The Cask Of Amontillado
Character of Montresor in the Cask of Amontillado
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” The meaning of this statement is that without a full expression of what must be said between communicators, the compatibility they hold can lead the members of the relationship in a negative direction. This quote by George Bernard Shaw proves true in Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado.” Montresor and Fortunato’s affiliation is doomed because they both lack proper communication skills, resulting in their individual negative characteristics to monopolize their minds and actions.
Edgar Allen Poe begins the narrative with a gut wrenching and characteristic revealing pledge from Montresor: “The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could; but when he ventured upon insult, I vowed revenge. You, who so well know the nature of my soul, will not suppose, however, that I gave utterance to a threat. At length I would be avenged;” (Poe, 108). It is clear that Montresor’s hunger for revenge is a product of his pride. He is so insulted that Fortunato has the audacity to mock him that he vows to end his existence. Montresor hates to be mocked, so instead of resolving his personal issue with Fortunato by explaining this to him, he instead jumps the gun and seeks revenge. This translates into how millions of broken hearts and terminated friendships everywhere could be avoided with a simple conversation. What is most regrettable about this is that Montresor most likely does not believe that he can talk to Fortunato. If he made the attempt to speak to him maybe he could have terminated the conflict and prolonged their relationship. Who knows, the possibility remains that they could have become friends. However, all the blame cannot be placed on the shoulders of Montresor, because Fortunato plays a vital role in the relationship’s demise, as well.
Like Montresor, Fortunato’s pride and ego is extremely strong, making him an large target for destruction. Although it is not revealed, it can easily be assumed that his ego is the reason as to why he berates Montresor. In fact, Montresor even mentions his pride being a weakness: “He had a weak point—this Fortunato—although in other regards he was a man to be respected and even feared. He prided himself on his connoisseurship in wine. Few Italians have the true virtuoso spirit. For the most part their enthusiasm is adopted to suit the time and opportunity—to practise imposture upon the British and Austrian millionaires. In painting and gemmary, Fortunato, like his countrymen, was a quack—but in the matter of old wines he was sincere. In this respect I did not differ from him materially: I was skilful in the Italian vintages myself, and bought largely whenever I could,” (Poe, 108). Because he can maintain a somewhat rational mind on the matter, Montresor is able to differentiate his adoration for fine wine from Fortunato’s. It is clear to Montresor that Fortunato’s boastful pride for wine makes him vulnerable to his tricks, whereas Montresor’s appreciation for wine is moderate, allowing him to use it as bait. Further along, he uses this information to entice Fortunato.
‘“As you are engaged, I am on my way to Luchesi. If
any one has a critical turn, it is he. He will tell me——”
“Luchesi cannot tell Amontillado from Sherry.”
“And yet some fools will have it that his taste is a match for your own.”
“Come, let us go.”
“To your vaults.”
“My friend, no; I will not impose upon your good
nature. I perceive you have an engagement. Luchesi——”
“I have no engagement;—come.”
“My friend, no. It is not the engagement, but the severe cold with which I perceive you are afflicted. The vaults are insufferably damp. They are encrusted with nitre.”
“Let us go, nevertheless. The cold is merely nothing. Amontillado! You have been imposed upon. And as for Luchesi, he cannot distinguish Sherry from Amontillado.”’ (Poe, 109). Here, Fortunato is blinded so thoroughly by his ego that he almost becomes Montresor’s puppet, allowing him to use his verbal deception to dance Fortunato all the way down to his dungeon. Montresor mentions Luchesi because he is aware of Fortunato’s egotistic competitiveness. He reels him in through means of flattery, telling him that Luchesi’s taste for wine is inferior to Fortunato’s. If Fortunato wasn’t so full of himself, he would see that Montresor is just egging him on, but he falls for his trap. Even when Montresor uses his forms of reverse psychology, like mentioning the “engagement” and the “cold,” Fortunato cannot tell that this is just a type of manipulation. Without seeing the bigger picture, Fortunato eats up every word of Montresor’s act as truth and is eventually killed.
Every bond starts and ends with some form of contact. The condition of a relationship can only be controlled by means of proper communication. Without a precise comprehension of what is being communicated, the relationship will be lead down a course of disbandment. This is further expressed in the conflict between Montresor and Fortunato in Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado.” Dominated by pride and egoism, the two lead each other onto path of revenge and selfishness, while only one leaves alive.
Battle Between Montresor and Fortunado in the Cask of Amontillado
Montresor, the main character of Edgar Allen Poe’s “Cask of Amontillado”, took it upon himself to get justice for all the times his old friend Fortunato insulted him; Montresor not only wanted to simply punish Fortunato, but to punish with impunity. Montresor carries out his deceptive plan by luring Fortunato into the catacombs by playing on Fortunato’s vanities, there Montresor traps an intoxicated Fortunato and barricades the exit so there is no choice but die a slow death in the damp underground cave. In Edgar Allen Poe’s “Cask of Amontillado”, the use of symbols, foreshadowing, and irony teaches the reader that even the ones thought of as friends can betray you in the end.
Seemingly every detail in the “Cask of Amontillado” is symbolic in some way. One symbol that carried great weight in the short story was Montresor’s family coat of arms; a giant gold human foot, in a blue field, crushing a wild and crazy serpent and in response, the serpent takes a bite out of the human foot. “The snake in the grass symbolizes Montresor, the human foot symbolizes Fortunato; with his insulting comments, Fortunato stepped on Montresor’s pride and self-respect, so Montresor bit Montresor in self-defense” (literatureessaysamples_essay3). Along with the coat of Arms there is a motto, “Nemo me impune lacessit”, meaning “no attacks me with impunity”.
