Structural & New Literary Criticism on “A Cask of Amontillado”In Poe’s “A Cask of Amontillado”, there are several key points of criticism that can be drawn using ideals of New Criticism and Structuralism. Drawing first from the literary perspective of Structuralism, it can be argued that the underlying formula of the tale is one that is common to stories with revenge as the main plot. The formula can be described as a party being aggrieved by another party, suffering insult and plotting revenge, and successfully executing vengeance thereafter. In fact, Poe’s tale can be considered a condensed version of the formula with more elaborate versions to include Dumas’ “The Count of Monte Cristo” or Rizal’s “El Filibusterismo”. It is interesting to note that Dumas’ work was released only two years before the first publication of “A Cask of Amontillado”, and while it is quite unlikely that Poe as able to read Dumas’ tale before writing his own, the fact that “The Count of Monte Cristo” was published earlier than “A Cask of Amontillado” means that the latter cannot claim an original structure.Furthermore, Cecil reveals that Poe may have been inspired by another unpublished story during his stay in Massachusetts back when he was a private in 1827 (41). The story was purportedly about a group of soldiers who took revenge upon an abusive captain by burying him alive (Cecil 41).
Once more this shows some weakness in the uniqueness of Poe’s structure. On the other hand, the flow of the story itself along with all its intricate details makes it quite appealing to New Criticism. For one, Poe uses a variety of instances to signify a certain degree of hesitation on the part of Montresor such as the various times when he offers Fortunato to go back as well as when he calls out to Fortunato during the conclusion of the tale and finally lays the last brick while his heart “grew sick” (Poe).
These instances make the piece more human and complicated and increases the tale’s value to scrutinizing readers. Works CitedPoe, Edgar Allan. A Cask of Amontillado. 2007. Poestories.
April 9, 2008 <http://www.poestories.com/text.php?file=amontillado>Cecil, L. Moffitt.
Poe Studies. Vol. V, no. 2, 1972.