Cask of Amontillado Literary Analysis
Characters: The question that must be answered is what exactly, if anything, does Fortunato do to cause such hatred in Montresor. The two exchange lively banter in the catacombs, yet nothing is revealed in regards to the insult needed to be avenged. (I just want you all to know that if you insult me and I chain you to a wall in the catacombs under my house, I'll at least tell you why before I put in the last brick.) There is ample evidence to suggest that Fortunato is a pompous ass and capable of insult. There is ample evidence, also, that Montresor is a whack job and could have murdered Fortunato for no reason. In addition, there is ample evidence that Montresor is a big enough whack job to make up the entire story...of course, there's evidence that he is a big enough whack job to do exactly what he describes.
Theme: Poe lays out for his reader the perfect revenge: (1) The vengeful act must go unpunished; (2) The avenged must know who is the avenger. The calculating manner in which Montresor carries out his perfect revenge is enough to cause hesitation when insulting my friends.
Setting: The story's success relies, in part, on its setting. The anything goes frivolity of Carnival season juxtaposed with the seriousness and gravity of the catacombs creates a perfect contrast for the murder.
Mood: Although Carnival season is a time for celebration, Poe describes the costumes in a manner that elicits a shudder. The dank catacombs establish a perfect mood for that special someone in your life you've been wanting to diabolically murder for insulting you when you were nine (Yea, I'm talking to you Peterson. How dare you call me poopie pants!) without getting caught.
Irony: I have an entire article related to irony in "The Cask of Amontillado." Suffice it to say that this story presents a wonderful opportunity for teaching verbal irony.