Could you clarify for me how Edgar Allen Poe develops the character of Montresor over the course of his short story "The Cask of Amontillado?" What is the reader's dominant impression of the...
Could you clarify for me how Edgar Allen Poe develops the character of Montresor over the course of his short story "The Cask of Amontillado?" What is the reader's dominant impression of the character?
Although the character of Montresor in Edgar Allen Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado" does not really change over the duration of the story, we do discover more details about him as we progress.
The story is written in the form of an address to an audience only referred to as "you." Some critics have suggested that this might be a final confession the Montresor is making to a priest before dying, a hypothesis supported by Montresor's statement that the listener "knows his soul".
The story opens with Montresor declaring the reasons for his seeking vengeance:
THE thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could; but when he ventured upon insult, I vowed revenge.
Our first question about his character as readers is the degree to which we should believe that the vengeance is justified. Montresor reveals:
It must be understood, that neither by word nor deed had I given Fortunato cause to doubt my good will. I continued, as was my wont, to smile in his face, and he did not perceive that my smile now was at the thought of his immolation.
This revelation of his hypocrisy makes us as readers increasingly wary of Montresor; he begins to seem less a victim and more an evil person. As Montresor walks with his victim Fortunato, plying him with wine and flattering him to lull him into complacency, our sense of Montresor's duplicity strengthens. In the final scene, in which Montresor walls Fortunato up alive in a tomb, mocking him and seeming to delight in his agony, we are led to conclude that it is unlikely that the vengeance was justified by any real sequence of events (insults or injuries). Fortunato, who other than showing a certain weakness for wine and pride in his own palette seems a bit of a cipher, was simply a victim of the sadistic malevolence of Montresor.