Before the short story even begins, Montresor foreshadows the fate of Fortunato with the title “Cask of Amontillado”; Cask is short for the word casket which is typically the final resting place for a man, therefore representing that death will be an outcome for someone in the story. A literal translation for the title is the death of someone due to their intense attraction to Amontillado. Poe also places a lot of foreshadowing on the Carnival being the perfect time to execute his plan against Montresor because of the supreme madness of the carnival scene.
Montresor’s polite facade made it easy to make ironic comments that wouldn’t register in Fortunato’s mind until it was too late. Montresor continues to make comments wishing good health and well-being to Fortunato while clearly knowing that Fortunato was going to be dead in a matter of hours. “Montresor intentionally makes these phony statements to create an outward appearance of friendship between himself and Fortunato; these actions made it easier to lure Fortunato into the catacomb because he trusted Montresor and didn’t believe he was in any real danger.” (Table 52). Throughout their journey through the catacombs Montresor continuously showers Fortunato with pleasure and friendly advice to deceive into a false sense of friendship, this way Fortunato would never expect Montresor to turn on him. Unfortunately, for Fortunato, Montresor means nothing by his friendly gestured and only developed a false friendship to carry out his plan with ease.
Ultimately Fortunato never had a chance against Montresor, not while Montresor’s was working perfectly. Montresor was able to act a part long enough to accomplish his dark deed and get away with it scotch free. Fortunato was deceived into believing Montresor was his friend; this trust in Montresor led Fortunato to his death and he never caught a clue until the very end. In the short story “Cask of Amontillado”, Edgar Allen Poe was able to teach the reader a valuable lesson about how deadly misplaced trust can be.
Life of Fortunato and Montresor in the Cask of Amontillado
“The thousands injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult I vowed revenge.” (p. 61) Montresor said the morning he decided to do the dreaded task of removing Fortunato from society. There could be numerous reasons for this thinking, but the central one will be explained.
All of the mayhem and the drama started years and years ago when the two gentlemen were friends. In their youthful years, the two shared everything. Ranging from pranks to jokes and from jokes to obsessions. The two were inseparable. They were the best of friends. But while one thing lead to another when Fortunato decided to mimic off of Montresor’s dream of being someone in society. Fortunato started to do everything Montresor did but three times better. He made everything they did a challenge. After a while, Montresor became very enraged with anger. He didn’t bother to confront him due to the fact that would make him look bad in society’s eyes.
Months and months went by and the two haven’t talked in forever. The talking and drama still continued. He was so upset and engorged with it he decided to drop out of one of the best academies the 1800’s could offer and go to Italy.
Years after dropping out, Montresor became one of the richest men alive. He had it all, great wine, a mansion, and power in society. But he still wasn’t happy. His wife had left him two years prior and left him depressed. This added onto the stress he already had from Fortunato. He started to go crazy, stating his fellow politicians. And a year after that, he was removed from his power in society. All he had now to make him happy was the house and the wine. He started to fall into a deep depression and felt that the only cure was to kill Fortunato. That maybe it would end his chain of ‘so called’ bad luck. Montresor looked into his plan deeper. He went around the little Italian city to see if there was any information on him, he asked the local officers if they knew anything. And finally after months, he found out that he was coming to town this up-coming weekend. He started to figure out his plan.
Now being the end of the week, Montresor was ready to follow through. And to his knowledge he knew he had a weak point: he liked the taste of wine a little much for society’s liking. (p. 62.)
It was about dusk when he met up with Fortunato. He greeted Montresor with excessive warmth. He had been drinking. He’s already one step ahead. (p. 62.) He stated, “My dear Fortunato, you are luckily met. How remarkably well you are looking today. But I have received a pipe of what passes for Amontillado, and I have my doubts.” (p. 62.) Fortunato starts to question and Montresor starts to lose him composure. But he shapes up and stands strong. And after a bit of conferencing, Montresor finally convinced Fortunato to come back to the vault. When he does, he forces Fortunato onto the wall so he can chain him to it. (p. 66.) As he links the final chains together, Montresor can’t help but think if he really wants to do this. He hesitates for a minute and decides to continue. He steps away and looks at his plan coming together perfectly. He is very happy with himself. He gets out his trowel and begins to wall up the entrance to the vault. (p. 66.) Tier by tier, he starts to block off part of the entrance when he hears the sound of the chains. It lasted for a couple of minutes, giving him most of his joy. When the noise stopped, he went back to sealing up the wall. When he was on his last one, Fortunato started to talk. Montresor stopped.
