Comparing the Symbolism in The Cask of Amontillado by E.A. Poe to the U.S. National Debt
In The Cask of Amontillado, Edgar Allan Poe addresses a man who lures his friend down to a cellar with the promise of a fine wine and then walls him up and leaves him there because he feels the friend has wronged him (Poe's, 2003). Metaphorically, the national debt that the U.S. currently has is "walling up" the country and will kill the United States financially if something is not done to lower the level of debt that is currently seen. By walling up the U.S. with debt, there will be no escape from financial struggles and other difficulties that are always faced when there is too much debt and not enough income (Wright, 2008). The American people are becoming trapped by what their government is doing, and getting out of debt is not really an individual problem in this country but more of a governmental issue - and it goes deeper than whether the government owes money to other countries. Instead, it is an issue of everything that the government is doing that is costing the country and the American people money. The Cask of Amontillado provides a high degree of symbolism indicative of what is currently taking place with the national debt.
There are many ideas and items that can be used as symbols in The Cask of Amontillado. The story is shrouded in mystery and destruction when it comes to the character of Fortunato, and he does not realize that he is about to meet his fate on carnival night. Fortunato is symbolic of the American people, because they are moving toward destruction and are shrouded in mystery regarding their true financial situation. The national debt is growing at an alarming rate (Bonner & Wiggin, 2006). There is no end in sight to the level of debt that the U.S. is seeing today, and there are deep concerns about how much money is being spent and how the United States is using that money. Some of the individuals in the U.S. are concerned about the money itself, and others are concerned about the way the money is being used and how programs that were designed to help the American people are not actually helping them but are hurting them (Wright, 2008).
The destruction of Fortunato is also symbolic of the destruction of the American people because it happens at the hands of someone who was trusted. For Fortunato, that person is Montresor (Silverman, 1991). For the American people, the trusted "friend" is the government. Even though people complain about their government, they still basically have an overall level of trust, and they believe that their government will take care of them and help them with whatever it is they need. While Montresor felt that Fortunato had wronged him, there is no evidence that this is symbolic of the U.S. national debt. In other words, the American people have not "wronged" the government, and that is not why the government is walling them up with debt. The reasons behind why the government is creating so much debt can be confusing (Bonner & Wiggin, 2006; Wright, 2008). Those reasons are also open to speculation, and there are many conflicting opinions when it comes to the national debt and other issues that the government addresses.
When someone trusts someone else (or a larger entity, such as the government), that person does not think the other person will hurt him or her. Trust is important, and is often built over time. Some people trust blindly, but the majority of people require time and effort before they trust another person. With the government that is slightly different, though, because people are raised with the government and what it has to offer to them. They grow up knowing nothing else if they were born and raised in this country. Whether they trust the government is often a product of whether their parents and other family members trusted the government, and what they said to the person when that person was younger. Eventually, people grow up and form their own opinions about the government and whether they should trust it. The unfortunate part of doing that is that they might base their opinion on misinformation - and that can get them into trouble.
That is what happened with Fortunato. He thought Montresor was his friend and that Montresor had forgiven him for the wrongs he had done to him in the past. In reality, though, Montresor is not Fortunato's friend, and he lures him down into the catacombs and the dungeons under the city with the idea that he is going to show him the cask of Amontillado that he has received. Montresor says that he is not sure whether the cask of wine is really Amontillado or whether it is something else, so he wants Fortunato to come and examine the wine and see what he thinks (Meyers, 1992). He knows that Fortunato will not resist because he loves fine wine so much, and he even pretends to be concerned about Fortunato's health, in case he does not want to go down into the catacombs because they are damp and he could catch a chill. Fortunato is undeterred by the potential health risks, because the pull of the wine is too strong (Scott, 2002). He wants so much to believe that Montresor is his friend and is going to share fine wine with him that he does not stop to consider other implications or scenarios that might be the real reason for the talk of the cask.
A similar thing takes place with the American people and their concern over the national debt. They are unhappy with the debt, but they also trust the government to take care of them and to hold tightly to their best interests. In some ways, like Fortunato, the American people as a whole are very naive. They may have different opinions about candidates and other political ideas, but they all generally believe in the same kind of government and in the same overarching ideals that they hold onto and that they pass down to their children and grandchildren. Because of that, the naivete remains and nothing changes. Fortunato should have realized that Montresor may not have forgiven him for what he did, but instead of worrying about that he is enamored by the idea of the wine. The American people are also quick to forget the problems that they have had with their government and its rampant spending, and they have great hope each time a new politician offers up a new idea regarding how the debt can be reduced without raising taxes or cutting any programs. Of course, that is really not realistic, but it sells to the people if it is well-packaged.
Eventually, there is disenchantment with the debt "solution" that has been sold to the people, but they buy into it for some time in the beginning and they are interested in believing in something better. They want to be rewarded for their loyalty, and they trust the government when they are told it has something great for them. However, they fail to look back at the problems that they have had in the past and that the government has vowed to fix but has not actually corrected. One of these main problems is the national debt and how large it has gotten. It is not just about the government owing money, but about how it affects everything that Americans do - even some things that they do not realize so easily. The lack of help that some people receive because they are just over the financial line to qualify, or the way that inflation keeps rising and making things cost more - these are all issues that are created by the national debt and the lack of money that could be used to help people in this country with their lives, financially and otherwise.
In the story, Montresor puts on a black silk mask and a cloak before he heads down into the catacombs with Fortunato (Scott, 2002). He does this as a symbol of the evil and death that will be found in the dungeons below, where there is no actual cask of Amontillado. While the government has not dressed (even metaphorically) to cause harm to the American people, or as a symbol of harming them with the national debt, they show their intentions in other ways. While not deliberately evil, there are many things the government does that contribute to the national debt and that are not in the best interests of the American people and what they need from their government. For example, the government fills bills that get passed with earmarks and with concessions that they want, instead of only passing bills that will lower the debt and benefit the people of the…