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In “The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allan Poe, Montresor proves to be a master manipulator. Everyone in the story comes under the spell of Montresor including the reader. With succinct planning, Montresor achieves the perfect crime.
The setting of the story is during the carnival season in Italy sometime in the eighteen century. The narration is first person point of view with Montresor, the protagonist, as the narrator.
From the first words of the story, the reader is aware that Montresor has plans for Fortunato. Fortunato has wronged Montresor in many ways; however, when he insulted him, Montresor decided to seek revenge.
Montresor selects a time to commit a crime when everyone will be dressed in a costume. The citizens will be drinking and celebrating. Montresor lives in a large house with a catacomb beneath it. The catacombs were used as tombs for the bodies of family members. This is where the crime will be committed.
His extensive plans include using reverse psychology with his servants. He tells them to absolutely not attend the carnival knowing that this will assure that they will slip away from the house.
In this time period, European families had a coat of arms and a motto to represent the philosophy of the family. Montresor’s motto stated: Punish with impunity. This meant that revenge may be gained as long as no one knows about it.This was exactly what Montresor intended. He would gain his revenge from Fortunato without being punished for his crime.
Montresor encounters Fortunato who is dressed like a court jester. He asks Fortunato to taste some wine to see if it is the rare “amontillado.” Fortunato had already been drinking; he is ready to go with Montresor to taste the wine.
The men go to the catacombs and proceed to find the wine. They pass through the cool, humid tunnel which is lined with skeletons and bones. There were also barrels and bottles of wine placed along the way.
Fortunato has a coughing spell as the walk through the tunnel. Montresor gives Fortunato some wine to relieve the cough. Fortunato states:
The cough is a mere nothing: it will not kill me. I shall not die of a cough.
Montresor responds: ‘True-true.’
When they arrive at the end of the tunnel, Montresor is able to shackle Fortunato to the wall with little trouble. Montresor pulls out a trowel and begins to wall up the place where Fortunato sits recovering from his shock. He begs and pleads with Montresor not to do this to him.
Montresor continues to place brick after brick to seal off Fortunato. When he comes to the last brick, Montresor has a twinge of conscience. He hears nothing from Fortunato except the shaking of the bells on his jester’s cap. He pushes in the brick.
In the end of the story, the reader learns that fifty years have passed. The body has never been discovered. This is the first time Montresor has mentioned the crime. His final words are In pace requiescat! Rest in peace!
The story is full of irony. Fortunato’s name implies good fortune although this not what happens to him.
Montresor’s family motto takes on new meaning when it is learned that the crime has never been discovered.
The costume of Fortunato would indicate a fun and happy time. Yet, it becomes his shroud.
Many critics have written that this is an exemplary short story in plot, characters, dialogue, and literary devices.
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