Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado,” is a sinister tale of revenge. Betrayal and retaliation are horrific ways to express anger toward friends, but what happens when they lead to a painful death? “I must not only punish, but punish with impunity” (Poe 328). This is how Montresor explained the importance of killing his friend Fortunato for his actions. Montresor was committed on payback for the insults Fortunato has brought upon his name. “The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult I vowed revenge” (Poe 329). Christopher Wanamaker, of Owlcation.com, says “The motives behind the main character’s vengeful actions are, in his mind, very good ones. Even with clear motives, the leading character is still quick to think. I’m almost certain that he does not know the true consequences of his actions. He is too quick to act, and he acts with anger” (Par. 3). The lessons learned from this chilling tale is to be mindful of others’ emotions, be attentive of people’s motives, and revenge is punishable.
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Montresor has a master plan to seek Fortunato and betray him through reverse psychology. “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” (Poe 329). Montresor knew of Fortunato’s knowledge on wine, and wanted to lure Fortunato to his home to “taste” what is called Amontillado.
During a carnival festival, Montresor addressed his friend Fortunato, who he noticed would be easier to manipulate because he was drinking. Montresor told him a fictional story about buying a cask of Amontillado, but wasn’t sure if it was authentic. Montresor didn’t seek advice by Fortunato because he couldn’t be found. Fortunato, trusting in Montresor, was intrigued. Upon the departure of the carnival, Montressor continuously states he could ask Luchresi to taste the Amontillado to insult Fortunato’s intelligence. “As you are engaged, I am on my way to Luchresi. If anyone has a critical turn it is he. He will tell me-” (Poe 330). Montresor used his mind strategy to try to get Fortunato to follow him to his home.
Fortunato began to get defensive and insisted he help his friend Montresor with the cask of Amontillado. Montresor noticed a sickness within his friend and pretended to be compassionate to make it seem like nothing uncanny was going on. “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” (Poe 330). Fortunato wouldn’t take no as an answer. Montresor’s manipulation worked.
As part of the plan for revenge, Montresor evacuated all people out of his home before leaving for the carnival. In efforts to make it easier for murder. “There were no attendants at home; they had absconded to make merry in honor of the time. I had told them that I should not return until the morning, and had given them explicit orders not to stir from the house” (Poe 330). Montresor guided Fortunato throughout the vaults, deep enough to reach the catacombs of the Montresors.
Montresor notices how sick Fortunato is getting from the nitre and again poses to be caring. “Come,” I said, with decision, “we will go back; your health is precious. You are rich, respected, admired, beloved; you are happy, as I once 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 Luchresi-” (Poe 331). Montresor’s reversed psychology method works once again and Fortunato will not back down to Luchresi. Ironically Fortunato replies, “Enough,” he said; “the cough is a mere nothing; it will not kill me. I shall not die of a cough” (Poe 331). Fortunato is determined to help his friend.
Continuing to seem genuine, Montresor provides Fortunato with some Médoc to help his cough throughout the hunt. It is in Montresor’s plan to keep him intoxicated. Fortunato, trusting his friend, asks for more wine. As they continued, they arrived at a deep crypt. Fortunato stopped as if he was unsure and kept moving as Montresor threatened him with Luchresi again. “It was vain that Fortunato, uplifting his dull torch, endeavored to pry into the depth of the recess. Its termination the feeble light did not enable us to see. “Proceed,” I said; “herein is the Amontillado. As for Luchresi-” “He is ignoramus,” interrupted my friend, as he stepped unsteadily forward, while I followed him immediately at his heels” (Poe 332). Montresor continued to insult him with the knowledge of Luchresi to keep him afoot.
Before Fortunato was aware his friend had betrayed him, Montresor had him chained and locked up, and immediately began to build a wall up over the niche while Fortunato was sobering up. “I had scarcely laid the first tier of the masonry when I discovered that the intoxication I had of this was a low moaning cry from the depth of the recess. It was not the cry of a drunken man” (Poe 333). As Montresor added tiers to the wall he felt brief regret for what he had done. “A succession of loud and shrill screams, bursting suddenly from the throat of the chained form, seemed to thrust me violently back. For a brief moment I hesitated, I trembled. Unsheathing my rapier, I began to grope with it about the recess; but the thought of an instant reassured me” (Poe 333). Montresor felt disturbed about what he was doing, but soon realized it had a purpose.
Hours of hard labor had gone by for one last stone to be added. Fortunato jokingly, laughed and thought Montresor was joking around by his punishment. “For the love of god, Montressor!” (Poe 333). Montresor heard silence after the call for help and tried replying. “No answer still. I thrust my torch through the remaining aperture and let it fall within. There came forth in return only a jingling of the bells. My heart grew sick on account of the dampness of the catacombs” (Poe 334). Montresor’s awareness of the discipline that took place was too late.
Although “The Cask of Amontillado,” was written in the 1800’s the lessons taught can be valuable for years to come. Although we don’t know the severity of the insults Fortunato used, it was enough to make Montresor react in a gruesome manner. Be mindful of words used to others because it can cause affliction. Be mindful of who is being trusted. Montresor pretended to care for Fortunato, but really set him up for his own death. Also, revenge can cause guilt. So maybe the best revenge is not doing anything.
Poe, Edgar A. “The Cask of Amontillado.” Compact Literature: Reading, Reacting, Writing, edited by Laurie G Kirszner and Stephen R Mandell, 9th ed., Cengage, 2019, pp. 338-334
Wanamaker, Christopher. “An Analysis of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado.” Owlcation, 30 May 2019, https://owlcation.com/humanities/An-Analysis-of-Edgar-Allen-Poes-The-Cask-of-Amontillado
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