Edgar Allan Poe is said to be one of the most influential writers of the Dark Romanticism genre. His many poems and stories have chilled and fascinated readers for many years. With a perfect balance between the psychological and physical sides of horror, Poe set the foundation for horror stories for generations to come. “A Cask of Amontillado” is one such story that combines both psychological insanity and physical horror into a chilling tale that proves Poe to be one of the founding fathers of Dark Romanticism.

“A Cask of Amontillado” is a suspenseful tale about one man’s cruel revenge upon one of his neighbors. In the story the narrator, Montresor, decides to exact his revenge upon his neighbor, Fortunato, by luring him down into his catacombs to see a bottle of Amontillado (Poe). Montresor expertly plays on Fortunato’s pride by pretending to seek the opinion of another man who knows Amontillados rather than him (Poe). Fortunato then predictably insists on seeing the Amontillado himself and willingly follows Montresor down into the catacombs to his death (Poe).

This story reflects Dark Romanticism in that something is revealed about human nature through the story that is a negative. There are in fact two things that are revealed about human nature. The first is that the desire for revenge, arguably one of the most intense emotions humans experience, is a dark thing that can easily lead someone to do something unthinkable. In this instance the way in which Montresor murders his neighbor for a slight offense is a perfect example of this (Poe). The second is that everyone possesses some form of pride that can lead to his or her destruction. The example from this story is the way in which Fortunato lets his pride about being the best person to distinguish the authenticity of a cask of Amontillado allow him to be deceived and murdered (Poe).

Poe led a very short and tragic life, which explains the darkness and pain found in all of his works. Throughout his short forty years of life he lost many people who were close to him. When he was a young boy his father abandoned his mother and his siblings, and his mother died of tuberculosis after struggling for a few short months to support them (Sova). The children were then split up and he was adopted by the Allans, a wealthy couple made up of a cold man and his sweet wife who became the nurturing mother Poe always needed (Sova). Eventually she died, and Poe never quite forgave himself because he thought perhaps if he had been there she would have lived (Sova). Next he moved in with his paternal aunt and her young child, and eventually he married the girl, thirteen years his junior. Ten years into their marriage she died after a five-year, excruciating battle with tuberculosis (Sova). He never quite got over watching her die, and many think her death was the most influential of all things in his works, many of which revolve around death and insanity (Sova).

The people Poe was raised around also had many problems that could have affected his mind and therefore his writing later on in life. His father was an alcoholic with rage issues, his brother became an alcoholic, and his adoptive father John Allan had a violent temper as well (Sova). All of these negative influences could very well have influenced his viewpoint that the world is naturally evil and bad because he was exposed again and again to horrible circumstances.

The stories and poems of Edgar Allan Poe have a variety of settings and story lines. However, each of them seems to center around the central theme of evil and darkness, making them perfect examples of Dark Romanticism. “The Raven,” for example, is a poem written by Poe that also centers around the idea of death and insanity. These patterns of death, insanity, and evil human traits are the central focus of most of Poe’s work. In this way one could say that they are all very similar, yet they never become boring due to their variety in detail and setting.

However, “A Cask of Amontillado” greatly differs from another work also in the Romanticism genre, “A Walk at Sunset,” by William Cullen Bryant. In Bryant’s poem he discusses the beauty of the world even in the midst of death (Bryant). In this way Bryant puts a bright spin on death as something which everyone will experience and some most honorably (Bryant), while Poe creates an image of death as a dark and evil thing brought upon by the sin in the world in “A Cask of Amontillado” (Poe). It is fascinating to see the ways in which both talented authors can have such opposite viewpoints of life, and yet they still fall into the same genre with their writing.

“A Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allan Poe is a disturbing tale about the desire for revenge which stands as a classic example of Dark Romanticism. With its entry into the mind of the murderer, it gives the reader an unsettling sense of just how alike all of humanity is, in that all of the world experiences the same feelings. It is troubling for one to realize just how much he or she can relate to the need for revenge found in the central character. Through this story which reveals truths about human nature, Poe does an excellent job of representing the subgenre of Dark Romanticism.



Works Cited

Bryant, William Cullen. "A Walk at Sunset." (1855). Litscape.com. The Bitmill, Inc. Web. 8 Dec. 2010. <__http://www.litscape.com/author/William_Cullen_Bryant/A_Walk_At_Sunset.html__>.


Poe, Edgar Allan. "The Cask of Amontillado." (1846). Literature.org. Web. 9 Dec. 2010. <http://www.literature.org/authors/poe-edgar-allan/amontillado.html>.


Sova, Dawn B. "Poe, Edgar Allan." Critical Companion to Edgar Allan Poe: A Literary Reference to His Life and Work, Critical Companion. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2007. Bloom's Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc. http://www.fofweb.com/activelink2.asp?ItemID=WE54&SID=5&iPin= ffazpoe0957&SingleRecord=True (accessed December 9, 2010).