The Monstrous Power of Speech in Edgar Allan Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado"/Edgar Allen Poe'nun 'The Cask of Amontillado' Adli Eserinde Konusma Yeteneginin Devasal Gucu

By Karadas, Firat | Interactions, Spring 2007 | Go to article overview

The Monstrous Power of Speech in Edgar Allan Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado"/Edgar Allen Poe'nun 'The Cask of Amontillado' Adli Eserinde Konusma Yeteneginin Devasal Gucu


Karadas, Firat, Interactions


Abstract: This article studies Edgar Allan Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado" in terms of the rhetorical and manipulative use of language by the first person narrator of the story. Relying on Kantian and Romantic ideas of the role of the subject and its imagination in the monstrosity of language, the article argues that the narrating subject of the story, Montresor, uses the animating and manipulative power of speech to construct the world of the text and destroy the enemy. Relying on Bakhtin's ideas of the carnival and double-voicedness in language, the article also claims that though Montresor strives throughout the story to centralize his discourse and represent Fortunato (one of the two main characters in the story) with his monstrous speech as an evil person, Fortunato's carnivalesque discourse refracts Montresor's omnipresent discourse and defies his act of domination and misrepresentation. Thus, when read against the background created by Fortunato's comic and good-intentioned discourse, Montresor is observed to reveal his own monstrosity with his effective use of metaphorical language.

Keywords: narrating subject, monstrosity, imagination and metaphor, manipulation, another's discourse

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Edgar Allan Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado" indicates how language becomes a monstrous weapon in the hands of a modifying and creative subject. The narrating subject of the story, Montresor, represents the kind of 'constructive' subject that has been the main object of study in metaphysical philosophy from Plato and Aristotle up to Kant and the present. The monstrosity and animating power of language has always been taken in this philosophy in relation to this modifying subject and its imagination, which play a primary role in the perception of natural phenomena and in the use of language. Kant argues that the human mind 'creates' reality in its own image by way of synthesis and schematization. As Gilles Deleuze clarifies in his study of Kant's idea of the imagination, in artistic creation "the imagination surrenders itself to an activity quite distinct from that of formal reflection" (50). In his "Analytic of the Beautiful" Kant argues that the imagination is a function of the mind that is very powerful in creating another nature by free association. It creates "ideas (of invisible beings such as 'creation,' 'hell,' 'the blessed,' 'eternity,' and so on.) to go beyond the bounds of experience and 'to present them to sense with a completeness of which there is no example in nature" (268).

A Kantian philosopher and Romantic poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge also draws attention to the creating subject and the 'synthesizing' and 'schematizing' act of its imagination. For Coleridge, the imagination connects, fuses, blends and reconciles in a process of unification. To represent this character of the imagination, in Biographia Literaria Coleridge presents the term 'essemplastic,' by which he means "to shape into one". In other words, the imagination creates 'similitude' out of 'dissimilitude', which is a fundamentally metaphorical and linguistic activity:

   This power [Imagination], first put in action by the will and
   understanding [...] reveals itself in the balance or reconciliation
   of opposite or discordant qualities: of sameness, with difference;
   of the general, with the concrete; the idea, with the image, the
   individual, with the representative; the sense of novelty and
   freshness, with old and familiar objects (Coleridge 309).

The twentieth century neo-Kantian philosopher Ernst Cassirer also assigns great importance to the subject, as Montagu clarifies, "in the construction of the world of pure imagination" (366) and sees language as a symbolic representation inherent in the very character of human consciousness. In the first Volume of The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms, he states, "[c]onsciousness is a symbolizing, form-giving activity" (Cassirer 61), which "does not merely copy but rather embodies an original formative power. …

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