“The Cask of Amontillado” and “The Tell-Tale Heart”
The Cask of Amontillado and The Tell-Tale heart stories written by Edgar Poe are similar in a number of ways. As usual, Poe’s way of writing is very evident in these stories. There is the usual presence of a narrator, the characters being murdered at night, the victims being murdered by the people they knew and were close to, just to mention but a few. Poe continues to explore his imagination and creativity and tells us about the mystery of the character’s cause of death. The two stories have many similarities and differences that sum up Poe’s way of writing and bring out his usual creativity.
From both stories, we learn that the narrators want to kill the people who are close to them. In “The Tell-Tale Heart”, the narrator wants to kill the old man of whom he describes as one who has “never given him insult” (Poe, The Tell-Tale Heart, 1843). He goes ahead and insists that the old man has never done him any wrong. In “The Cask of Amontillado”, the narrator wants to kill his friend. In both stories, the characters give very ambiguous reasons as to why they want to kill these two victims.
The narrator tells us that he wants to kill the old man because of his “vulture eyes”. He explains that these eyes tormented him and his ‘blood ran cold’ whenever the old man looked at him. In ‘The Cask of Amontillado”, Montressor explains that he will avenge “the thousand injuries” (Poe, The Cask of Amontillado, 1988) he had tolerated from Fortunato. This implies that he was bitter with Fortunato for ill-treating him and that is why he wanted to kill him.
In both cases, the narrators are sharing the story first-hand. We get to read and follow the story from their point of view. We judge the other characters by what they reveal to us and only get to know as much as they would want us to know. They also do not reveal their intentions to their victims. In fact, they continue to behave as usual and even show more politeness in some cases so as not to arouse any suspicion. The narrator in the Tell Tale Heart tells us that he was never kinder to the old man during that week (Poe, Tell-Tale Heart, 1843). Montressor is also seen to help Fortunato when walking as they head to the tombs.
Both murders are accomplished at night. The narrator in The Tell-Tale Heart tells us that they would walk to the old man’s room in the midnight hour in order to check whether he was awake. He did this for eight nights but on the eighth night, he finally awoke and was able to accomplish his task. Montressor tells us that by midnight, his task was almost over. The murderers bury their victims. In The Tell Tale Heart, the narrator buries the old man’s dismembered body under the floorboards. On the other hand, Montressor buries his friend in stones though alive. They show us how well they had planned the murders and how they covered their tracks so that they would not be caught. The narrator in The Tell Tale Heart hides the body and puts everything in order so that there is nothing suspicious about the place. Meanwhile, Montressor seals the entrance with stone and mortar so that nobody would trace Fortunato.
In both stories, the murderers were not in a hurry when committing the murders. In The Tell Tale Heart, the narrator explains that he takes one hour to get into the room at midnight. He also tells us that by the time they had finished the whole task, it was four in the morning. On the other hand, Montressor takes his time to lead Fortunato to the tombs and then seals the entrance with stone and mortar, taking breaks in between. In both stories, the victims get to see who their murderers are. The old man sees the narrator before the narrator finishes him off with the bed. In fact, they look at each for a long time before the narrator is greatly agitated by the man’s heartbeat. Fortunato is led to his place of death by Montressor and he witnesses him as he buries him alive. In fact, they talk some last words before he puts the final stone.
There are a number of differences noted in the two stories. The narrator in The Tell Tale Heart accomplishes his act indoors. The murder takes place in the old man’s room. Meanwhile, Fortunato is buried alive in the tombs by Montressor. The narrator in The Tell Tale Heart used a murder weapon that is the old man’s bed, to finish him off. On the contrary, the murderer just chains the victim then seals the entrance. The old man is full of fear and the narrator tells us that he even heard his heart beat. He lets out a scream, which attracted a neighbor who called the police. In the second story, the victim also lets out screams but he seems to take it as a joke by the way he talks to Montressor. At some point, he shouts “Ha! Ha! Ha! A very good joke in deed… an excellent jest…” (Poe, The Cask of Amontillado, 1988).
The narrators in both stories are of different nature. In the first story, the narrator is insane and suffering from a nervous disease. However, he insists to the reader that he is very sane and in fact has an extraordinary ability he/she calls the “over-acuteness of the sense”. The main reason that the narrator gives for killing the man is his vulture-like eyes something that one cannot kill another for. In the second story, the narrator seems to be perfectly sane and only chooses to kill Fortunato for vengeance. He tells us that the man ill-treated him. He also says that he was proud and arrogant. In the first story, we are not told of the narrator’s name. We are also not told about the old man’s name. On the other hand, we know the name of the narrator as Montressor and the victim as Fortunato.
The narrator in the first story is caught by the police. This is because he admits to having killed the old man after being tormented by the sound he thinks is the heartbeat of the dead man. In this case, the murder haunts him and he can no longer stand it. It drives him to the edge. In the second story, Montressor is not caught. In fact, there seems to be no one who suspects him of anything. This is because he orders his servants to stay indoors and make merry hence no witnesses. He also walks away from the tomb and does not seem to be about the act. However, there is a time he is caught up by guilt when he stops to seal the entrance and calls out in the tomb (Poe, The Cask of Amontillado, 1988). As mentioned, the two stories have many similarities and differences but to conclude, they all bring out Poe’s way of writing that have been seen in all his other stories.
Poe, Edgar Allan. The Tell-Tale Heart. n.p., 1843. Web. n.d.
Poe, Edgar Allan. The Cask of Amontillado. Balance Publishing Company, 1988. Web. 19 February 2011.
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