The Cask of Amontillado and The Verb to Kill Essay

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This paper will discuss the parallel evident in and the differences between Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado” and Luisa Valenzuela’s “The Verb to Kill”. Both stories have dark undertones, dealing with the theme of murderous intent fueled by egocentricity. Although both stories share the same tone in storytelling, the authors depart in their writing style and the way they chose to develop the plots.

In “The Cask of Amontillado”, readers are thrown into the story with the briefest introduction from the protagonist as to why he would be undertaking revenge – not because of physical injuries, but because of an insult that is not revealed. In “The Verb to Kill”, the protagonist, the girl, only has her great dislike of the stranger and her own delusions that moves her to kill the man.

This is the point where the two stories depart from each other most obviously – in Amontillado, the deed was done, Fortunado was murdered, while in The Verb to Kill, readers are only left with the hint that the girls are going out with the rifle to kill the stranger. Whereas in the former the story is closed-ended, in the latter we are left to speculate whether the girls can actually kill the man. Their murderous intent is a given, but not realized and fulfilled in the story albeit the story ended with the notion that they are going after the stranger.

Another interesting difference between the two is that, in Amontillado, readers are only given with the protagonist’s desire for revenge, for the story to climax in the murder of Fortunado. In The Verb to Kill, the readers are already given with the expectation that somebody will be killed, only to end with no concrete murder act. In both stories, the protagonists are egocentric and bent on taking out their perceived enemies. Although sharing this common theme, their main difference lies in the way their authors presented how the protagonists decided that they would undertake the task of killing someone.

Poe dwelled more on relating how Montresor carried on his plan of revenge that eventually led to the death of his rival, going into detail about the circumstances that secured the success of his plan – from telling his servants that he will be home in the morning and explicitly telling them not to leave the house, which Montresor confidently believes guaranteed assurance that the house will be deserted at night. From hereon the story unfold as the two men steps further down amidst bones to get a taste of the Amontillado, and unbeknownst to him, to Fortunado’s death.

Valuenzela, on the other hand, creatively employed the properties of their language (Spanish), beginning her story with a series of conjugations of the verb to kill. Immediately after though, she segues into a first person narrative about how the protagonist (with her sister) could not decide which tense of the verb to use to approximate the activities of a certain man, a stranger that remains anonymous all throughout the story. The central character imagines that the stranger is a murderous person, killing all the way all sorts of things, animals perhaps, later on, more explicitly, girls, taking their last breaths.

In truth, the stranger in question is oftentimes seen collecting stones, and talking to his lettuce, with nothing to support the girls’ suspicions about the man’s character. On the contrary, what is clear is the girl’s egocentricity and dark, violent thoughts. In the incident involving the gull, the girl and her sister took pride in themselves with taking care of it and sheltering it from the cold, careful to appear altruistic when in the end they ate the bird with no remorse. Also, the girls claim that Pocha is their friend and yet sees her as someone inferior, referring to her as a pig.

They dehumanize Poncha, fantasize that something terrible will happen to her and yet not want the stranger to desire her in anyway, as compared to the persona and her sister, whom the stranger will enjoy killing because they are pretty. The whole story is actually more on the girls’ obsession with fantasizing about the cruelty of the stranger and the violence that will be done to them. Through the storytelling, however, it is clear to the reader that the persona is the one who is cruel, and in the end who is about to do the killing.

Both stories deal with the dark theme of murder, but they provide distinct experiences because of the authors’ unique writing styles. Poe chose to lead his readers down the crypt together with the unsuspecting Fortunado, while Valenzuela entertained her readers with the girl’s narrative to unveil the twist of the story. Finally, although carrying the same theme, each story claimed its own brilliance with its respective creator’s measured blending of wit and dark humor.

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