“Ha! Ha! Ha! – he! he! he! – a very good joke, indeed – and excellent jest. We will have many a rich laugh about it at the palazzo – he! he! he! – over our wine – he! he! he!” Montresor commented, “The Amontillado.” And Fortunato continues with his little ‘joke’. After another reply, he was waiting for Fortunato to say something. But he didn’t. Montresor repeated himself, hoping he just couldn’t hear him. Still no reply. Montresor laid up the last brick and walked away. He did it. He finally relived his stress. He was free. Free of the pain and suffering he went through for years, and now he’s free. As he walks away he says “In pace requiescat!” (p. 68)
The Theme of Revenge in The Cask of Amontillado and The Count of Monte Cristo
“The Cask of Amontillado” and The Count of Monte Cristo both have various ways to show how the theme of revenge is betrayed in the text. In the short story “The Cask of Amontillado”, Poe starts off by showing us how our protagonist, Montressor acts post betrayal. In the book The Count of Monte Cristo, we are shown how our protagonist, Edmond Dantes acts pre and post betrayal. Theme “the insight into what it is to be human” is revealed as revenge in both texts. Both texts show how their “characterization influenced the theme of revenge” The theme of revenge is shown to us by their own characterization, the people around them, and what leads them up to their own actions.
In the short story “The Cask of Amontillado” we are shown that our protagonist Montressor is being betrayed by Fortunado yet we do not know what exactly Fortunado has done in order for Montressor to feel betrayed. “The thousand injuries of Fortunado I had borne as best I could; but when he ventured upon insult, I vowed revenge.” (Poe 172) This implies that when Fortunado insulted Montressor, he pushed it too far which drove him to get revenge. We are not shown how Montressor acted before the betrayal yet we do know that when Montressor is talking to Fortunado he states “You are rich, respected, admired, beloved, you are happy, as once i was” (Poe 173) which implies before he was betrayed Montressor wasn’t just a cold hearted and vengeful person but Montesor was very warm hearted and a sensitive person. Montressor was pushed too far which caused him to get revenge and wall up Fortunado alive.
However in the book The Count of Monte Cristo we are shown when Edmond gets betrayed by his own “best friend” Fernand and is put into jail called the Chateau D’if, it gives us a way to see how his characterization changes before he was put in jail and after he escapes. In the film that we were shown of The Count of Monte Cristo we see how before Edmond was arrested, he was very worried, naive, and gullible. The way he acted before he was put in jail let people really take advantage of him which really caused him to be clueless of what was going on around him. However, this all changes when he gets educated by Abbé Faria who teaches Edmond everything he knows. When Edmond escapes he meets Luigi Vampa known as a smuggler and a thief. Luigi challenges Edmond to fight Jacapo to the death but when fighting but Edmond doesn’t actually kill him because everyone got what they wanted which was a show. Jacapo ends up giving Edmond his life oath. Edmond and Jacapo find the treasure of Monte Cristo and when Jacapo ask Edmond what he wants to buy, he states he wants to buy “revenge”. Edmond and Jacapo for about 16 years, have been studying Fernand and Mercedes his old fiance who ended up marrying Fernand 1 month after he was arrested. Edmond comes up with a plan and stages a fight of the capturing of Fernands son Albert which causes Edmond to meet his parents. When Edmond meets his parents, Mercedes recognizes something about him and says he seems familiar like her old love Edmond, but he is introduced as the Count of Monte Cristo, so how could it be him ? Fernand ends up being arrested for bankruptcy which he then tells Mercedes but she refuses to move with him. Fernand looks for the money that he planned to steal but ends up seeing the Count of Monte Cristo who is then revealed as Edmond which causes them to sword fight to the death. Edmond defeats Fernand who then moves on to live with Mercedes and Albert.
In the short story “The Cask of Amontillado” Montressors characterization changes which drives the theme of revenge when he states that he was once happy which we can imply that he was a giving and trusting person which when he got betrayed he turned very cautious and malicious. With his characterization change, we could imply that whatever Fortunado did to betray Montressor, it caused him to get revenge and wall up Fortunado. In the book The Count of Monte Cristo, Edmond is first portrayed as a very gullible person which he then changes to a very confident person which allows him to come up with a very intelligent plan for more than 16 years to study Fernands and Mercedes every move.
In both texts we can see how the people around them can change their characterization which causes them to do things we wouldn’t expect. Both text not only show how peoples characterization can change the theme of the story, but their characterization changes them as a person. Revenge is something everyone wants at one point but peoples characterization can either influence them to get revenge or not. The short story “The Cask of Amontillado” and the book The Count of Monte Cristo both show us how both Montressor and Edmonds characterization influences the theme of revenge
The Cask of Amontillado, The Yellow Wallpaper, and The Story of an Hour: The Dark of the Mind
A common theme surrounding the characters of The Cask of Amontillado, The Yellow Wallpaper, and The Story of an Hour is distress and resentment. Emotions run wild through the characters in the stories, giving us a glimpse into the minds of a killer, a woman struggling with her sanity, and the internal struggle of a woman longing to be free, but struggling with the loss of her main identity when her husband is suddenly taken.
Revenge. A strong emotion that leads down a dark road in The Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allan Poe. Montresor vows to be avenged of the insult that Fortunato has forced upon him. “I must not only punish but punish with impunity.” (179). This resentment of Fortunato builds to a crescendo when the plan is set in emotion to orchestrate the demise of Fortunato. Through his cunning plan, Montresor would lead him to the catacombs, where his fate would be sealed. (182) The premeditation of his crime and how it is to be carried out, shows just how deep his resentment resonates inside him. Feeding off Fortunato’s drunkenness and his trustfulness in his “friend” as well as Fortunato’s infinity for fine wine, he is a willing participant in what is unbeknownst to him Montresor’s final act of revenge. (179) While chained to the wall Fortunato calls out to Montresor in a last attempt to reach for any hope of mercy in his friend as the wall is being constructed to entomb him. “For the love of God, Montresor!” (183). A powerful cry that did touch a part of Montresor but was not stronger than his need for revenge or the resentfulness of Fortunato’s insults toward him.
