In Edgar Allan Poe's short story "The Cask of the Amontillado," how are the protagonist and antagonist alike?

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vangoghfan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Montresor and Fortunato, the main characters in Edgar Allan Poe’s story “The Cask of Amontillado,” are often seen as strong opposites, partly because the latter is killed by the former.  However, the two characters do share some similarities, including the following:

  • Montresor claims that Fortunato insulted him. If this claim is correct, then neither man has much respect for the feelings of others. It’s important to remember, however, that everything we are told about Fortunato comes from the mouth of his enemy.
  • Both men are apparently prominent and wealthy citizens of their town.
  • Fortunato considers himself an expert about wines, and so, apparently, does Montressor, as this remark suggests:

He [that is, Fortunato] prided himself on his connoisseurship in wine. . . . In this respect I did not differ from him materially: I was skillful in the Italian vintages myself, and bought largely whenever I could.

  • When Montresor and Fortunato meet, Montresor says, “He accosted me with excessive warmth.” But then Fortunato comments,

I was so pleased to see him, that I thought I should never have done wringing his hand.

In other words, Montresor is just as happy to see Fortunato as Fortunato is happy to see Montresor (although their motives differ).

  • Montresor  allows himself to be led by Fortunato toward Montresor’s house:

Putting on a mask of black silk, and drawing a roquelaire closely about my person, I suffered him to hurry me to my palazzo.

Later, of course, it will be Montressor who will do the leading.

  • Both Montresor and Fortunato regard themselves highly. Fortunato boasts about his expertise in wine, while Montresor, at the beginning of the story, boasts about his ability exact vengeance.
  • Both assume that they are intellectually superior to others.  Montresor assumes this about Fortunato, and Fortunato assumes it about Luchesi, as when he remarks of Luchesi, “"He is an ignoramus.”
  • Fortunato seems terrified when he realizes that he is being sealed behind the wall, and even Montresor seems momentarily frightened:

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.

In short, despite their obvious differences, the two men do share some signficant traits in common.


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The Cask of Amontillado

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