The Four Prong Warning:Poes Use of The Cautionary Tale

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Cautionary tales traditionally tend to be a narrative that have a moral message warning about the results of certain actions or character traits (Emery). Although the typical warning of a cautionary tale is in the forefront of the story, sometimes it can be done in a not so obvious way, either with or without the author’s knowledge. It is unknown if Edgar Allen Poe meant for it to be a cautionary tale, but “The Cask of Amontillado” has some overt and covert features that fall within this definition. We will examine four aspects that Poe either purposefully or subconsciously was trying to warn us against. The first aspect that Poe was trying to warn us about was alcoholism. Fortunato, the victim, starts the story out in an inebriated state. “He [Fortunato] accosted me [Montresor, the narrator] with excessive warmth, for he had been drinking much.” (Poe, 144). This immediately sets the tone for Fortunato being the subject of this morality tale and the intentions of Montresor being the consequences. For this part to be a cautionary tale, we do have to put it against the definition. The first portion of it being a narrative is very obvious. “The Cask of Amontillado” is a story. The next part of a warning of consequences is a bit muddled. Poe does not come right out and say “drinking too much will kill you.” However, when one looks at the ancient Greek story of “King Midas” it does not overtly state that “unbridled greed is bad for you” (Bulfinch). That is the overall impression we get when we “read between the lines” or think about the tale from the perspective of “what is the author trying to tell us?” When applied like that, it does appear as though Poe is trying to say that drinking will kill you because Fortunato died as a result of his desire to taste the nonexistent Amontillado. The final piece is very obvious, the actions of Fortunato being drunk and

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