“He does not believe I am sick!” (526) Our first glimpse at the resentment portrayed in The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. It is a different kind of resentment. The kind born out of actions of the people closest to her. No one believed there was something wrong. Not her husband. Not her physicians. Not her family. It was a depressed mind locked in a room alone with her own thoughts. Thoughts that did not start with the extreme psychosis that she suffered in the end of the story; But thoughts that started with the simple yellow wallpaper that she despised. At first the wallpaper is just an annoyance with its flamboyant patterns and repellant and revolting color. (528) As time goes on however, and her mind starts slipping into her psychosis, it becomes almost a living thing. The patterns start to move, “I can see a strange, provoking, formless sort of figure, that seems to skulk about that silly and conspicuous front design.” (530) Her husband, John, seems oblivious to the severity of her psychosis. In fact, he thinks that she is becoming better. (532) Not realizing that it is in fact progressing. She becomes almost possessive of the wallpaper. “No one touches this paper but me, — not alive!” (536) The hint of resentment that started by simply not being believed leads to the decline of her mind. The struggle to get better was overcome by the force of struggle in her thoughts. What at first seemed to be depression had escalated to full blown madness.
The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin does not have a strong theme of resentment as the other stories contain. In this story distress is more pronounced. Mrs. Mallard is not a resentful or vengeful woman. Instead she is beset with emotion as she learns her husband has been in an accident.” She wept at once, with sudden, wild abandonment, in her sister’s arms.” (524) This gives a glimpse into the grief and despair that she is experiencing. As her emotions of grief begin to subside, the inner struggle begins to unfold. And yet she had loved him-more often had she not (525) seems to be a part of the justification she is trying to give herself, but the feeling of excitement in the face of her freedom overcomes her. “Free! Body and soul free!” (525) Yet the contradiction of her emotions shows when she knows she will weep again when she sees his hands folded in death. (525) As her excitement grows and her grief is set aside, she is able to pull herself up and put her emotions by the wayside and happily resigns herself to be a free woman. The strong emotions that have been coursing through her sadly will lead to her downfall. As she finally opened the door to her room where her sister had thought her in despair when in truth it had been happiness, she came face to face with the very person she had mourned for the loss of but rejoiced in freedom from. When the doctors came, they said she had died of heart disease — of joy that kills. (525) This would have been true but for the happiness she had felt at the thought of living for herself.
Resentment and distress echo through each of these stories. Revenge, psychosis, and sadness run rampant. Montresor leads us through his lust for revenge against insult. The woman in The Yellow Wallpaper shows the effect of being locked away with an unstable mind. Mrs. Mallard shows the very real effect of emotions as she fights with grieving for her husband yet can’t contain her excitement of being free from the bind of marriage. These stories show how devastating these emotions can be to the human mind.
- Chopin, Kate. “The Story of an Hour.” The Norton Introduction to Literature. Kelly J. Mays. 12th. Edition. W. W. Norton & Company. New York, London. 2017. Print
- Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. “The Yellow Wallpaper.” The Norton Introduction to Literature. Kelly J. Mays. 12th Edition. W.W. Norton & Company. New York, London. 2017. Print
- Poe, Edgar Allan. “The Cask of Amontillado.” The Norton Introduction to Literature. Kelly J. Mays. 12th Edition. W.W. Norton & Company. New York, London. 2017. Print
A Mean Character Of Montresor in a Short Story by Edgar Allan Poe
Interpreting Duplicity: A Linguistic Analysis of The Cask of Amontillado
The Cask of Amontillado is an 1846 short story by Edgar Allan Poe. The story is told from the protagonist, Montresor’s perspective as he seeks revenge on his friend Fortunato. Poe uses a motif of duplicity throughout the story, beginning with Montresor’s lie that he’s obtained Amontillado. Montresor’s duplicitous nature is reflected by Poe’s stylistic choices such as parallelism and speech acts. Flouting of social maxims and politeness are featured prominently for plot development and characterization.
Fortunato is skeptical that Montresor has found Amontillado. There’s a back-and-forth of short questions and answers between them. A similar situation occurs when Fortunato finds out that Montresor is a freemason. Poe uses the same format for both conversations. This parallelism to make Montresor seem untrustworthy. It also shows that he’s persuasive enough to convince skeptics to believe him. Since Montresor successfully kills Fortunato, this characterization is appropriate.
Since Montresor and Fortunato are the only two characters in the story, they take almost the same amount of turns in the dialogue. Montresor is seemingly polite when he speaks to Fortunato. While Fortunato interrupts always allows Fortunato to finish his sentences. Fortunato makes the most interruptions, interrupting Montresor five times throughout the story. Of these five interruptions, four of them are provoked by Montresor mentioning an unseen third character, Luchresi. Poe uses these interruptions to make Fortunato seem insecure about his wine expertise.
Despite Montresor’s polite behavior, he flaunts several social maxims throughout the story. He blatantly flouts the maxim of quality to hide his murderous intentions. He lures Fortunato into the catacombs with three lies. The lie that he’s purchased Amontillado, the lie that he needs Fortunato’s expertise to determine whether the Amontillado is authentic, and the lie that he’ll ask for Luchresi’s help if Fortunato is too busy.
