“The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allan Poe

“The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allan Poe is an intimidating story about ideal revenge that is performed by the story’s narrator, Montresor. The story was first published in November 1846 (Britannica 1) and is set in carnival time in the unspecified Italian city. This short story is considered to be one of the best among Poe’s works and other literary pieces. What was the cause of the conflict between Fortunato and Montresor? Were there any consequences of Montresor’s crime? Is it possible to plan and perform ideal revenge? By telling this story, Poe passes a profound message about an attack to his readers and leaves them with the questions answer to which they should find by themselves.

At the beginning of the story, the main character and narrator, Montresor, says that Fortunato, his friend and enemy, numerously offended him and finally insulted him, which made him think about revenge. From the first paragraph, the reader might believe that Montresor is a brilliant and cruel man because he thoughtfully plans his revenge and wants “not only punish him but punish with impunity” (Poe 1). Montresor does not tell the exact nor the approximate words that Fortunato spoke to insult him. However, during their conversation in the wine vaults the reader gets a hint to find a reason for the revenge. Montresor says that “the Montresors, were a great and numerous family” (Poe 1) and Fortunato says that he forgot their coat of arms and motto. Throughout the plot, the reader observes that Montresor is an insecure man. During this conversation, the reader feels how he becomes ashamed of the fact that his family became less important. He also feels insulted by the fact that Fortunato does not know his family’s coat of arms and motto.

Next, Montresor’s important trait that the reader observes throughout the story is his in-depth knowledge of human psychology. While planning his revenge, Montresor wants to commit an attack while being unnoticed. Therefore, he wants his house servants to leave by themselves. Using reverse psychology, Montresor says to his servants that he will not return home until the morning and that no one should leave the house until this time. He mentions that “these orders were sufficient, I well knew, to insure their immediate disappearance, one and all, as soon as my back was turned” (Poe 1). This excerpt gives us an understanding that Montresor’s servants do not pay respect to him and that he is very well informed about it. This excerpt also describes Montresor as not a very rich man because he is not able to afford high-quality servants and pay them regularly. Therefore, his servants can do what they wish, knowing that he will not fire them, and even if he does, they will not care much.

Finally, when Montresor approaches Fortunato on the streets during the carnival, reader can see the verbal and non-verbal strategies to spark an interest in Fortunato and lure him to follow Montresor to his wine vaults. According to Baraban, carnival setting is crucial because “it is not simply a temporary substitution of normal order by chaos but its inversion” (54). First, his non-verbal action was to shake his hand and show him that he is pleased to see him. Montresor knew that Fortunato “prided himself on his connoisseurship in wine,” (Poe 1) and he also knew that it was his weak point. When Montresor met drunk Fortunato, he mentioned that he bought a pipe of the rare Amontillado, but he was unsure about its quality. Fortunato was very interested in satisfying Montresor’s doubts about the wine. Still, Montresor says that he will not interrupt him and will see Luchesi, another man who is believed to be an expert in wines. This is the exact moment when Fortunato felt a spirit of competition and wanted to defend his connoisseurship in wines.

Next, Fortunato and Montresor are on their way to Montresor’s house. Montresor’s primary strategy is to pretend that he cares about his illness and does not want Fortunato to follow him to the wine vault. He frequently asks Fortunato about his well-being and forces him to leave his house. “We are below the river’s bed. Come, we will go back before it is too late” (Poe 1), Montresor says, pretending that he wants to prevent Fortunato from deterioration of his condition. This helps to avoid Fortunato’s possible thoughts about the danger that can come from Montresor and keeps him in a friendly atmosphere.

To conclude, “The Cask of Amontillado” is a short story that delivers a message that even ideal revenge or crime cannot be performed without the consequences. Throughout the novel, Montresor carefully plans his revenge and successfully kills Fortunato without being noticed. However, in the process, he takes on a massive burden of guilt, which follows him for fifty years until he finally confesses a crime. Some readers may tell that Fortunato got what he deserved. Still, readers cannot make a thoughtful conclusion because the story is told from the perspective of the murderer and the real reason for his revenge. Finally, the central message of the story is the fact that the burden of guilt cannot be buried as quickly as the body can.

Works Cited

Baraban, Elena V. “The Motive for Murder in ‘The Cask of Amontillado’.” Short Story Criticism, edited by Jelena Krstovic, vol. 111, Gale, 2008. Gale Literature Resource Center, Web.

Benton, Richard P. “Poe’s ‘The Cask’ and the ‘White Webwork Which Gleams’.” Short Story Criticism, edited by Catherine C. DiMercurio, vol. 261, Gale, 2019. Gale Literature Resource Center, Web.

Poe, Edgar Allan. “The Cask of Amontillado.” Edgar Allan Poe Museum, 2020, Web.

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. “The Cask of Amontillado.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 2017, Web.

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