A Perfect Crime with a Smile: The Mental Illness of Montresor
“The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult, I vowed revenge.” This is the beginning of Edgar Allen Poe’s short story The Cask of Amontillado. the story is on the dispute and cold-blooded murder between the two main characters Montresor and Fortunato. It was never told what Montresor means when he says that he wants revenge until later in the store he shows his revenge by deceiving Fortunato and locking him in a catacomb so he could not escape and leaving him to wither away, which lead the murder of his old friend. Why would he do such a thing to an old friend? why couldn’t he handle it more civilly? I believe that Montresor was severely mentally ill to drive him to the circumstance of murder.
Montresor, being the narrator of the story, had given a clue that he was mentally ill after getting dis-hearted by his friend Fortunato’s recent insult. He speaks of impunity, ‘I must not only punish, but punish with impunity. A wrong is unredressed when retribution overtakes its redresser. It is equally unredressed when the avenger fails to make himself felt as such to him who has done the wrong’ (Poe). He is saying that he must not only punish but do so while anticipating no consequences for the punishment. He must go a step further and demonstrate to the person being punished that he feels that way.
The murderer was a perfect crime, he planned this out so nobody besides him was the witness, already had a place in mind where he wanted to chain and brick Fortunato. Montresor was clear about his plan, he wanted to get rid of Fortunato, he thought that the lord of justice had chosen him to do them justice. He believed that Fortunato had treated him unfairly, that he could not forgive, and now it’s time for him to pay with his life. Any joke or any usual gesture done by Fortunato was taken so seriously, with Montresor ill level of insanity, left with no other option other than murder. “The argument about Montresor’s insanity rests upon the presupposition that insults ought to be differentiated and that only some of them are offensive enough to call murder while others may be handled in a more civilian manner” (Baraban). In this quote, Baraban states that Montresor was convinced that Fortunato’s insults were offensive enough for him to be murdered but Montresor could have handled the situation more civilized. This support he was mentally ill, he completely disregards to handle this in a civilized way.
The top leading mental illness that that research shows of people who have murdered is bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. “Bipolar disorder causes recurrent dramatic mood swings that range from a manic high to a depressive low. There are often periods of normal mood in between episodes of mania and depression. Severe changes in energy and behavior accompany the swings in mood” (Basile). Bipolar disorder is a type of psychological disease in which brain divides itself into multiple states, its starts making illusion, imaginative stories, frequent swings of mood, the Montresor dialogue that “I continued, as was my won’t, to smile in his face, and he did not perceive that my smile now was at the thought of his immolation.” (Poe).His mind and mood were such a relax at the time when he was going to murder someone, shows the signs that he could have been suffering from bipolar disorder. however, “Psychotic symptoms in bipolar disorder tend to reflect the current extreme mood episode. During mania, psychotic delusions may include grandiosity, such as believing one has special powers of flight or extreme financial wealth. During depressive episodes, delusions may include paranoid fears of being poisoned or the belief that one has committed a terrible crime. Because of these psychotic symptoms, bipolar disorder is sometimes mistaken for schizophrenia” (Basile). five out of ten cases bipolar was misdiagnosed as schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is a psychotic disorder or group of disorders marked by disturbances in thinking, emotional responsiveness, and behavior. Schizophrenia is the most chronic and disabling of the severe mental disorders, associated with abnormalities of brain structure and function, disorganized speech and behavior, delusions, and hallucinations. It is considered a psychotic disorder or a psychosis (Ford-Martin, Odle, and Costello).
Many serial killers over the years, such as Ed Gein, Richard Chase, and David Gonzalez was found suffering from schizophrenia. Some of the major symptoms of schizophrenia are disorganized and compulsive behavior, aggression and anger, anxiety, paranoia and the belief that an ordinary event has special and personal meaning. It is shown that Montresor has multiple of these symptoms in the story, especially aggression and the belief that an ordinary even has a personal meaning. This could mean that Fortunato did something small to anger Montresor, and since he possibly has schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, that could have led Montresor to believe that murdering Fortunato was the only valid option. People who suffer from schizophrenia are known to harm and murder other people, so suggesting that Montresor could be suffering from schizophrenia.
However, it difficult to pinpoint which mental disorder Montresor is suffering from because both disorders have the same symptoms. It can be acknowledged that Montresor was mentally ill suffering from bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. A person with normal mental stability can’t take such steps, without any specific or solid reason. Only a person with any sort of mental disorder tends to do this sort of thing. Even before the murder was committed, there were signs of Montresor being mentally ill, he was smiling and laughing thought the event, there was no rage. “I proceeded, as was my in to smile in his face, and also he did not view that my to smile now went to the thought of his immolation” (Poe). This demonstrates how Montresor was expecting that evening to go. He was thinking about Fortunato’s death while grinning and talking with the male, even ask him many times if he would like to turn back as if it was a game. This can easily be indicators of bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.
Later in the story, it sounds like he is confessing in reality he is just telling his story. He finally tells another person of his crime after almost 50 years, but not with guilt, perhaps it’s a kind of show off, that look, what I had done, and nobody was able to catch me. However, by looking at different aspects, it could be assumed that the killer was suffering from mental instability, because he fails, in addressing any solid point which can lead towards the “valley of revenge”. Only the assumption is that the victim might have hurt him by making jokes on him or maybe with any type of criticism, which could be taken on a lighter note by any normal person with a healthy mind. He can run from the world but it’s impossible to escape from our inner self, same happened with the killer, he tried to justify his horrible crime and tried to get pity by saying “The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could; but when he ventured upon insult, I vowed revenge” (Poe). This is the main theme line on which the building of the whole story is based on. The depth or the hided feeling can only be understood by standing in the killer’s shoes.
The confusing element is even after so many years he, himself, was not sure about the reasons that urged him to do such a violent act. At the end of the story, he said, “In pace requiescat!” (Poe)., which means rest in peace. If Montresor claims what Fortunato did was worth a punishment which ended his life, why come back to the grave and say rest in peace.
Edgar Allen Poe created this maniacal character so well in The Cask of Amontillado. The personality of Montresor in the short story The Cask of Amontillado had some mental illnesses of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. He murders his old good friend Fortunato throughout something probably small that took place in between the two. His heartless behavior in the story as he lures his friend right into the underground catacombs as well as extremely murders him. Whatever Montresor does in this story is something only a killer with a mental disorder can execute doing. This idea has also been backed up by many authors, like an article written by Elena v. Baraban, which emphasizes that the motive of the murder was not revenge but the illness state of mind. Although the killer was not mad but mental Instability was the reason for killing an innocent person. The same was the case with Montresor and Fortunato’s story. The death of Fortunato who was unfortunately not fortunate enough to escape from the trap has proved that the wounds to the heart will probably never heal and can guide us to somewhere from where no way out.
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