By flouting this maxim so early in the story, Poe characterizes Montresor as an unreliable narrator. While readers are aware that he’s seeking revenge, an unreliable narrator creates additional tension. When Montresor brings Fortunato into the catacombs and tells him to drink the Medoc, we’re aware that Montresor isn’t doing this to protect him from the “damps.” After giving him this wine, Montresor says he drinks to Fortunato’s “long life.” This toast emphasizes the double-meaning of Montresor’s words. Shortly before they toast, Fortunato mentions that he “shall not die of a cough.” Montresor agrees, replying, “true, true.”
Generally, Montresor obeys the maxim of relevance in conversation. His answers are typically dishonest, but they’re usually relevant to whatever question Fortunato has asked. However, Montresor flouts this maxim when Fortunato asks whether Montresor is a member of the “brotherhood.” Fortunato doubts him, but Montresor insists that he’s a mason. The story’s ending proves this to be literally true, but Montresor’s answer isn’t a relevant. He knows that Fortunato means “freemason” when he says “mason.” So although Montresor typically gives dishonest but relevant answers, in this example he gives an honest but irrelevant answer.
This internal deviation occurs shortly before the story’s climax where Montresor builds a wall around Fortunato. Up until this point, the reader is unaware of how Montresor will get his revenge. But during this conversation, Montresor pulls a trowel out of his cloak. By making this stylistic shift at the same time Montresor makes this reveal, Poe alerts the reader to watch for the climactic moment that follows. This could be an example of conversational implicature, where the reader, instead of the hearer, understands the unstated meaning of Montresor calling himself a mason. Montresor shows Fortunato the trowel, but he’s too drunk to understand that this is a menacing gesture. He thinks Montresor shows him the trowel as a joke, since he doubted that Montresor was a mason.
Montresor maintains positive face throughout most of the story. Fortunato remains unaware of his plans until it’s too late. But Fortunato doubts Montresor’s credibility several times. Fortunato doesn’t believe it’s possible to find Amontillado during carnival. Montresor threatens to have Luchresi test the Amontillado, and makes this seem like it would be more convenient to Fortunato. This successfully mitigates the face threatening act since it makes Fortunato want to enter the catacombs with Montresor.
Whenever Fortunato has the sense to turn around and go home, Montresor finds a polite way to persuade Fortunato into staying. He pretends to be concerned about Fortunato’s health when Fortunato starts coughing. Montresor insists that they leave, telling him how guilty he’d feel if Fortunato became ill. But he exploits Fortunato’s insecurity by mentioning Luchresi after reasonably explaining why Fortunato should go home. Fortunato is correct when he calls Montresor’s bluff at the beginning of the story. But through face saving acts, Montresor erases any doubt that there’s a cask of Amontillado hidden in the catacombs.
Social deixis is featured unusually in the story. Montresor and Fortunato are supposed to be “friends.” Montresor refers to Fortunato as “my friend” seven times throughout the story. This is at odds with Montresor murdering Fortunato, especially since Fortunato never refers to Montresor as a friend. Montresor’s intentions and actions gives “my friend” a sarcastic tone, making it questionable whether they ever considered each other friends at all. Since Poe establishes Montresor as an unreliable narrator, this interpretation would make sense.
Still, Fortunato doesn’t suspect that Montresor is seeking revenge and willfully follows him through the vaults. This could characterize Fortunato as either gullible, or Montresor as delusional. The two characters may have shared a cordial relationship, with Montresor only perceiving Fortunato as having injured and insulted him.
It’s realistic that the dialogue features interruptions, but the dialogue is too expositional to be considered “realistic.” Due to the story’s short length, Poe would have had to fit as much information into the dialogue as possible. A lot of archaic vocabulary is used. The story was written in the 19th century, so this makes sense. But some words seem unusual, even for the time period. For example, Poe uses the word “flambeaux” instead of torches. Montresor’s family crest has a “crest d’or.” An unusual amount of French loan-words such as roquelaure are used, especially when the Italian setting is considered.
It makes sense that Poe chooses to say roquelaure instead of cloak, since this specific type of cloak was commonly worn when the story was written. But only a few Italian loan-words are used, such as palazzo, carnaval, and the names of the characters. Aside than that, the other italic words (besides Amontillado) are come from either French, or directly from Latin. Since French loan-words are common in the English language, it’s possible that Poe chose them to emphasize the story’s European setting and still be understood. It could also indicate social class, since Fortunato is upper-class. Montresor’s social status is unclear, but he presents himself as someone who can afford an entire pipe of Amontillado. Poe may have wanted to indicate this through elevated vocabulary in the dialogue. Montresor’s speech style in both the dialogue and narration might also be Poe’s way of making him seem creepy.
Montresor’s duplicitous nature is a constant presence in The Cask of Amontillado. His words are filled with double-meaning, making him an unreliable narrator. Poe uses these stylistic choices to write a truly creepy story where the reader knows just a little bit more than the victim. Information is revealed slowly, and the reader doesn’t know exactly what happens until the climactic moment when Montresor builds a wall around Fortunato.
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.
