The two short stories "The Cask of the Amontillado" by Edgar Allan Poe and "Shooting an Elephant" by George Orwell depict psychological portraits of the protagonists’ criminal behavior. However, while both characters commit a crime, their motives, as well as the patterns of thinking and behavior are absolutely different.
Montresor, the protagonist of “The Cask of the Amontillado”, commits a murder as a revenge that is a result of his pride and jealousy to his victim Fortunato. Montresor is portrayed as a criminal, who is so absorbed with the revenge that he does not mention why exactly he retaliates. His mind seems truly evil, as his inner psychological conflicts and perception of the world lead him to murder. On the contrary, the protagonist of the “Shooting an Elephant” is a decent officer, who becomes the criminal under the psychological pressure of the crowd, as he is scared that people will turn against him if he does not kill the elephant. The force that causes his criminal behavior is mostly external and based on the environment and occasion, while the reasons behind Montesor’s crime are more internal and based on his intrinsic traits.
The thinking and behavior of two protagonists also varies. Montresor thoroughly plans a perfect murder by thinking over the tiniest details of the location, time and the murder method, while Orwell’s character does not plan a murder, but rather aims at preventing the crime. Montresor acts confidently, as he knows the victim well, and tricks him with the help of reverse psychology to follow his plan. On the contrary, Orwell’s character is not prepared to the murder and unable to shoot the elephant painlessly. He suffers of guilt when he sees the animal in agony and leaves the scene before the animal dies. He does not feel satisfaction, as Montresor does, but is ashamed that the society and colonialism have made him a person that is able to cruelly kill the animal.
Two stories show different pictures of criminal behavior and give insight in the mind of the person, who commits a crime. Comparison of two characters demonstrates that the reasons beyond the crimes and the behavior of a person depend on various factors both internal and external.
Orwell, George. Shooting an Elephant, and Other Essays. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1950. Web.
Poe, Edgar Allan. "The Cask of Amontillado." Tales of Mystery. London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1909. Web.