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The Gothic Tales Of: The Cask of Amontillado and A Rose for Emily

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There are many literary devices used in writing a short story. Some important literary devices are irony, symbolism, and imagery. This not only gives insight to the author’s style but it also allows the reader to understand the short story they are reading. In “The Cask Of Amontillado,” by Edgar Allan Poe and “A Rose For Emily,” by William Faulkner the use of irony, symbolism, and imagery are used to show readers what pride, revenge, and power will do to people.

The irony in “The Cask Of Amontillado” is indicated when Montresor states, “I continued, as was my wont, to smile in his face, and he did not perceive that my smile now was at the thought of his immolation” (217). Fortunato has no idea that his “friend” is going to kill him and Fortunato allows Montresor to take advantage of him. Not only does Montresor get Fortunato drunk but Montresor makes many comments to Fortunato on the way to the “vault” to indicate Fortunato’s fate that lies ahead. Not to mention the death of Fortunato was intended to be a slow and torturous death so he could think about what he did wrong. Instead, Fortunato dies quickly, “But to these words I hearkened in vain for a reply. I grew impatient. I called aloud- ‘Fortunato!’ No answer. I called again…” (222).This upsets Montresor and defeats his purpose to make Fortunato suffer.

On the other hand, in “A Rose For Emily” the irony is indicated by the way Emily’s father treats her, “We remembered all the young men her father had driven away, but we knew that nothing was left, she would have to cling to the which had robbed her, as people will” (317). Emily is not allowed to have any freedoms under her father’s rule because she is like a wife to him. After Emily’s father dies she keeps her father’s corps for a few days indicating Emily’s refusal to let go of the past or of anyone who does her wrong. Also, the title of the story “A Rose For Emily” shows how ironic it is that Emily’s “rose” is the room she poisoned her lover in, leaving his dead body laying on the bed.

In “The Cask Of Amontillado,” Poe uses a lot of symbolism. Montresor’s coat of arms, for example, is “a huge foot d’or (of gold), in a field azure; the foot crushes a serpent rampant whose fangs are imbedded in the heel” (Poe 219) and the motto is “Nemo me impune lacessit” (Poe 220), meaning “no one attacks me without paying dearly”(Poe 220). This clearly indicates the pride Montresor has to maintain the words of his coat of arms and motto. Montresor sees himself as the golden foot that crushes Fortunato the serpent, who has done Mo. Montresor is unremorseful and amused his cleverness and his “pursuit of revenge against Fortunato represents the enactment of an elaborate ritual that resembles the profane rites of the ‘Black Mass’ or a parody of archetypal events, such as the conflict between good and evil…”(Schick). Another symbol is the casket of wine, which represent the catacombs that Fortunato is buried alive in, not wine. Also, Fortunato’s name, meaning fortunate, has not brought him any luck other than his riches because he is murdered.

However, in “A Rose For Emily”, Emily represents the old south as well as the past and her lover, Homer Barron, represents the “new order influenced by the north” (West,Jr.). Emily’s house also represents her downfall. After her father dies the house becomes an eyesore which “smelled of dust and disuse- a close, dark smell” (Faulkner 315), indicating that Emily has let herself go becoming obese and lonely. Emily is also like a fallen monument because she once was a prominent person but now she is decaying. She has too much pride to let anyone know about her pitiful life as “she carried her head high enough- even when we believed that she was fallen. It was if she demanded more than ever the recognition of her dignity as the last Grierson; as if it had wanted that touch of earthiness to reaffirm her imperviousness” (Faulkner 318).

Poe does a great job of using imagery in “The Cask Of Amontillado.” The visual imagery which is described when Montresor laying the bricks that encloses Fortunato into his resting place allows one to see how delighted this makes Montresor. Another example of the imagery used is the tactile images of “a succession of loud and shrill screams, bursting suddenly from the throat of the chained form, seemed to thrust me violently back” (Poe 221). Also, the description of the vaults and catacombs indicate that they are a cold, dark place of death and decay, “The vaults are insufferably damp. They are encrusted with nitre” (Poe 218).

Like in “The Cask Of Amontillado,” by Edgar Allen Poe, Faulkner does a great job of using decay as imagery in “A Rose For Emily”. The description of Emily’s house indicates the death and decay of the old south, “…lifting its stubborn and coquettish decay above the cotton wagons and the gasoline pumps- an eyesore among eyesores” (Faulkner 315). Also, Emily’s lover, Homer Barron, name represents being sterile. According to Hal Blythe, from the Eastern Kentucky University, “Barron’s ‘last name refers to the fruitless, or barren, union with Miss Emily’…. Even in death Barron and the bedroom are covered with ‘patient and biding dust’, Faulkner’s traditional image of sterility.” Another example of imagery is the “long strand of iron-gray hair” (Faulkner 321) found on the bed next to Emily’s dead lover showing Emily’s unwillingness to let the past go.

Edgar Allan Poe and William Faulkner demonstrate in their short stories how pride, revenge, and power can blind one from the realities of life. Unfortunately one person’s gain is another person’s sorrow and everyone has to live with the decisions they make.

Works Cited

Blythe, Hal. “A Rose For Emily.” Faulkner’s ‘A Rose For Emily’ Explicator 1989 Winter; 47(2): 49-50. Academic Search Premier. EBSCOhost. Clayton College and State University Coll. Lib., Morrow, GA. 18 March 2009Faulkner, William. “A Rose For Emily.”Literature and the Writing Process. Ed. Elizabeth McMahan, Susan X Day, and Robert Funk. 8th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ:Prentice, 2007.

Poe, Edgar Allan. “The Cask Of Amontillado.”Literature and the Writing Process. Ed.

Elizabeth McMahan, Susan X Day, and Robert Funk. 8th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice, 2007.

Schick, Joseph S. “The Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allan Poe.” Short Story Criticism. Ed. Anna Sheets-Nesbitt. Vol. 35. Detroit: Gale Group, 2000. 297-354. Literature Criticism Online. Gale. Gale Trial Site. 18 March 2009
West Jr., Ray B. “A Rose for Emily by William Faulkner.” Short Story Criticism. Ed. Jenny Cromie. Vol. 42. Detroit: Gale Group, 2001. 72-135. Literature Criticism Online. Gale. Gale Trial Site. 18 March 2009

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