A Heartless Murderer in a Novel The Cask of Amontillado
In Edgar Allan Poe’s story, ”The Cask of Amontillado,” the narrator, Montresor, lures down his archenemy, the wine connoisseur Fortunato, into the catacombs under his palazzo to taste a wine called ’Amontillado,’. As the story continues, the very deceptive Montresor buries his former friend, Fortunato, alive deep down in the dark catacombs, with the parting words ”In pace requiescat!” (19) What Poe’s readers have been conflicted about since the story’s very first days, is whether the main character tells us the story out of guilt or not.
Many who read Poe’s short story have the perception that it takes place on a death bed and Montresor’s words are being confessed to a priest, a friend, or a family member. They believe that he could not keep this huge secret to himself anymore due to guilt. However, there are more than one way to interpret the fiction story. Instead of indicating that the very first phase of the story is a confession on Montresor’s death bed, maybe he was gloating on what he had done. Montresor is might be darker than most people realize, just consider the very first sentence: ”The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could; but when he ventured upon insult, I vowed revenge.” (14) Not only does Montresor confess the murder, he is also trying to convince whoever is listening that he had been insulted so badly that it had to be rectified. Perhaps like he is trying to convince the listener that what he did was righteous, that his actions were justified. Montresor telling this unknown person about the murder so many years ago might be an attempt to find someone who understands him, someone who will know the whole story, and who will carry it on after his death. In fact, he is not feeling any guilt at all, he is feeling alone, he wants someone to share the story with and to share his achievement with. Perhaps what he regrets the most is the lack of recognition for his ’heroic’ actions.
Another phase in the story that might be interpreted as regret, or at the time, misgivings, is when Montresor is constantly repeating to Fortunato that he wants them to return to the festival, saying that he is concerned about Fortunato’s health. However, Poe always adds that little detail about Luchesi and how he could come down and help Montresor taste the wine instead. This eliminates all doubts about Montresor changing his mind on the way down to the catacombs, or feeling even a little remorse or unease about what he is about to do. ”’Come’ I said, with decision: ’we will go back, your health is precious. You are rich, respected, admired, beloved; you are happy, as once I was. You are a man to be missed. For me it is no matter. We will go back; you will be ill, and I cannot be responsible. Besides, there is Luchesi—’” (16)
In the last phase of the story, Montresor calls for Fortunato through the remaining aperture but he does not get a reply. That seems to make Montresor impatient and upset. He wants to hear Fortunato begging for mercy, so that he may feel superior and sweeten the taste of revenge. Maybe the plan all along is to make Fortunato afraid, to make him fear and respect Montresor. After all, that is what he loses to Fortunato, his respect when he is insulted so badly that Montresor sees death as a fit punishment: when he finally has Fortunato’s life in his hands, it is almost as if he gets upset about the lack of action. He wanted Fortunato to fight for his life, to show some emotions, some zest of life. But all he gets in the end from Fortunato is silence, no respect, only silence. ”But to these words I hearkened in vain for a reply. I grew impatient. I called aloud: ’Fortunato!’ No answer. I called again: ’Fortunato!’ No answer still…” (19) Whether Montresor gets respect or not from his unknown listener is not clear in the text, whoever it is never speaks. However, even though he is confessing, most readers will look him as a heartless murderer, whether he is feeling guilty or not.
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