Montresor’s Revenge In Edgar Allan Poe Short Story The Cask Of Amontillado

November 8, 2021 by Essay Writer

The Cask of Amontillado

In Edgar Allan Poe’s short story, The Cask of Amontillado, the story follows a dark and twisted storyline of revenge for the narrator, Montresor. The story is carefully crafted so that every detail contributes to a certain, unique effect. We are forced to only see the story from Montresor’s revengeful point of view thus intensifying the effect of moral shock and horror. Poe forces the reader to look into the inner motives and what drives the actions of a murderer’s mind. Montresor only seeks one thing out of the whole storyline, that is revenge. It drives the actions of Montresor and it is the only thing he cares about. He is beyond the point of reasoning but also it is impossible for anyone else to help figure out an alternate ending simply because Montresor does not allow anyone other than the reader to know about his thoughts. The moral compass is then left to the reader because Montresor does not possess one. The main character’s attitude towards Fortunato is only revealed to the reader as it is almost impossible to follow the narrator’s actions and dialogue within the story to explain his motive. The usage of dramatic and verbal irony contribute to the reader’s knowledge of being the only one aware of the narrator’s hidden agenda. His motive only becomes clear to the audience and the characters at the end of the story.

In the beginning of The Cask of Amontillado, the narrator begins with his direct feelings towards Fortunato. Explaining how Fortunato insulted his name and he “would make him pay for this.” In a twisted way to support his family motto, “Nemo me impune lacessit” meaning “no one assails me with impunity”. If we look at The Cask of Amontillado: A Case for Defense it points out that “a particular detail in the motto is worth noting is that it speaks not of “us” but of me.” Which if the reader thinks closely if Montresor was attempting to protect his family name the revenge he is seeking wouldn’t seem so personal. Looking closely at the family armor we see there is a foot with a serpent wrapped around it with it’s fangs sunk into it. Analytically the reader can relate the armor to the way Montresor feels about Fortunato, he might feel as if Fortunato is the serpent who has insulted and deceived him enough and he must get rid of the problem. On the other hand, Fortunato could easily be the serpent also, sinking his fangs into the Achilles’ heel of Fortunato. We also note that Poe has no intentions for making the reader sympathize with Montresor because he has been wronged by Fortunato. But rather Poe seeks to evoke judgement towards Montresor. The reader is only aware of the insults on his name, not the other things Fortunato might’ve done. Thus making the reader aware that Montresor is an unreliable narrator, he also seems to be a the narrator tends to hold grudges and exaggerate a little more than usual. Even though the narrator has clear motives, he still acts rather impulsively. Montresor does not seem to be fully aware the true consequences of his actions, and not strictly the physical consequences. This reflects a possible insight into the way many people might have thought during that time period. Montresor then continues to explain that “I must not suffer as a result of my revenge. A wrong is not made right in that matter.” Thus his motive is now clear, but only to the reader. The usage of dramatic irony becomes effective as the reader is now forced to be an accomplice in the revengeful death of Fortunato. No one else is involved in Montresor’s elaborate plan for revenge. His mind was set on the murder of Fortunato that no one could convince him otherwise. The Cask of Amontillado: A Case for the Defense points out that “we may still ask how he can relish his retaliation and why he need inflict the unnecessary cruelty of death” which is a valid point. It is vital to address what drove Montresor to want to kill Fortunato other than the insults it’s unclear if there might be a second motive or if Montresor is just a psychopathic murderer. The setting of the story is Italy during a time of celebration. The carnival that is taking place gives Montresor the opportunity to appear in disguise and to lure his companion, Fortunato, away from the celebration of life. Ironically, as the carnival celebrates life and happiness Fortunato is aware of his death that is to follow that night.