Human Cruelty And Evil in The Cask of Amontillado Novel
The Evil Inside
“Pay attention…Sometimes it’s the person giving you the medicine who’s making you sick” (Maraboli). Looks are not always what they appear just as Steve Maraboli mentions in the quote above. While you may think a person has your best interest at heart, what is actually on their heart may be quite opposite of that. Authors Edgar Allen Poe, in his short story The Cask of Amontillado, and Shirley Jackson, in The Lottery, both summarize man’s capacity for evil as being limitless and show that evil is present inside all men, no matter how innocent or moral they may appear to be.
The Cask of Amontillado is an excellent example of not only the limitless bounds of man’s evil but also reflecting the evil within men, though pure their intentions may seem. Though the narrator reveals himself to the reader immediately in the story, he goes to great lengths to fool Fortunato into believing that not only are they friends, but also that he has high regard of his opinion regarding fine wines. Knowing that a “connoisseurship in wine” (Poe 592) is Fortunato’s “weak point” (Poe 592), the narrator uses this knowledge to set his trap. By appealing to Fortunato’s pride and fancy, the narrator lures Fortunato into “insufferably damp” (Poe 593) catacombs “encrusted with nitre” (Poe 593) to sample a cask of Amontillado and prove its validity. In order to allude Fortunato into not becoming suspicious of their journey deeper and deeper into the catacombs, the narrator is diligent about checking on the condition of his friend’s cough and goes so fas as to “implore [him] to return” (Poe 595) as he says Fortunato’s “health is precious” (Poe 593) and “a man to be missed” (Poe 593) should any ill befall him. Montressor’s act is so believable that even after chaining his friend in a small portion of the catacombs, Fortunato was “too much astounded to resist” (Poe 595). He was never aware that Montressor had planned every detail of this ending, from having a “trowel…beneath the folds of [his] roquelaire” (Poe 594) to insuring his attendants would not be home by giving them “explicit orders” (Poe 593) not to leave the house, knowing that they would all immediately disappear. The lengths that Montressor had gone to however, did not stop there. Once he had gotten Fortunato drunk and chained to the wall, he “uncovered a quantity of building stone and mortar” (Poe 595) that he had previously hid “among the pile of bones” (Poe 595) for the sole purpose of bricking Fortunato in and leaving him there unable to escape. Had Fortunato seen the evil that Montressor was capable of, he would have never followed him down to the Amontillado and his death.
Shirley Jackson also does a good job of showing man’s unlimited capacity for evil as well as once again reinforcing the fact that even someone as pure and innocent as a child has a heart tainted by evil. The Lottery begins by describing the villagers of the town gathering on a warm, “clear and sunny” (Jackson 604) “full-summer” (Jackson 604) day. The situation seems completely innocent as children were playing and stuffing their pockets “full of stones” (Jackson 604), men were “speaking of planting and rain” (Jackson 604), and the women “exchanged bits of gossip” (Jackson 604) on what at first seemed like a normal day in any small town. The lottery that was about to be conducted was carried out by the same person who handled the “square dances, the teenage club, [and] the Halloween program” (Jackson 605), a man “who had time and energy to devote to civic activities” (Jackson 605). It was a “tradition” (Jackson 605) that brought the entire town together year after year and since “no one liked to upset” (Jackson 605) as much tradition as even the box that was used represented, it had gone unchanged since the beginning. The sick irony of the tradition however was that instead of drawing for money, the villagers were drawing for death which is where Jackson reveals man’s unlimited capacity of evil. Though the villagers knew every year that one of them, regardless of their age, gender, or place in the community, would draw the black dot and be killed. Instead of breaking tradition and standing up for what was right, the villagers were willing every year to voluntarily draw from the box and then immediately turn on their friend with stones intent upon murder. No villager was innocent or exempt from the evil either regardless of how moral they might have seemed and the stones that the children were gathering in the beginning where the same stones that they would use as weapons in the end.
Evil comes in many shapes and forms and when it appears, it is usually unexpected. There is not one person that evil hasn’t touched in some way and no length that people wouldn’t go to when evil is the motivation. The atrocities that are committed every day, as well as the short stories The Cask of Amontillado and The Lottery, all show us that evil has no limits and will rear its ugly head in whomever it can seduce.
Edgar Allan Poe’s Description of the Topic of Vengeance as Illustrated in His Book, The Cask of Amontillado
Is revenge ever justified? Mankind believes in the necessity of revenge to make justice, by their own hands. The idea of revenge has been present in numerous novels, television shows, as well as movies and films. For instance in the movie Taken, the theme of revenge is clearly shown when a retired Gonverment Agent, Bryan, suffers the kidnapping of his daughter while on a trip to France and he wants to annhilate everyone involved in the disappearance, promissing to himself to take revenge for what they did to his daughter. Essentially, in “The Cask of Amontillado,” Poe presents the reader with Montressor, an egotistical maniac, who’s drive for revenge leads him to imprisoning and killing Fortunato, the man who supposedly insults Montressor, though to what extent is unknown. Poe uses peculiar word choice, sophisticated verbal irony, and the theme of revenge to convey an eerie and melodramatic mood which becomes one of the main elements in “The Cask of Amontillado.”
