Guy De Maupassant
Revenge-themed stories are popular among some artist in literature. These artists are able to provide their readers with an exciting suspenseful storyline that will most likely keep them engaged. Edgar Allan Poe and Guy de Maupassant are two of the most influential writers of the 19th century who seem to have perfected the art of writing revenge stories. Poe was an American writer, poet, and literary critic known for his short stories and poetry. While he is widely regarded as an exceptional writer, he was best known for gothic fiction which was strongly influenced by his personal experiences and the events around him. Readers can see his style depicted in his story “The Cask of Amontillado”. On the other hand, Guy de Maupassant was a French writer, novelist, and poet, widely known for his short stories; he is now considered one of the fathers of modern short stories. Maupassant’s genre of focus was naturalism and realism. His work depicts human life and relationships. One of his most popular revenge story is “The Vendetta”. Both artist are able to bring this theme of revenge to life in their stories through their use of technique, tone, and literary devices.
A title is extremely important because it is the first impression of the story. It creates expectation and anticipation, and may ultimately determine whether the readers continues to read or not. Poe and Maupassant each take different routes with their titles. Poe’s title “The Cask of Amontillado,” is clever and Mysterious. On the surface, “The Cask of Amontillado” literally means a barrel of wine. A cask is a barrel used to store wine and Amontillado is a form of sherry, an alcoholic beverage. Just by reading the title of the story readers may assume that the story would be about wine and not necessarily revenge. Despite that, as readers delve into the story, they may start to realize the deeper meaning in the title, as cask is also short for casket.This hints that there will be death in the story. In contrast, Maupassant was more explicit with his title. He tells the readers exactly what is going to take place. “The Vendetta” is about an old widow who lives with her son and dog in a small house on a cliff. One night the son is killed, leaving just the mother and the dog behind. That night, the mother vows vengeance for her son’s killer as she stands and stares at his lifeless body. The title is perfect for the theme because it is simple and direct.
Poe wrote “The Cask of Amontillado” in the first person, which is another important factor in the overall theme of the story. It adds to the revenge theme because Montresor is the narrator who tells the story from his point of view, which is cold, conniving, and premeditated. The author’s use of the first person point of view allows readers see the story through Montresor’s eyes, almost as if they are there. On the other hand, Maupassant uses a clever technique to portray the main character in such a way that facilitates reader’s empathy and a deeper understanding of the characters motive despite its moral ambiguity. Usually, an eye for an eye is not the ideal way to go; however, Maupassant is able to make his readers comfortable with this idea. Additionally, Maupassant does an excellent job using imagery. He uses words and sounds to create an eerie atmosphere that draws readers in. This use of imagery is evident in the beginning of the story, as he starts by describing where the widow lives. He mentions that she lives in a small house on top of a cliff, which he referred to as being like a “nest of wild birds”. He further describes the landscape by saying “The wind, without repose, harasses the sea, harasses the bare coast, which is nibbled by it until it has but little vegetation; it rushes into the defile, whose two sides it strips bare.” This type of description is particularly important because it illustrates a bleak and dismal setting. It not only give readers a mental image of the setting, but it also adds a suspicious and dark overtone, which is truly fitting for the theme of murder and revenge. Another important literary device is the tone. The tone that Poe maintains throughout “The Cask of Amontillado” helps to support his theme of revenge as it is chilling and ominous, all while being somewhat humorous. This tone keeps readers engaged as it is unusual to see humor in a revenge story. One example of Poe’s incorporated humor was Montresor’s description of the catacomb as he and Fortunato walks through it. He says, “We passed through a range of low arches, descended, passed on, and descending again, arrived at a deep crypt, in which the foulness of the air caused our flambeaux rather to glow than flame” (Poe 224). His description of the heaps of bones and the fetor of human remains is so sophisticated and beautiful that it almost sounds like poetry and adds to the scary nature of the story. On the other hand, Maupassant maintains a more serious tone. “The Vendetta” is written solely in a descriptive and narrative form. Additionally, irony is a literary device that is used in the stories by both authors, especially Poe. The fact that irony can be found all throughout “The Cast of Amontillado” is ironic within itself. However, the use of irony is not just important to the interesting and chilling nature of the story, but it contributes greatly to the overall theme. This idea is also expressed by literary critic James W. Gargono in his “‘The Cask of Amontillado’: A Masquerade of Motive and Identity.” He says that “the setting and pervasive irony of the tale do not merely enhance the grotesque effect Poe obviously intends; more importantly, they contribute their share to the theme of the story.” There are also several other ironies that can be found throughout the story such as Fortunato (which means the fortunate one) ends up not being as fortunate as he dies in the end. Maupassant uses some irony in his story as well, even though it is not a huge factor there in. It is ironic that the widow seeks to avenge her son’s killer, even though she is catholic. She even prays to God for wisdom on how to do so. This is ironic because Catholics are taught that one should turn the other cheek, yet the widow seeks revenge. Revenge stories in literature are great reads because they are exciting and suspenseful. These attributes can be found in Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado,” and Guy de Maupassant’s “The Vendetta.” Both artist were able to bring this theme to life through their unique but somewhat similar approaches, and are able to do this through their uses of technique, tone and literary devices. Poe has a more mysterious approach to his title and overall story, he uses of the first person point of view, and used plenty of irony (which was quite paradoxical). Maupassant on the other hand was more explicit with his title and plot, made great use of imagery and also incorporated some irony. All in all, both authors were exceptional in capturing the essence of what a revenge story is.