Reliability of a Narrator in Edgar Allen Poe's Short Stories

There are many aspects that determine whether a narrator is reliable. Some of these factors include the point of view the story is told in and the ability to tell the story accurately. A reliable narrator has the ability to tell a story in an unbiased, accurate fashion. It is the author’s job to make the narrator reliable or unreliable. Edgar Allen Poe, an author, is known for his development in mystery and the macabre. Although the narrators of Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart," "The Cask of Amontillado" and "The Fall of the House of the Usher" all use a subjective point of view; the narrator of "The Cask of Amontillado," Montresor,  is the most reliable because he has a great deal of knowledge about the events and characters in the story and creates the most trust with readers.

Montresor, the narrator of “The Cask of Amontillado” displays an exponential amount of knowledge about the events and characters in the story that the other narrators don’t show. “The Cask of Amontillado” includes 2 main characters and one major event as it is a short story. This limited number of characters and events only strengths Monstresor’s reliability.  He shows his knowledge through the story, but demonstrates it very well  by saying "He prided himself upon his connoisseurship in wine." (paragraph 3) This quote shares information about Monstresor’s victim, such as he prided himself on his knowledge of wine. A clear difference between Monstresor and the narrator of Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” is their knowledge of the characters in their individual story. The narrator of “The Tell-Tale Heart” lacks mental clarity which caused him to lack knowledge about the characters in the story which is shown in the first paragraph: “He had never wronged me. He had never given me insult...!”

In addition to the fact that Monstresor has a lot of knowledge about the characters and events in the story, he also creates trust with the readers. Although he does something terrible (killing someone), he does it for a reason that many readers would agree with which he describes in the first paragraph: “THE thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult I vowed revenge...” This demonstrates that Monstresor’s victim had wronged him several times which explains why he sought revenge which many would agree with. But, the narrator of“The Tell-Tale Heart” doesn’t have this same characteristic.  He lies purposely out of self-interest (which many readers wouldn’t agree with) by saying “I smiled, --for what had I to fear?...The shriek, I said, was my own in a dream. The old man, I mentioned, was absent in the country.” 

Many readers believe that the narrator of “The Fall of the House of the Usher” creates more trust with readers through the values he exhibits like being a caretaker which is demonstrated in this quote: “ I was now going to spend several weeks in this house of sadness...He wrote of an illness of  the body — of a sickness of the mind — and of a desire to see me...” Admittedly, the narrator of “The Fall of the House of the Usher” does display a value that most readers would agree with, Monstressor still creates the most trust with reader by showing sympathy, revenge, and hesitation which are all values that many readers agree with. For example, he shows hesitation and sympathy before killing his victim through this quote: For a brief moment I hesitated, I trembled...” 

The narrator of Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado” is most reliable because he creates the most trust with readers and has an extensive knowledge of the events and characters in the story when compared to the narrators of Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” and”The Fall of the House of the Usher.” Monstresor creates the most trust with readers by sharing values of sympathy, hesitation and revenge making him relatable and shows his knowledge by giving readers extra information about his victim. Therefore, Monstresor stands out as the “shining star” narrator as he is the most reliable out of all 3 of Poe’s short stories’s narrators.


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