Poe's Short Stories

7. what do the following symbolize:?

-the carnival setting

-the descent into the catacombs

-the jester costume

from:" cask of Amontillado"

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a trick

At masquerades Poe’s characters abandon social conventions and leave themselves vulnerable to crime. In “The Cask of Amontillado,” for -example, Montresor uses the carnival’s masquerade to fool Fortunato into his own demise. The masquerade carries the traditional meanings of joy and social liberation. Reality is suspended, and people can temporarily assume another identity. Montresor exploits these sentiments to do Fortunato real harm. In “William Wilson,” the masquerade is where the narrator receives his double’s final insult. The masquerade is enchanting because guests wear a variety of exotic and grotesque costumes, but the narrator and his double don the same Spanish outfit. The double Wilson haunts the narrator by denying him the thrill of unique transformation. In a crowd full of guests in costumes, the narrator feels comfortably anonymous enough to attempt to murder his double. Lastly, in “The Masque of the Red Death,” the ultimate victory of the plague over the selfish retreat of Prince Prospero and his guests occurs during the palace’s lavish masquerade ball. The mysterious guest’s gruesome costume, which shows the bloody effects of the Red Death, mocks the larger horror of Prospero’s party in the midst of his suffering peasants. The pretense of costume allows the guest to enter the ball, and bring the guests their death in person.

The catacombs serve as a symbol of Montresor's evil thoughts: just below the happy, celebratory streets are the catacombs, dark and eerie. Similarly, Montresor seems to be a well-to-do and well-mannered member of society, but he also has a dark and eerie personality just below the surface. Both the catacombs and Montresor's true personality cannot be seen from the "surface", but they are both dark and dangerous once discovered.