J. Lasley Dameron and Irby B. Cauthen, Jr., Edgar Allan Poe: A Bibliography
of Criticism 1827-1967 (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia,
Although many tales of violent revenge had been written before Poe composed
The Cask of Amontillado, Poe's story is significant because it is a
Psychological tale. Narrated by a boastful murderer, it opens a window onto the criminal
mind as Poe saw it. At the time the story was written, interest in the workings of the criminal mind was significant. Increasingly publicized criminal trials and other literature that featured criminal characters spurred Americans to talk more than ever before about the nature of and reasons for criminal behavior.
Esther K. Hyneman, Edgar Allan Poe: An Annotated Bibliography of Books
and Articles in English, 1827-1973 (Boston: G. K. Hall, 1974).
In the first half of the 1800s, unemotional and self-confident criminals
began to appear on the pages of crime magazines. Two brothers, Joseph and
Frank Knapp, on trial for murder in 1830, epitomized this personality type.
Reflecting on the character of these defendants, their prosecuting attorney,
Silverman, Kenneth, ed. New Essays on Poe's Major Tales. New York:
Cambridge University Press, 1993.
In a public announcement about Poe's decision to join their group, the
Sons of Temperance wrote: We trust his pen will sometimes be employed in
[our] behalf (Silverman, p. 97). This comment, voiced too late to have
an impact on Poe's work, was probably a reference to the growing popularity
of temperance literature at the time. One temperance group, the Washingtonians,
had already commissioned an 1842 novel (Franklin Evans) from the young
Walt Whitman that depicted the evils of alcohol. After being arrested for
attempted robbery, the title character, Franklin Evans, laments what drinking
has done to his life:
Reynolds, David S. Beneath the American Renaissance: The Subversive
Imagination in the...