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Life and Death; God and the Devil
In the horrific and sadistic stories of Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado” and Richard Connell’s “The Most Dangerous Game,” the authors use imagery to convey the mood. Although both stories occur about one hundred years apart, death remains to be carried out in unjustified, atrocious styles. In “The Cask of Amontillado,” Montresor seeks vengeance on Fortunato, an imprudent man who has an addiction to fine alcoholic beverages. Montresor, a man who cannot bear Fortunato’s insults, uses Fortunato’s desire of Amontillado against him to lure him to his death. In Connell’s “The Most Dangerous Game,” Rainsford, a skillful hunter, falls off a yacht into the Amazon. After seeking land, he finds a seemingly civilized mansion with delicious food, comfortable furniture, and even electricity. There he meets the hunting fanatic General Zaroff, who eventually implies that the only creatures that give him a thrill to hunt are humans. An appalled Rainsford thought that since he was being treated so well, he and Zaroff were to hunt other humans together; however, he soon finds out that he is the one who will be hunted. Rainsford almost crosses the fine line of life and death multiple times, but he is saved by his well developed instincts. Authors Poe and Connell use imagery to illuminate a foreboding atmosphere in their tales “The Cask of Amontillado” and “The Most Dangerous Game”. In the eerie and vengeful anecdote “The Cask of Amontillado,” Edgar Allen Poe uses imagery to unearth an ominous mood. He describes Fortunato, the antagonist, as someone who “[wears] motley. He [has] on a tight-fitting parti-striped dress, and his head [is] surmounted by the conical cap and bells” (Poe 7). The motley expresses the chaotic atmosphere of carnival season, suggesting that although the costume may appear jovial, it masquerades the true eeriness of carnival season. The tight-fitting dress illuminates that everyone is ensnared inside the
carnival, with no possible escape until the carnival ends; until then, all the individuals partying formulate a façade hiding their true selves. The stripes on the dress symbolize life itself, as the stripes begin at one point and end abruptly at another. Death can occur unexpectedly, but one knows it will come about eventually, just like one is aware that the stripes will end. The alternating stripes resemble the diversity of life, yet it shows oneself that all of humankind must originate and perish at a single point. The different circumferences of the varied curvature that compose the pointed cap convey the different levels and stages of life, with the point, or death, at the end. Life also takes oneself in unforeseen directions, which is why there are so many routes from the base of the cap to point. Every individual undergoes a stage of being, although they all end up under the reign of Death eventually. The bells symbolize a happy, joyous life, but only when they’re ringing. When the sound of the bells slowly fades away, it suggests one’s life may be close to an end. The bells illustrate that Providence or Death, whoever it may be, will always send out a subtle warning before slicing through one’s heart. Fortunato’s entire costume reeks wholly of anguish and fatality. Fate is foreshadowed further when Montresor and Fortunato near the end of the catacombs: “At the most remote end of the crypt there [appears] another less spacious. Its walls [are] lined with human remains, piled to the vault overhead, in the fashion of the great catacombs of Paris. Three sides of the crypt [are] still ornamented in this manner. From the fourth side the bones had been thrown down, and [lie] promiscuously within the earth, forming at one point a mound of some size” (10). The three sides of the crypt with neatly lined human remains bear a resemblance to a wall that is built from the remains of the deceased. However, since only three sides of the wall are completed, more of humanity must be bereaved. The needed skeletons to complete the final wall portray that Montresor’s duty is to annihilate Fortunato and to complete the barrier dividing the
living and those incarcerated by the mighty Death Himself. Moreover, life and death contradict each other when Montresor and Fortunato encounter the end of the crypt: “Within the wall thus exposed by the displacing of the bones, [Montresor and Fortunato perceive] a still interior crypt or recess, in depth about four feet, in width three, in height six or seven. It [seems] to have been constructed for no especial use within itself, but [forms] merely the interval between the two of the colossal supports of the roof of the catacombs, and was backed by one of their circumscribing walls of solid granite” (10). The depth of the sepulcher measuring approximately four feet symbolizes life, since the four seasons represent life as a repeating and continuous cycle. The measurement of three in width conveys that although death will occur, life will always rise from it, representing the resurrection of Jesus on the third day after his death. The height of six or seven resembles life, as God created man on the sixth day; the numeral seven unites life and death harmoniously, as seven is the digits four and three added together. The interval between the two roof supports are the border where life and death meet; the walls enclosed around the crypt are the bounds that bind life and death together. The corrupt, inhumane methods used in Richard Connell’s “The Most Dangerous Game” foreshadow the corrupt events of the near future using elements from the setting. For instance when Rainsford falls off the ship, he sees that the “lights of the yacht [become] faint and evervanishing fireflies; then they [are] blotted out entirely by the night” (Connell 21). The weakening luminescence of the lights, which resembles one’s life deteriorating, indicates the occurrence of a brutal demise. The night encasing the light of the vessel is essentially Death, snuffing out the seemingly eternal flame of life by using a breath greater than the power of the Almighty himself. In addition, after Rainsford has been swimming for what seemed like hours, he uses “his remaining strength [to drag] himself from the swirling waters. Jagged crags [appear] to jut into
the opaqueness… What perils that tangle of trees and underbrush might hold for him did not concern Rainsford just then” (21-22). The water churning beneath the uneven rock face is the mouth of one of the many thresholds to Hell. Rainsford is aware that he has escaped the first gateway to Hell, yet he is unaware of the existence of the other portals. The clandestine route to another entryway of Hell is the dense, atypical jungle that lies before him. Furthermore, when Rainsford discovers a mansion in the middle of the Amazon rainforest, he questions his eyes but realizes that it is “no mirage, he [finds], when he [opens] the tall spiked iron gate. The stone steps [are] real enough; the massive door with a leering gargoyle for a knocker [is] real enough; yet about it all hung an air of unreality” (23). The spikes of the iron gate appear to be the stakes that are used to crucify and torture human beings until they willingly follow the one way road to Hell, the road representing the stone steps. Rainsford’s entering of the iron gate is him unknowingly stepping into the verge of Hell. The gargoyle knocker on the door symbolizes the guardian of Hell, which lies right beyond the doors. The term gargoyle, which is partially derived from a Latin root meaning “to swallow,” suggests the gargoyle will swallow Rainsford into the whirlpools of Hell. The manor obtained an atmosphere of unreality because, at first glance, it seems to be a wealthy home, not the lair of the devil. He who reigns over Hell cannot completely overshadow Providence’s ways of reality. Imagery is used to express the portentous mood in “The Cask of Amontillado” and “The Most Dangerous Game;” the symbolism of fatality is hidden throughout the stories through great detail. Poe’s story uses imagery to create an atmosphere, while Connell applies detail to subtly indicate the events of the near future. The imagery and picturesque elements allow the reader to gain a better understanding of both stories and look inside them to find their true inner meanings.
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