An Introduction toEdgar Allan Poe and “The Cask of Amontillado” Jessica Alferio Clark
Edgar Allan Poe – The Early Years • Born January 19, 1809 in Boston, Massachusetts • He was abandoned by his father and was later taken in by Mr. and Mrs. John Allan after the death of his mother. • Poe entered the University of Virginia in 1826 and was expelled shortly after enrolling. • Poe also attended West Point, but left due to some gambling debts. He also enlisted in the United States Navy (where he came upon the idea for “The Cask of Amontillado”) and moved to Baltimore upon his discharge.
The Middle Years • In May 1836, Poe married Virginia Clemm and the couple moved to Philadelphia. • Poe began to write regularly while in Philadelphia and eventually moved to New York City in 1844 to become the editor of The Evening Mirror. • Even though he found success with his works (“The Raven” was published in 1845), his personal life was full of grief. Virginia was very ill and her illness affected Poe deeply. • Virginia Clemm died in January of 1847. • It is believed that the loss of Virginia led to Poe’s drinking problem and reignited his passion for gambling.
The Death of Edgar Allan Poe • Poe moved back to Richmond, Virginia in 1849. • In September of 1849 he left Richmond for Baltimore, supposedly on business. • On October 3, 1849, Edgar Allan Poe was found unconscious on a street in Baltimore and died four days later. • Many theories surround the death of Poe, from him being bitten by a rabid squirrel and contracting rabies to a drunken Poe being robbed and beaten on the Baltimore street and left for dead. • Every year on his birthday, a mysterious stranger shows up at Poe’s grave and places a bottle of cognac and three roses on it. To see a snippet from The Simpson with Bart as the raven, click here.
Gothic Literature • A literary genre characterized by a general mood of decay, action that is dramatic and generally violent or otherwise disturbing, characters that are destructive, and settings that are grandiose, if gloomy or bleak. • Think of scary stories and movies. Gothic doesn’t necessarily mean blood, guts, and death – it has to be truly disturbing. • Examples: • “A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner • “The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allan Poe • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte • Dracula by Bram Stoker • The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee • “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman • “The Monkey’s Paw” by W.W. Jacobs • The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux
Important Literary Terms to Know • Point of View – the relationship between the storyteller (narrator) and the story. • First Person Point of View – the story is told by one of the characters, referred to as “I.” The reader generally sees everything through that character’s eyes. • Unreliable Narrator – a narrator who in someway distorts the truth. • Irony – a contrast between what appears to be and what really is.
“The Cask of Amontillado” Background • Setting • Place • Somewhere in Europe (most likely in Italy) • Time • During the Carnival Season • Carnival is like Mardi Gras, a festival of food and indulgence before the Lenten season • for more on Carnival, visit: • http://www.carnaval.com/cityguides/neworleans/history.htm • http://goitaly.about.com/od/festivalsandevents/a/carnevale_2.htm
Characters • Montresor • The narrator • Dressed in a cloak and mask • Fortunato • Name means good fortune • Dressed in a fool’s (court jester) outfit
Introduction ReviewTest Your Knowledge Edgar Allan Poe was born in Baltimore, Maryland. TrueFalse Gothic Literature is all about blood and guts and people getting hacked to little pieces. TrueFalse Montresor is the character wearing the cloak and mask while Fortunato is dressed as the fool. TrueFalse An Unreliable Narrator always tells the truth. TrueFalse Irony is a contrast between what appears to be and what really is. TrueFalse
Edgar Allan Poe Websites • http://www.nps.gov/edal/forteachers/upload/death.pdf • A handout from the National Historic Site – Philadelphia and the National Park Service on the theories of Poe’s death. • http://www.online-literature.com/poe/ • A biography of Poe and a link to his works on-line. • http://www.teachersfirst.com/share/raven/ • The Interactive Raven website – a site to read “The Raven” and learn about alliteration, assonance, and internal rhyme. • http://fayette.k12.in.us/~cbeard/amontillado.html • A full text version of “The Cask of Amontillado” with vocabulary support. • http://www.poemuseum.org/ • The website of the Edgar Allan Poe museum in Richmond, Virginia.
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Works Cited Murfin, R. and Ray, S.M. (Eds.). (2001) The before glossary of critical and literary terms. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s. Thompson, G.R. (Ed.). (2004), The selected writings of Edgar Allan Poe. New York: W.W. Norton . Pennsylvania State Standards for Reading, Writing, Listening, and Speaking addressed in this slide show: 1.3.8.B. Analyze the use of literary elements by an author including characterization, setting, plot, theme, point of view, tone, and style.