Irony probably doesn’t sound very terrifying, but irony contributes hugely to the spine-tingling power of “The Cask.” You can find irony in every line of the story.
Critic and teacher Charles N. Nevi says that it’s a crime not to talk about irony when talking about “The Cask.” Irony basically means that somebody says one thing, but means the opposite. A good example is when there is only one stone left to fit into the wall, and Fortunato says, “Let us be gone.” This is ironic because he’d have to be a complete fool to think Montresor is going to undo all those layers of bricks and let him out. He’s hoping against hope.
Montresor’s reply is even more ironic, “Yes, let us be gone.” He’s torturing Fortunato with his irony – and has been all along. Come to think of it, he’s been torturing us with irony, too. We never know if he means if he means what he says.
Irony is a kind of “play.” We aren’t talking about a stage production, but rather, the use of language in a playful way. In this case, the stylistic play is twisted and creepy.