The Dangers of Wishing Death Upon Others in Literature

Last Updated: 31 Mar 2023
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Wishful Thinking It is easy to wish bad things onto bad people, but is all the negative energy and crummy karma that come along with that really worth it in the end? The short stories "The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allan Poe, and “The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin both say that it most definitely is not. At first glance, these short stories may not seem similar at all, but, look a little deeper, and a common theme between the two becomes visible- one should not wish death upon others.

To start, the short stories share a similar plot that really drives the theme home. In both “The Cask of Amontillado," and "The Story of an Hour,” the main characters, Montresor and Louise Mallard respectively, go through almost identical crises. In “A Cask of Amontillado," Montresor believes he has been insulted by Fortunado and vows revenge on the man in order to bring back the honor to his family's name. On the other hand, in "The Story of an Hour,” Mrs. Mallard is an oppressed housewife who is sick of her deadbeat husband. These may sound like two totally unrelated storylines, but the similarity between them arises in the fact that both Montresor and Mrs. Mallard are tired of being treated the way they are currently being treated, so much so that they are driven to the point at which they want their persecutors dead. Throughout the individual short stories, Montresor and Mrs. Mallard struggle internally with their desire to be free of the cruelty they believe they are currently facing, and their own morals.

On top of that, the characters in both "A Cask of Amontillado" and "The Story of An Hour" also share comparable attributes. In "A Cask of Amontillado," Montresor is a round, dynamic character, just like Mrs. Mallard in “The Story of an Hour”. At the start of “A Cask of Amontillado," Montresor seems to feel justified in the action that he took against Fortunato, but, by the end of the short story, it becomes apparent that he actually regrets his actions much more than he initially let on. This becomes apparent when he reveals to readers that it has been some 50 years since he brutally murdered Fortunato, and he is still thinking about what he did. In fact, he has even gone as far as to check the catacombs and make sure that the bones of his dead enemy were still concealed in the now blocked off wall where he had left him to die. His dramatic change in feelings toward his own actions is what makes Montresor such a dynamic character.

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In a like manner, Mrs. Mallard feels differently about her husband's death at the end of "The Story of an Hour” than she does at the beginning. At first, she is shocked by what she is told to be the news of her husband's unfortunate death. After a bit of alone time though, she realizes that her husband's death is actually the key to the personal freedom that she has wanted for so long, but has never been able to have due to his dominant presence. She gets so excited about her husband's death, that it actually kills her when she finds out he is, in truth, still alive. Both Mrs. Mallard and Montresor change over the time it takes for the story to be told; the biggest transformation being that they both realize the toll that wishing death upon others can have on a person. For Montresor, he mainly feels regret, but Mrs. Mallard's confused morals literally kill her.

In addition to their comparable story lines and characters, there are also some significant similarities and differences between the points of view in which the short stories were written. Although they are not written in exactly the same point of view, "A Cask of Amontillado" is written in 15 person, and “The Story of an Hour” is written in 3rd person limited omniscient, both narrators are unreliable. Montresor's blatant disregard for the value of human life makes his instability incredibly obvious, whereas Mrs. Mallard's unreliability is a little more subtle. Unintentionally, Mrs. Mallard misleads readers to believe her husband is dead when, in fact, he is still very much alive. Mrs. Mallard may not be mentally insane like Montresor is, but, because of the way she unknowingly shares misleading, false information with readers, she is considered to be as unreliable of a narrator as Montresor.

In general, it can be very easy to grow incredibly, and understandably, frustrated with people when they do not treat others the way we all know, or at least believe, everyone deserves to be treated. But, the short stories "The Cask of Amontillado" and "The Story of an Hour" can serve as warnings to people everywhere about the risks of choosing to fight fire with fire. For a lot of people, it is a knee-jerk reaction to want the people who treat them poorly out of their lives. That is a totally reasonable concept, but let the harsh feelings end there.

Some people have tendencies to take things too far, like Montresor and Mrs. Mallard did, but there is no need to cross that line. Simply put, you can hate someone as much as you want, but do not wish for them to die. No matter how despicable a person may be acting right now, or may have acted in the past, wishing for bad things to happen to them is just not worth the time, energy, effort, and/or regrets that come along with it. Karma is always looking for a new victim, so, instead of getting all worked up, decide to be kind to those mean people instead. After all, the best way to put out a fire is to use water.

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The Dangers of Wishing Death Upon Others in Literature. (2022, Nov 13). Retrieved from

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