannot reliably inform the responder accordingly. It is possible that he is driven by a combination of sexual frustration and his subconscious desire to protect the sexual innocence of children. The overall effect of this technique is to demonstrate that he cannot sufficiently comprehend his true place in the world and is therefore alienated from it. Alienation is a difficult obstacle for Holden to overcome. This is made obvious with the use of first person narration.

Holden would often refer to people as being ‘phony’. In the bar, Holden narrates “I was surrounded by phonies” and deliberately excludes himself from the crowd. Holden also excludes himself from the general society. An example is when Holden is talking to Ernest Morrow’s mother, Mrs Morrow (Ernest is a fellow student of Holden’s at Pency). Holden tells Mrs Morrow that his name is “Rudolf Schmidt” but then admits that that “was the name of the janitor” of his dorm at Pency Prep, the school he used to attend. He also lies to Mrs Morrow saying the reason why he was out of school is because he had to have surgery but admits he was sorry for lying, “I was right away sorry I’d said it, but it was too late”. The overall use of first person narration allows us, as the reader, to know what Holden is verbally saying but what he is actually thinking.

Sexual development and identity is a big issue for Holden, one where he is confused and does not understand. The satirical observations of which Holden uses to identify people effectively shows how Holden abandons situations of which he could potentially have sexual intercourse. An example is when Holden is presented with a prostitute named Sunny. In the quote “The crossed her legs and started jiggling this one foot up and down. She was very nervous, for a prostitute”, Sunny is portrayed as a young child through Holden’s perspective thus Holden rejects the opportunity for sexual intercourse. Another example is when Holden attempts to ‘flirt’ with the girls in the bar, “What they did, though, the three of them, when I did it, they started giggling like morons”. The girls simply laugh at Holden because he is too young for them. It can be concluded from the quotes and the use of satirical observations that Holden does not know his own sexual standing and status. The problem of overcoming personal loss of a loved one is what affects Holden the most. Salinger uses recurring motifs combined with symbolism to express Holden’s psychological state of mind.

The recurring motif of the red hunting hat is a way Holden copes with the death of his brother Allie. The red hunting hat represents Allie as Holden narrates that Allie had red hair, “I’ll tell you what kind of red hair he had”. Another explanation of the red hunting hat is that Holden is having trouble growing up as he admits to acting young for his age. This is supported by the quote “I act quite young for my age sometimes. It’s really ironical, because I’m six foot two and a half and I have gray hair”. Another recurring motif is the ducks at Central Park. Holden questions several people about the ducks and none of them supply a satisfactory answer. Holden asks Horwitz, a taxi driver, “Do you happen to know where they go in the wintertime, by any chance?” One possible explanation of why Holden is so curious of the ducks is because they symbolise him and he confused with his own future. The use of these recurring motifs allows us to explore and piece together Holden’s psychological state of mind. Salinger definitely incorporates a variety of literary techniques to develop the major themes of The Catcher in the Rye. The clever use of unreliable and first person narration, satirical observations, symbolism and recurring motifs clearly show the characterization of the protagonist Holden Caufield. These techniques have also shown the major themes of the novel and the overall concept of inner journey.

The “City of Ember” is a must read book and after reading the first book of the series you will want to finish the series. It is about an underground village that lives there for many centuries and finally their supplies run out. The villagers don’t know what to do until a younger girl finds directions to get the people out of there. No one will believe her, however, she and another young boy follow the directions and find themselves above ground, not knowing anything about this place. Then they find a hole that leads down the “City of Ember where the villagers are and they tie a rock to the directions and drop in the hole so the villagers can find. The story ends and everyone made it up above ground for the first time in their lives. The “City of Ember” and The Cask of Amontillado are two completely different stories that share similar lessons. While The “City of Ember” by Jeanne DuPrau and The Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allen Poe have different motivations for the underground setting, they both have similar lessons such as underground is a setting for disaster, every person has the ability to be a hero or a villain, and no one can predict what the future might hold.

Edgar Allen Poe wrote The Cask of Amontillado with the majority of the short story taking place in an underground graveyard, which is kind of the same setting as Embers. In today society, not much happens beneath the surface of the Earth, however, both authors were somehow encourage to have the story take place below the surface of the Earth. The authors, also, used being underground as a disadvantage to the characters in the story and this causes the climax of the story and where the problems are introduced. To society, underneath the Earth surface is a setting for a disaster, ever since we were kids, our parents would tell us that down is where hell is and that is why we get the picture that underground is a bad place. These authors also used this point of view to help the readers understand that where these characters are is a bad place.

The biggest similarities of these two stories, is the resemblance ofFortunato and the villagers of Embers. Both Fortunato and the villagers are  stuck underground to die forever. If you think about it Fortunato and the villagers are in the same situation the whole time. Fortunato is chained and then bricked in deep underneath so one on can hear him and his only option is to die a slow painful death, because no one can save him. The villagers are stuck in this city with nowhere to go. They are ruining out of food and supplies, which makes it impossible to survive and the villagers don’t know of anybody in the outside world to come and save them. Montresor is the character in The Cask of Amontillado that is killing Fortunato and in the process Montresor mentally tortures him and makes as worse as possible for Fortunato.

The same thing happens to the villagers, when the generator shuts down for as long as half an hour. The city is pitch black during this time and no one can see or move, because they don’t know what is in front of them. The whole time the power is out people scream and cry and are just mentally tortured until the lights come back on. Every day the black out gets longer and happens more often. The whole village is scared to death about what happens when the power doesn’t come back on. Fortunato and the villagers both with in the course of the story know that there is a good possibility they will be trapped in that spot and be left for dead.

With in the course of each story, the story line completely changes. In The Cask of Amontillado, Fortunato is left there forever, with no to ever hear from him again. In the “City of Ember,” two unexpected people save the entire village. Two teenagers living in Embers find this note and put their life on the line to save their entire village. The two stories follow the same story line until the very end and that when the story go in complete opposite directions. That is why one story is called a twisted story and why the other is a story about two heroes.

These two stories are not very popular and most people would not have read this story unless you were force to in high school. However, if people sat down and read one of these books they could learn that people can surprise you in life. No one would have thought that two teenagers would save a whole village on a hunch. Also, no one would have thought that Montresor would kill Fortunato just for hurting and making fun of Montresor. Montresor didn’t just kill Fortunato, but Montresor tortured Fortunat before Montresor left him their to die.

The “City of Ember” is a book that you will not want to put down. The Cask of Amontillado is a book that you can’t put down, because it is a very interesting and also short. Even though The Cask of Amontillado was written over a 150 years before the “City of Ember,” both books were very similar and taught some of the same lessons. The stories share similar life lesson and can be read by anyone. Even though The Cask of Amontillado is a classical short story, it can still relate to current times, like the “City of Embers.”

Work Cited

Poe, Edgar Allen. “The Cask of Amontillado.” The Norton Introduction To Literature. 9th ed. New York: Norton, 2004. 123-28. Print. DuPrau, Jeanne. City of Ember. Listening Library: n.p., 2004. Print.

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