"We are either kings or pawns of men." How does this quote hold true in the story, "The Cask of Amontillado"? What part does status play in the deception?  I don't really get what the QUESTIONS...

"We are either kings or pawns of men." How does this quote hold true in the story, "The Cask of Amontillado"? What part does status play in the deception? 

I don't really get what the QUESTIONS are asking me. Can you help me break it down? 

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William Delaney | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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There is obviously a big difference in status between Montresor and Fortunato. Fortunato has superior financial and social status. Poe makes a point of establishing that Montresor is of French rather than Italian origin. Montresor reveals this when he makes the following extremely important statement:

Few Italians have the true virtuoso spirit. For the most part their enthusiasm is adopted to suit the time and opportunity to practice imposture upon the British and Austrian millionaires. In painting and gemmary, Fortunato, like his countrymen, was a quack, but in the matter of old wines he was sincere.

Montresor's family may have lived in Venice for centuries, but he obviously does not consider himself Italian. His name is French. He uses many French words in his narrative and provides Fortunato with two different kinds of French wine. Fortunato is from an old Italian family, which gives him a great advantage over Montresor in the business dealings by which the above quote strongly suggests both men earn their incomes. The quote also suggests the nature of the "thousand injuries" Montresor has suffered. Fortunato has beaten Montresor out of many lucrative deals because he has more money and because he has much better connections with the old Venetian families who need to sell off paintings, antiques, statues, and jewelry to survive in this dying city.

Montresor defines the difference in their status in the following dialogue:

"Come," I said with decision, "we will go back; your health is precious. You are rich, respected, admired, beloved, you are happy as once I was. You are a man to be missed. For me it is no matter."

It is because of his lower status that Montresor is able to practice the deception alluded to in your question. It is also because of his lower status that Montresor has suffered a thousand injuries, which probably include being socially snubbed by Fortunato's family. He pretends to be humble and inferior. He pretends to believe that Fortunato's judgment of wine is far superior to his own. Montresor knows full well that Fortunato is only coming to taste his nonexistent Amontillado because he intends to injure him one more time.

Fortunato believes that Montresor bought only one cask because he wasn't sure it was genuine. The fact that he got a "bargain" is one of the reasons he is worried. No doubt Montresor plans to buy more (Fortunato thinks!) if he is assured of its quality. But Fortunato, as Montresor knows, plans to sample the wine and judge it to be ordinary sherry--regardless of whether it is ordinary sherry or true Amontillado. Assuming it is genuine, Fortunato will discourage Montresor from buying more and prevent him from seeking an opinion from Luchesi. Then Fortunato will seek out the newly arrived Spanish ship laden with casks of Amontillado and buy up the entire cargo.

Fortunato is planning to deceive Montresor, and at the same time Montresor is deceiving him. The Amontillado doesn't even exist. If it did, neither man would be interested in buying a "pipe" of 126 gallons for private consumption; they would both be interesting in obtaining a valuable commodity for resale. Amontillado in oak casks will keep for a hundred years and only improve with age. Fortunato is thinking  he can bottle the wine and sell it off in small quantities at his leisure. Because of Montresor's inferior status and obsequious flattery, Fortunato is easily made to believe that this naive Frenchman can be imposed upon very easily.


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