Helping create the mood, Poe uses dramatic and verbal irony to help extend the suspenseful and mysterious mood throughout the story. For instance, when Montressor and Fortunato meet and they want to go try some of the Amontillado, he refers to Fortunato by saying, “My friend, no. It is not the engagement, but the severe cold with which I perceive you are afflicted. (375)” Evidently the author is showing verbal irony because, clearly Montressor doesn’t care about Fortunato’s health, yet he refers to him as “friend.” The use of dramatic irony is implemented at the end of the story, Fortunato says to Montressor,” Will not [Lady Fortunato and the rest] be awaiting us at the palazzo? Let us be gone,”(379) and Montressor agrees to him by saying “Yes…let us be gone.(379)” Clearly, both of them say the same phrase, however the meaning is different. Fortunato wants to go home, with his wife, while Montressor wants him gone forever.Furthermore, the use of dramatic irony is present when Montressor tells himself that“I [continue]…to smile in his face, and he did not perceive that my smile now was at the thought of his immolation. (372)” Clearly, Fortunato did not expect anything sinister from his trustworthy friend. Moreover, the hint Montressor gives to the readers with his smile of immolation, the reader knows something nefarious is about to occur to Fortunato .Certainly, the use of irony contributes to the shaping of the mood throughout the story, as well as the congenial and intricate use of word choice.
The use of word choice is perspicuously seen in “The Cask of Amontillado,” to create suspenseful mood, and have an unpredictable idea of the story. Poe carefully chooses words that convey a strong sense of place to reader and contribute to the creation of tension. For example, even though a carnival setting is expected to be joyful and exuberant, Poe saddens the tone of the setting by stating to the reader that, “It was about dusk, one evening during the supreme madness of the carnival season (372).” The setting was greatly changed, because of the unique use of word choice, that is enough can give the story a completely different twist. Consequently, the repetition of words builds up the tension of the story. Another great example of word choice can be perceived when they are at the catacombs and Poe says, “A succession of loud and shrill screams, [burst] suddenly from the throat of the chained form, seemed to thrust me violently back.(379)” The word choice applied in the descriptive passages such as these, help the reader feel the chilly mood and what the characters sense. Toward the end the use of repetition of words can clearly be seen how it contributes to the mood. For example, the tension starts building up at Fortunato’s final moments, when Fortunato says, “For the love of God, Montressor… Yes, for the love of God.” Assuredly, this repetition of words creates an austere sense to the reader, and contributes with one of the most important aspects in this short story, the mood.
A great factor that determines the gothic and suspenseful mood of the story is the theme employed by Poe. “The Cask of Amontillado” shares the theme of revenge, and its a component of the mood built throughout the story. For example, “The thousands injuries of Fortunato I had Borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult, I vowed revenge.(372)” The theme of revenge clearly can be felt, and plays a key role in the mood of the story. Due to the revenge, the mood is eerie, creepy, with a sense of sinister. Another great example is shown, “At length, I [will] be avenged; this was a point definitively settled.” Assuredly, the mood is not only eerie, but mysterious as well. Montressor is seeking for revenge, but the reader does not know why he is seeking for revenge, greatly contributing with the mood.
The use of sumptous word choice, and astounding verbal irony, tied togeher with the theme convey an eerie and melodramatic mood which becomes one of the main elements in “The Cask of Amontillado.” Furthermore, he demonstrates that verbal irony, as well as the strenuous word choice, and the theme of revenge contribute to the creation of the mood in the story.
“The Cask of Amontillado”: Guilt can Never be Silenced
Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado”, published in 1844, proves to be a cautionary tale of the repression of guilt. The story is told through the perspective of Montresor, a man who is deeply insulted by his ‘friend’ Fortunato. Montresor vows to extract revenge for the insults thrown at him and his family, and does so through murder. Throughout the story, it becomes evident that Montresor will not get away with the crime he intends to commit, and instead will be haunted by the details of the deed. The motive for the crime and pieces of irony within the story support the idea that conscience cannot be silenced, especially when one attempts to bury the guilt of their sins.
Montresor’s reasoning for wanting revenge on Fortunato does not justify the crime he commits, which contributes to why he feels guilt for the act. In the very beginning of the story, Montresor says, “The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult I vowed revenge” (714). The reason why Montresor is seeking revenge is not because of the injury caused, but because Fortunato has insulted his family’s name. It is revealed that Montresor’s family motto is “Nemo me impune lacessit”, which translates to “No one insults me with impunity” (717). Montresor feels as though he cannot let Fortunato get away with his insults due to the motto his family has lived by. But, at the same time, that reasoning is not enough to justify murder, not even to Montresor. That is why he cannot move on from the crime he commits. Although the insults are never described in detail, it can be inferred that they have something to do with societal standards. There is a war between Montresor and Fortunato over their rank in society. The Montresor name has diminished in importance, while the Fortunato name has flourished. Montresor tells Fortunato, “You are rich, respected, admired, beloved; you are happy, as once I was” (716). Montresor is jealous of Fortunato because he has acquired all the things Montresor has lost. His revenge is structured not only around requitement for his family’s name, but also out of his own personal envy. Fortunato has everything Montresor wants, but no longer has. Although the jealousy and hope to avenge his family’s insulted name push Montresor to kill Fortunato, in the end they do not hold up as meaningful justifications. Montresor has trouble repressing the crime he has committed because the guilt is too strong. His motive for murder was not strong enough to allow him to see the crime as justified, which is why he lives buried in guilt over a crime that happened over half a century ago.
