illustration of Fortunato standing in motley behind a mostly completed brick wall with a skull superimposed on the wall where his face should be

The Cask of Amontillado

by Edgar Allan Poe

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Discuss the Montresor coat of arms and its symbolic meaning in "The Cask of Amontillado."

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In Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado,” Montresor discusses his family’s coat of arms. He describes the family crest as a large, human foot stepping on a snake against the backdrop of a blue field. The snake’s fangs are stuck in the heel of the foot.

Snakes have long been considered a symbol of betrayal, due largely to the role of the deceptive serpent in the book of Genesis. Montresor believes that Fortunato has wronged him, so we can assume that the snake represents Fortunato in Montresor’s view.

Montresor tells us that he cannot allow Fortunato’s insults and injuries to go unanswered. He is a proud man and his family motto, which means “No one provokes me with impunity,” suggests that the Montresors are a proud family and do not take kindly to insults. We can conclude that the foot in the Montresor coat of arms represents Montresor. He sees his revenge against Fortunato as the foot crushing the serpent.

It is ironic that Montresor believes Fortunato to be the deceptive snake when it is he himself who is being sneaky and deceptive by luring an intoxicated Fortunato to his death.

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