When Fortunato and Montresor finally meet later night has fallen and it also creates an airy and dark feeling that the reader is connecting to the death of Fortunato. We also are informed that if Fortunato wasn’t aware of Montresor’s feelings towards him because Montresor completely masked his true feelings about Fortunato. Here Poe uses verbal irony within the dialogue between Montresor and Fortunato, making the reader aware of the deceit that is taking place. Also we see the narrator using the trust Fortunato had placed in him to complete his vengeful task. Montresor uses Fortunato’s love for wine to lure him away from the safety of his grasp. Fortunato prided himself on being a connoisseur of fine wine. Using his knowledge of wines he uses it against Montresor to complete his revenge. In a sense, Montresor located Fortunato’s Achilles’ heel, his weakness. Making Montresor as deceitful as the serpent wrapped around the foot in his family armor. He was aware that if Fortunato was too drunk to be coherent with the environment around him making his plan easier to execute. As we follow the storyline the usage of dialogue between the two characters is friendly, if the reader wasn’t already aware of the feelings of Montresor and his current motive than it would be impossible to explain why Fortunato is led to his death. According to The Ironic Double in Poe’s Cask of Amontillado “Fortunato is broadly drawn as a character entirely befitting his carnival motley and clownish bells. He appears as the open, gullible extrovert, an innocent possessed of that same ignorant vanity that caused the original fall from grace.” Meaning that Fortunato’s appearance as a fool only emphasizing how the reader actually see him because of his obvious mindset. He seems to be completely unaware that his death is soon to follow. Making him an even bigger fool to the reader. We also see that Fortunato’s trust was placed in the wrong place rather. Fortunato trust Montresor enough to drink past his own personal limits because the assumption is made that Montresor will take care of him.

After the characters exchange words over the cask of Amontillado, the narrator then leads Fortunato to the catacombs where it is kept. The setting then is switched from an open, free area to a confined, closed space as the move farther and farther away from freedom. We can see as the story progresses Montresor’s façade he has on display as he continuously gives Fortunato more and more wine. The most ironic thing about the dialogue is that many times Fortunato takes a drink for the dead while Montresor drinks to the hopes of Fortunato’s long life. Ironically the narrator and the reader are both aware that Fortunato is not going to be alive for much longer. As the foreshadowing of the bones throughout the catacombs is an indirect explanation of what is soon going to be Fortunato’s fate. Again only the reader picks up on the airy feeling of death as the character is totally obvious to his fate. Edgar Allan Poe plays on the fear of being buried alive to make the scene leading up to the death of Montresor exceedingly long and draw out on purpose. Thus pulling the feeling of fear out of the reader’s mind. As Montresor locks Fortunato into the wall he offers Fortunato another opportunity to leave. Montresor and the reader are now fully aware of what is about to come of Fortunato. Fortunato although is too drunk to realize he is about to have his fate sealed. We follow the steps Montresor follows in order to begin the slow and painful death of Fortunato. This makes the story more interesting and creates even more suspense as the motive is very clear now. As Montresor begins to lay the stones into place we see that Fortunato is becoming aware that he is trapped. He pulls and shakes at the chains while Montresor continues to plaster the stones together. Fortunato cries out that “this is a very good joke.” He still seems unaware that Montresor is no longer is friend and he is about to be left for death. Montresor continues to ploy with the idea of drinking the Amontillado, the same reason they were down there to begin with. The dialogue almost no longer feels friendly and it now has a dark feeling to it. Fortunato cried out one more time to Montresor, aware that Montresor might no longer be his friend and the motive of his death is now clear to everyone.

Although the narrator is now free from Fortunato and his revenge has been fulfilled you can tell that he feels trapped mentally with Fortunato because he felt compelled to tell the story about Fortunato’s death. His mind is trapped within the catacombs with Fortunato. The reader is then left to analyze whether or not Montresor might feel some form of guilt. His motive and actions only were available to the reader thus making the reader an accessory to his mind. We also are forced to acknowledge both the death of Fortunato and the mental and moral death of Montresor. Committing the act of murder emphasizing the corrupt nature that is the mind of Montresor. The Cask of Amontillado allows the reader to envision such a gruesome death. Poe’s story coincides with a historical period in which attempts were made both to protect individuals from premature burial and society from judicial acts of public torture that were formerly sanctioned as rites of purification. (Platizky2) It triggers the human desire about the unknown and the curiosity of being buried alive. Poe draws out the death making it long and painful process, playing on the concept that a short and quick death is much better than a long and painful death that Fortunato experienced.

Although Montresor does indeed murder Fortunato, he never really makes clear to him why he is doing it. Moreover, the fact that fifty years later he confesses his crime, perhaps to a priest, might mean that he has been punished by guilt all this time. The question left in the reader’s mind is: If Montresor is represented by the foot crushing out the life of the serpent Fortunato, then are the fangs of Fortunato still embedded in Montresor’s heel? If so, it might be said that Fortunato fulfills Montresor’s criteria for revenge more perfectly than Montresor himself does.

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