In the Edgar Allan Poe story "The Cask of Amontillado" what evidence on page four from shows how Poe builds suspense in the conversation between Montresor and Fortunato?

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shake99 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Edgar Allan Poe is the classic American master of suspense and horror. The story to which you are referring, “The Cask of Amontillado,” is frequently read and taught in American high schools. In your question you asked for evidence from page 4. Unfortunately, it is impossible to compare page numbers across different editions of the story, so I’ll give you several examples of how Poe builds suspense from different parts of the story.

Early in the story, Poe prepares the reader with the very first line, in the words of the narrator Montresor:

The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as best I could; but when he ventured upon insult, I vowed revenge.

The reader knows immediately that Montresor is planning to do something harmful to the character of Fortunato.

Then he gives the reader a hint of how he will take his revenge by pointing out a character trait of Fortunato’s that he can exploit: “He prided himself on his connoisseurship in wine.” Although this doesn’t sound like much, pride can often be manipulated. This is Montresor’s plan.

A little later, the Montresor and Fortunato converse, and the Montresor sets up Fortunato. He tells him that he has a “pipe of what passes for Amontillado.” This means he has a cask of a desirable wine called Amontillado. This is something that he knows will greatly interest Fortunato. Then he hooks him with the following line:

 As you are engaged, I am on my way to Luchesi. If anyone has a critical turn, it is he. He will tell me –

which is shortly followed by:

And yet some fools will have it that his taste is a match for your own.

So now the Montresor has enticed Fortunato with the promise of good wine and appealed to his pride by suggesting someone else can test the wine and determine its authenticity. He knows Fortunato will take the bait.

The conversation now takes on an ironic twist as Montresor pretends to try to convince Fortunato not to come to his vaults to taste the Amontillado. Fortunato, however, is too interested and insists on coming. The reader’s sense of suspense is heightened by this unexpected development, as Fortunato runs right into the Montresor’s trap.

Once they reach Montresor’s home and descend into the vaults, Fortunato begins to cough. Montresor suggests that they leave the vault (although he doesn’t really want to), but again Fortunato leads himself to his own destruction with the ironic statement,

I shall not die of a cough.

The reader and Montresor know that this is, in fact, true, because Montresor has something else in mind.

A little further on, Montresor again hints at Fortunato’s fate when he tells him his family motto in Latin:

Nemo me impune lacessit.

which means “nobody attacks me without punishment.” The irony here is that this is exactly the Montresor’s plan for Fortunato.

From here, the Montresor, leads him to the end of the vault, where he chains him to the wall and then bricks him in, covering him with a new wall. Fortunato only realizes what is happening when it is too late to do anything about it.

Read the study guide:
The Cask of Amontillado

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