Edgar Allan Poe’s short story, The Cask of Amontillado, is a confession of a murder that occurred 50 years prior, whereby the narrator was never caught or tried despite his wrongdoing. It tells of one man’s hatred against an unsuspecting individual, whom the narrator has been plotting to kill because of alleged insults the individual made towards him (Baraban 47). All throughout the story, it was never revealed what these remarks were, but which apparently wounded the narrator’s ego so much that he wanted to exact vengeance on the person. Betrayal is also a central theme in the story as the narrator lured the trusting individual to check on a new batch of Amontillado, which was actually bait just so he could fulfill his evil plans. The concept of death dangles from the beginning of the story until the end, which is not only about the death of one of the lead characters, but of the nobleman’s family members. It shows how retribution could lead to vengeance with death as the final option. The story’s two central characters depict contrasting attributes that contribute to the themes of revenge, betrayal, imprudence, and death.
Montresor is the narrator in the story. He has harbored ill feelings towards Fortunato for a long time already, although showing only his good side to him. He never expounded on reasons for his dislike of Fortunato except to say that he “mortally insulted” him. Montresor comes out as a ruthless and cold-blooded murderer by the way he carried out his plans for vengeance. He played with Fortunato’s feelings by appealing to his (Fortunato’s) deep sense of pride of being a wine connoisseur. Informing Fortunato that he has a cask of Amontillado, he lured Fortunato into his death chamber, while ensuring that Fortunato becomes drunk along the way (“The Cask of Amontillado”). Considering that Montresor never mentioned the reasons for his anger towards Fortunato, readers cannot determine whether Fortunato’s manner of death is fair and justifiable. Thus, this aspect remains a mystery.
He appears to be psychopathic and obsessive because of his fixation on killing Fortunato for whatever misdeeds he has done to Montresor. Harboring the negative feelings for a long time ended with Montresor killing Fortunato and executing his plans himself. Born from a noble family, surely, Montresor has the means to hire someone to carry out his plans. And yet, he chose to do the deed himself to ensure that no one knows about the murder and that Fortunato, indeed, ends up dead. His insecurity comes out because he wanted the assurance of knowing and seeing Fortunato dead. Apart from killing Fortunato himself, Montresor wants to assert that he is in control and has the final word on his relationship with Fortunato (Fossemo).
Montresor also shows how unsympathetic of a character his is by ignoring Fortunato’s pleas for help. By burying Fortunato alive, his ruthlessness comes out because instead of allowing Fortunato die a fast and excruciating death either using a gun or a knife, he chose for Fortunato to die a slow and painful death until he loses his breath. With his actions, Montresor even seem to find joy and satisfaction in the fact that it was he who carried out his own plans (Gruesser).
Fortunato, on the other hand, is a playful and joyful individual who was unaware of the graveness of his actions towards Montresor. His free-spiritedness and openness with his thoughts are what made it easy for Montresor to manipulate and eventually, kill him. In the story, it was Fortunato’s seemingly simplemindedness and trusting nature that cost him his life.
Montresor, knowing that Fortunato prides himself with being a wine connoisseur, used this information to entice Fortunato to join him in their family’s wine cellar. Upon their meeting, Fortunato was already a bit drunk, which made it easier for Montresor. Fortunato may be considered addicted to wine and playing by this fact, Montresor even got Fortunato even more drunk on their way to the catacomb. This addiction, literal (fondness for wine) and figurative (thoughts of being the expert when it comes to wine) addiction, pushed him to his death.
Montresor knew how much Fortunato prides himself for being the authority when it comes to wine, thus, he kept on bringing up Luchesi’s name to further egg Fortunato to take on the bait. Luchesi is the other known wine connoisseur whom Fortunato considers as his rival. His self-confidence or greed further led him to his demise because he wanted to be the first to taste the Amontillado, as it could mean a level higher than his number one competitor. It could also be that even if Montresor does not mention or focus much on the Amontillado, just knowing that Luchesi is being considered to taste the Amontillado ahead of him, Fortunato, with his pride and greed, must have thought he should have the first hand on the wine.
As an individual, Fortunato seems to be a thoughtless person such that he does not appear to notice when he has offended someone with his actions and words. For instance, considering that he has known Montresor for a long time and they have had moments spent together, Fortunato never assumed or noticed Montresor’s negative feelings and ill-mannered conduct towards him. It took years before Montresor was able to carry out his plans despite maintaining a false friendship with Fortunato. This very much shows how much of an insensitive person he is.
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. 7 October 2023. <http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/1566552?uid=3738824&uid=2&uid=4&sid=21102743634773>.
Fossemo, Sandro, D. “Article: The Mysterious Revenge in the “Cask of Amontillado”.” Innsmouth Free Press. 2013. Web. 8 October 2013. <http://www.innsmouthfreepress.com/blog/?p=22136>.
Gruesser, John. “Poe’s The Cask of Amontillado.” N.d. Web. 8 October 2013. <http://ezproxy.northwestms.edu:2054/login.aspx?direct=true&db=lfh&AN=556032&site=lrc-live>.
“The Cask of Amontillado.” Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore. 2009. Web. 8 October 2013. <http://www.eapoe.org/works/reading/pt063r1.htm>.