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.
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.