Throughout the story, details derived in irony foreshadow that the crime will not go the way Montresor wishes it to go. In the catacombs, Montresor describes his family’s coat of arms to Fortunato; “A huge human foot d’or, in a field azure; the foot crushes a serpent rampant whose fangs are imbedded in the heel” (717). The description depicts a foot crushing a snake, while the snake bites the foot. It is a double ended sword that is ironic to the situation at hand. As if one is the snake and one is the foot, both Fortunato and Montresor will be hurt by Montresor’s actions. Fortunato will be killed, and Montresor will live in guilt. Montresor seeks revenge for the insults to the Montresor name, while the Montresor coat of arms warns about the outcome. With his motive clear, Montresor states that he must commit the crime without getting caught; “I must not only punish but punish with impunity” (715). This simple statement proves to be extremely ironic because Montresor succeeds in punishing Fortunato, but he fails in getting away with it. The only guideline to how he must handle his revenge is the one that is not followed. Although Montresor does not get caught by others, he is the only force standing in the way of his freedom from the crime. Montresor has failed in his task. Even though Fortunato is dead, Montresor has lived, and will live, under the heavy burden of guilt. In an ironic twist, the murder was in vain, as it was not completed with impunity. The Montresor coat of arms and the plan to punish with impunity are ironic details that serve in foreshadowing Montresor’s fate, and his never-ending burden of guilt.
In the end, Montresor successfully kills Fortunato, but due to the guilt he can never forget, he never gets away with the crime. When he is constructing the wall that buries Fortunato, Montresor has trouble with the last stone, “There remained but a single stone to be fitted and plastered in. I struggled with its weight” (719). The last stone represents the deed finally being done. Montresor struggles with it because he then must come to terms with the crime he has committed. With the last stone in place, the crime is done, and it is real. The weight of the last stone also symbolizes the weight finishing the crime has on Montresor, and the emotional struggle repressing the act will have. Montresor has trouble with the physical burial of Fortunato just like how he has trouble with the emotional burial of his own guilt. The crime is played out like a mirror; the last stone and the burial representing the emotional weight of the crime and the burial of the guilt. In addition, there are moments in the story that lead to the belief that Montresor is hesitant with the crime. When he first chains Fortunato to the wall, he suddenly stops, “For a brief moment I hesitated, I trembled” (718). Montresor is unsure about what he is doing. He has to stop before he can continue. The act of committing the crime is becoming real in this moment, it is no longer just a plan. When it is all over, Montresor falls ill, “My heart grew sick; it was dampness of the catacombs that made it so” (719). The nitre is not the cause of Montresor’s heartsickness. The cause is the crime. Montresor does not want to believe that he could be feeling ill from what he has done, so he proposes and excuse. In reality, Montresor is being to feel guilt. “He still remembers his heart’s ‘growing sick – on account of the dampness of the catacombs,’ but his heartsickness likely arises from the empathy with the man he is leaving to die amid that dampness” (Baraban). Montresor will never be able to escape the heartsick feeling he feels in the catacombs because it follows him his entire life. When the story is over, Montresor says, “In pace requiescat”, which means, “May he rest in peace” (719). This short statement indicates that Montresor is sorry for what he has done, and further supports the fact that he will never get over the crime he has committed. The weight of the last stone, the hesitation in the crime, and the obvious guilt that is felt proves that Montresor will not be able to get away with the murder of Fortunato.
The guilt for the sin Montresor has committed stays with him for most of his life, supporting the idea that the conscience cannot be silenced. Montresor wants to get away with the murder, but he is standing in his own way of freedom. After he has finished sharing the story of Fortunato’s death, he says, “Against the new masonry I re-erected the old rampart of bones. For the half of a century no mortal has disturbed them” (719). Montresor is sharing this story fifty years after it has happened. Even though he has tried to bury the emotional burden, it could not be ignored. G.R. Thompson argues that “Montresor, rather than having successfully taken his revenge ‘with impunity’…has instead suffered a fifty-year’s ravage of conscience” (Baraban). Montresor has failed in his task to murder Fortunato without paying for it because he has payed for it for fifty years. His guilt has been a weight on him and finally he is telling the truth and admitting to the crime. Baraban explains that “Thompson uses the fact that Montresor’s narration is actually a confession made on his deathbed to support the argument about Montresor’s troubled conscience”. Fifty years after the crime, Montresor is dying. He has suffered half of a century with the weight of a sin crushing him. He reveals it as he is dying, unable to die without confessing his guilt. Montresor suffered “pangs of conscience” for almost all his life (Baraban). The fact that the story is told by Montresor fifty years after it occurred means that he had been struggling with his guilt for all that time, supporting the idea that conscience can never be silenced.
In “The Cask of Amontillado”, by Edgar Allan Poe, the unjustified motive for murder, the ironic details that foreshadow the outcome, and the guilt that Montresor feels support the claim that conscience can never be buried or ignored. Montresor tried to commit a crime in order to extract revenge. In the end, he successfully killed Fortunato, but destroyed himself in the process. The guilt of the crime weighed heavy on Montresor for fifty years until he could no longer hide the crime he committed. This story is a cautionary tale that serves to warn others; guilt cannot be buried as easily as the body.
Baraban, Elena V. “The Motive for Murder in “The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allan Poe.” Rocky Mountain Review of Language and Literature 58.2 (2004): 47-62. Web.
Poe, Edgar Allan. “The Cask of Amontillado.” The Norton Anthology of American Literature. Volume B, 8th ed. Ed. Nina Baym. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2012. 714– 719. Print.