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The premise: Edgar Allan Poe’s famous short story “The Cask of Amontillado” is about a man named Montresor who tricks his frenemy Fortunado into following him deep into the catacombs below his mansion, promising that is totally where he stores rare Amontillado wine. Monstresor chains Fortunado in a tiny chamber and walls him in, leaving him to die. Cold, right? 

“The Cask of Amontillado” is widely considered to be Poe’s most perfect short story. The whole thing is less than fives pages long. Most people are required to read it in high school. If you haven’t read it before (or you need to reread it), you can read it HERE or HERE.

ORRRRRR you could watch an entertaining video recap HERE or HERE.

So, why’s it such a popular meme?

1) It is based on an old-but-famous short story, providing participants with a smug satisfaction at having read something intellectual and classic, BUT it’s well-known enough that people can share knowing chuckles over the reference. Because it’s no fun making a clever allusion if nobody gets the joke.

2) It becomes funnier if some people don’t get it. Because in the story, Fortunado didn’t get it, either. This creates opportunities for “just go back a little further” or “come to my basement and I’ll show you” jokes. 

3) It’s easy to adapt into existing memes and pop culture references. For example:

Caveman Spongebob

Brick wall Spongebob

Thomas the Tank Engine

Hand-clap callout

Me, an intellectual AND also another Me, an intellectual! 

cute animals

I know the meme hivemind can adapt pretty much anything, but you’d think a Gothic short story written in the 1800s would be more of a challenge. 

4) Fortunado is dressed as a jester for a costume party. That’s right: the story is about murdering a clown. People like the concept of turning the tables on those clowns.

5) Trump won’t shut up about building walls. Imagining that Cheeto-faced clown getting walled up appeals to a certain poetic justice. (Hahaha, Poe-etic!)

6) It’s October, and many teachers (like me!) are busting out the Poe stories. Many Tumblr users are high school students (though some of us Tumblrites, I will remind you, are Old Peeps). 

7) The entire story is teeming with dramatic irony. We, the readers, know that Montresor is planning to stone-cold murder Fortunado. But Fortunado thinks he’s just going to get some fancy wine from his friend who is totally not mad at him. Fortunado’s name even means “lucky,” which is darkly hilarious. And kids today LOVE enjoying things ironically, and enjoying irony itself. Also, Poe would probably find these memes delightfully ironic. 
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these cask of amontillado memes have spread like the plague, i’m gonna throw a masquerade in my castle to get away from them, anyone wanna come?
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“average person behaves injuriously towards me ten times a year” factoid actually just statistical error. Fortunato, whose thousand injuries I had borne as I best could, is an outlier adn no I don’t know where he is stop asking
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the cask of amontillado becoming a meme is actually incredibly fucking bizarre and out of left field but like. the only other current meme is killer clowns so i don’t know why i ever pretend like i know where meme culture will take us
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different people on my dashboard keep talking about the cask of amontillado totally unprompted and this has been going on for the past couple of days and i’ve become more than a bit concerned personally

hey camille i have something really cool to show you in my basement come check it out

oh cool sure
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my favorite thing about the cask of amontillado meme (which I LOVE) is that it displays, yet again, how difficult millennials on the internet are to predict. oh, giant company, you want your advertisement to go viral? well this week the kids are obsessed with a short story written in 1846 good fucking luck
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i’ll say. i hate seeing this meme every day on my dash. it is an eyesore, and always staring at me

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maybe the real cask was the friends we led into the basement and trapped in a wall along the way
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The Cask Of Amontillado (1846)


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strix alba

February 2017

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