How did Fortunato insult Montresor in "The Cask of Amontillado"?

It is never known for sure how, or even if, Fortunato insulted Montresor in “The Cask of Amontillado.” All the reader knows is that Montresor claims to have suffered a “thousand injuries” at the hands of Fortunato. If true, it is likely that Fortunato has now insulted Montresor and his family name.

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We never learn what, specifically, the "thousand injuries" Montresor refers to initially are. However, we do see Fortunato insult Montresor in the story itself, in more or less obvious ways.

When Montresor first happens upon Fortunato, he explains that he has purchased a large quantity of Amontillado, a Spanish wine, and he expresses his doubts that it is actually Amontillado. Rather than say, for example, "Oh, dear, my friend! Let's figure it out together," or something of this nature, Fortunato says,

How?" [...]. Amontillado? A pipe? Impossible! And in the middle of the carnival!

Fortunato is immediately dismissive. Montresor could likely see this as an insult to himself, as though his expertise and connoisseurship of wine is so negligible to Fortunato as to be completely discounted. Fortunato states, further, "You have been imposed upon," as if utterly dismissing the doubts Montresor has already expressed, further implying that Montresor has been duped.

As the men walk through the vaults, Montresor expresses concern for Fortunato's health. His guest keeps coughing and stumbling and is clearly not very well, but Fortunato again dismisses Montresor, saying,

Enough, [...] the cough is a mere nothing; it will not kill me. I shall not die of a cough.

This is rather rude of Fortunato, considering how Montresor must appear: as a concerned friend who wants to protect him. Fortunato speaks to Montresor as though Fortunato believes himself to be superior—more knowledgeable, more respectable, and so on—and this could be considered insulting.

Later, Fortunato makes an effort to identity Montresor as one who is "not of the brotherhood" of the masons. This seems to be yet another way in which he hopes to insult Montresor and to prove his own importance and superiority.

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As this story opens, Montresor indicates that Fortunato has inflicted a "thousand injuries" upon him and that Fortunato's injuries eventually "ventured upon insult." Interestingly, Montresor never clearly identifies how Fortunato has "injured" or "insulted" him, and that is compelling evidence toward examining Montresor as an unreliable narrator. Montresor needs his audience to believe that he has sufficient reasoning for murdering Fortunato. However, there are several conflicting pieces of evidence that prevent readers from fully accepting his story, and a lack of clear motive contributes to a sense of rational discord.

A man driven to murder is typically much more specific regarding his grievances. Montresor is sure to point out Fortunato's pride and intentionally uses his foe's pride as a means of luring him to his death. It's possible that Fortunato has insulted Montresor's family, which would have been an egregious error, as Montresor has a great sense of family pride. He uses his own family motto as a reminder of his family's strength and unity. Nemo me impune lacessit translates to "no one injures me with impunity."

For undisclosed reasons, Montresor feels that he—and perhaps his entire family—has been injured because of Fortunato. This directly violates his family motto, and he exacts a revenge upon his perceived enemy.

Fortunato seems blissfully unaware of any "insult" he has inflicted upon Montresor. His interactions toward Montresor reflect an easy sense of cordial camaraderie, which serves as a sort of warning in the story. As it turns out, you never know when you have unintentionally insulted a madman.

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As Montresor is one of Poe's many unreliable narrators, his words cannot be taken at face value. So when he claims to have suffered a “thousand injuries” at the hands of Fortunato, we need to be on our guard. The fact that he never specifies the nature of these alleged injuries should make us all the more wary.

When Montresor refers to a thousand injuries, he means insults or slights to his honor, not physical injuries. A proud aristocrat, Montresor jealously guards his family name and doesn't take kindly to anyone insulting it in any way, even it's a fellow member of the upper-classes, like Fortunato.

If Montresor is telling the truth, then it's likely that Fortunato said something to offend his honor or that of his family. The precise nature of these alleged insults is never spelled out, which makes Montresor's brutal revenge all the more shocking.

Surely, we might think, no insult, no matter how unpleasant, is sufficient reason to hole someone alive inside a wall. But Montresor clearly doesn't feel that way. For him, the “thousand injuries” that Fortunato is alleged to have done him provide ample justification for the ruthless act of vengeance he exacts upon his sworn enemy.

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Fortunato did not do anything to insult Montresor.

There is no specific insult to Montresor mentioned, but the way that Montresor describes Fortunato’s insult makes it seem like it was either very slight or nonexistent.

The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult I vowed revenge. You, who so well know the nature of my soul, will not suppose, however, that gave utterance to a threat. At length I would be avenged …

Fortunato clearly has no idea what he is doing to annoy Montresor.  Montresor is convinced that Fortunato has done him horrible wrongs, but these are all in his head.  Montresor is not in his right mind, and so he has imagined that Fortunato has insulted him. 

You can tell that Fortunato isn’t aware that Montresor considers him an enemy by the way he greets him.

It was about dusk, one evening during the supreme madness of the carnival season, that I encountered my friend. He accosted me with excessive warmth, for he had been drinking much. … I was so pleased to see him that I thought I should never have done wringing his hand.

Yes, Fortunato has been drinking and so his judgement might be impaired, but why would he be so happy to see Montresor if he spent so much time insulting him?  Why would Montresor be happy to see him?  Actually, Montresor is happy to see him because he has been planning his murder.  It makes no sense though, that if Fortunato was really an enemy and had really done all of these horrible wrongs to Montresor that he would so willingly go with him.

The insults, or the thousand injuries, are all in Montresor's head.  They are the product of a delusional mind.  Montresor is a madman, and while madmen might make entertaining narrators, they do not make reliable ones.  They do, however, make excellent murderers.  Montresor carefully plots Fortunato's murder because he is convinced he has done him some horrible wrong.


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