Crazy or not?I would like to hear various opinions about the sanity or lack thereof of Montressor. 

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litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I tell my students when we compare this story to "The Tell-tale Heart" that the narrator of "Heart" is a psychopath because he sees and hears things, while Montesor is a sociopath because he feels no emotion.  Now you could argue that he does feel sympathy, but that's open to interpretation.

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Crazy people rarely recognize their own madness, and that's true, I think, for Montressor.  While his plan is clear and well executed, his motivations are questionable.  I, too, ask why Fortunato displays no apparent understanding as to why Montressor is doing this to him.  Literally, no clue--and not just because he's has too much to drink.  This makes me wonder what those "thousand injuries" were and what might have been the final insult which caused this plot for revenge.  If his motivation is questionable, so is his sanity, it seems to me.

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Mad mad mad mad! I think personally there are enough clues to suggest that Montresor is clearly insane, but that he keeps it "locked up" in the same way that he shuts Fortunato in as a symbol of his hidden insanity. So much of Poe's writing exposes the "darkness" and "insanity" within us all, and thus I think this is another example. Note the setting as well - carnival, a time when we lose our inhibitions and let it all hang lose. Thus it becomes an entirely appropriate time for Montresor to commit his crime and reveal - to us anyway - who he really is. Note too the trust that Fortunato has in Montresor - if Fortunato really had insulted him so much I doubt somehow that he would have headed down into the catacombs with such alacrity.

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clane | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

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I wonder when reading the story if it is even true because Montresor is such an unreliable narrator. I think that his entire plot is genius and it is in fact the perfect murder, but I wonder whether the idea and all its underpinnings aren't just simply in his mind and he never actually carried out the plot the way he describes in the story. I think Poe wrote him so unreliable to leave that question in our minds- did he actually do it or was he imagining doing it and telling us the story as if he had. Hmmm- something to think about. 

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sagetrieb | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

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Perhaps someone should send this off as a plot for Law and Order?  A defendant must agree to plea to insanity, mustn't he?  This cannot be imposed upon him against his will, if I recall, even if his attorney recommends it and psychiatrists suggests through their tests that the guy does seem to have a distorted view of reality.  I'm curious: what would be his diagnosis?  paranoid schizophrenia?  Doesn't seem so.  Some sort of megalomania?  I don't know if that is even a true medical diagnosis. Is Montressor even psychotic?  I agree, insanity and evil do not line up particularly neatly, a view which a study of political tyranny would probably support.

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gbeatty | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Ooh, good topic. It's a tough one because he's clearly thought things through, has a plan, and is intelligent and has his wits about him. I don't think a jury would buy an insanity plea because his crime is so well thought out and planned. 

That said, I think he is insane, he's allowed himself to be totally and wholly consumed by his (seemingly totally irrational) anger. His need for revenge outweighs everything else, which to me is a sign of insanity.  

Blazedale wrote, "I don't think a jury would buy an insanity plea because his crime is so well thought out and planned."

 A good point. He certainly seems to bring rational planning and a methodical approach to this crime.

However, the question of sanity in a legal context can hinge in part on whether or not the person in question understands the moral import of his or her actions, and how tied into the larger reality he or she is.

In this case, Montressor has a standard of good and evil, but it is highly personal. He also dwells on morbid subjects (like walled up guys) for years, making him markedly obsessive.

So...he's definitely disturbed. Insanity and evil, though, don't always parse clearly.

Greg

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alexb2 | eNotes Employee

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Ooh, good topic. It's a tough one because he's clearly thought things through, has a plan, and is intelligent and has his wits about him. I don't think a jury would buy an insanity plea because his crime is so well thought out and planned. 

That said, I think he is insane, he's allowed himself to be totally and wholly consumed by his (seemingly totally irrational) anger. His need for revenge outweighs everything else, which to me is a sign of insanity.  

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skoolgirl | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

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yes he's really clever and he planned everything before like there was no one at his place when he arrived w/ F.

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