Vanity, a quality that makes people human, has required a great interest in appearance, abilities and achievements along with a self-excessive view. According to Richard Smith, a Professor of Psychology at the University of Kentucky, emphasizes on his article “The Costs of Vanity” that “the personal costs of vanity go beyond the attribution of shallowness and narcissism that it earns us in social life.” Vanity is in overstated form, can make some of the extraordinary things that people create and “come with social and personal costs”. The downside of vanity is tragically illustrated throughout the two characters Fortunato in “The Cask of Amontillado” and Mathilde in “The Necklace.” In fact, Fortunato is stimulated by a strong ego to leave his own tragic death in Edgar Allan Poe’s story and Guy De Maupassant’s character, Mathilde Loisel, has an obsession with vanity and materialism. Both the vanities of Fortunato and Mathilde are bitterly reflect the judicious choice of tragic flaw, dramatic irony and appropriate symbolism in the two stories.
First of all, both Poe and Maupassant expose the tragic flaw to inflict such a harsh punishment on Fortunato and Mathilde. Fortunato let his blemish ego to lead him into downfall. In “The Cask of Amontillado,” he appears as a prideful and foolish person. Poe describes “he prided himself on his connoisseurship in wine” but “in painting and gemmary, Fortunato, like his countrymen, was quack”. Fortunato authentically conceive himself of a knowledgeable wine expert. Nevertheless, Montresor does not show his perspective. He consider that Fortunato’s “connoisseurship in wine” is a perception and it is his antagonist’s weakness. Therefore, Montresor, a wealthy man who is insulted by Fortunato many times, is able to use “the true virtuoso spirit” of his friend to revenge him. His tragedy begins when he meets Montresor “one evening during the supreme madness of the carnival season.” Because of his selfishness, Fortunato insists that “Luchesi cannot tell Amontillado from Sherry,” and he is proud of his wine knowledge that he can taste Amontillado instead of Luchesi. Fortunato’s foolish along with his egotism lead him to terrible tragedy that Montresor creates for him. Similarly, self-awareness is not something that Mathilde has. She feels “herself born all the delicacies and all the luxuries”.
She thinks herself someone who is worth more than the comfortable life that she has been born into. In “The Necklace,” Maupassant describes that “she would so have liked to please, to be envied, to be charming, to be sought after.” She does not even feel grateful towards her husband, who works to support every her demands in life rather than acknowledge his satisfaction that enable her to live fairly free from her responsibility in family. Mathilde seems to have only contempt for her husband’s status. It is Mathilde’s exceptional interest in and admiration for herself, which feed Mathilde’s vanity and leads to her unraveling both her and her husband’s lives. Both Fortunato and Mathilde have to suffer a fatal consequence for their epic ego.
Moreover, dramatic irony effectively contributes to emphasize the common reason that make two characters have catastrophic consequences. Actually, there is no Amontillado as what Montresor said. Fortunato and Montresor eventually reach the end of their journey, where there lies a black corner in the wall; the path to which is embroidered with human remains. It is a darkness that Fortunato’s foolness is unable to brighten the depths of the prison that Montresor is going to create for him. Fortunato is lured to the catacomb, and Montresor begins building up the rest wall to his friend’s tomb. Fortunato is still to accept his fate, and nervously laughing and calling out Montresor “Ha! ha! ha!-he! he! he!-a very good joke, indeed.” According to Baraban in “The Motive for Murder in The Cask of Amontillado” literature criticism Fortunato laughing in low and sad voice indicates “Fortunato’s futile attempt to present Montresor’s actions as a joke”. The writer also states that “Fortunato’s laughter and his incessant repetition of the word “Amontillado” give Montresor ground to believe that his victim finally realizes that “Amontillado” is a pun”. In Mathilde case, Mathilde is said to have “heroically” done “her share.” This new lifestyle ages her, turning her into “the strong, hard and rude woman of poor households.” “She learned to do the heavy housework”, the grit of which stripped away “her manicured fingernails.” Although Mathilde appears to have undergone a significant degree of transformation, it is also apparent she has not, and might not ever shed her startling lack of perspective. When encountering Mrs. Forestier for the first time in years since the incident Mathilde blames her, stating “I have had days hard enough, since I have seen you, days wretched enough — and that because of you!”
It shows while Mathilde may have accepted her fate, she has yet to accept responsibility for it.
Last but not least, the efficiency in using of symbolism directly interpret the inner content that both authors want to transfer to the readers. For Fortunato, he is a alcoholic and has a great self-esteem in his wine knowledge. Therefore, Amontillado is a wise choice of Edgar Allan Poe in using symbolism to emphasize the dramatic ending that happen to his character. Montresor has a clear perception that Fortunato is able to understand and be interested in “Amontillado.” In the end of the story, Fortunato recognizes that he himself is to become Montresor’s amontillado. It is clearlier that he will be a pile of bones gathered in Montresor’s catacomb. Moreover, Fortunato is symbolically dressed like a court jester, wearing “a tight-fitting parti-striped dress and his head… surmounted by the conical cap and bells.” This visually alludes to Fortunato’s role as the fool in the upcoming scheme. Likewise, Guy De Maupassant also right choice of necklace to reflect to massive ego of Mathilde. The necklace corresponds the pattern of appearance and reality. It makes Mathilde be confident and more comfortable in the ball, but it is actually just a piece of metal or gilt. As a result, Mathilde has to pay her comfortable life by a fake diamond necklace. Maupassant effectively connect Mathilde’s characteristic and the nature of necklace, which are beautiful on the outside but worthless on the inside.
All in all, the egos of Mathilde and Fortunato are precious experience that remind people about the downside of human characteristic through their drama that are created in the story through tragic flaw, irony and symbolism. Mathilde and Fortunato both have fundamental flaws that lead to their downfall. Both of them attempt more than they already have in life. They repeatedly fail to the fallibility in their judgement in time to salvage their lives.