Think about whether or not Montresor is an unreliable narrator in "The Cask of Amontillado." Do any details suggest that he might have imagined “the thousand injuries” and the insult—or even the whole story? Can you find evidence in the story to support Montresor’s claim that Fortunato did in fact injure and insult him? To support your answers, consider Montresor’s actions, statements, and voice.

Expert Answers

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I don't think Montresor is as unreliable as he could be.  He is a murderer and allows his pride to rule him, certainly, but I don't think he is mentally unstable beyond his pride.  Montresor says that Fortunato's weak point is his pride, which is ironic because it also seems to be his own, and he does provide evidence to support this.  For one, Fortunato is too proud to miss an opportunity to prove Montresor wrong.  For all Fortunato knows, Montresor is quite willing to find the other wine expert in town, Luchesi, but Fortunato will not hear of it.  He asks, "Amontillado?  A pipe?  Impossible!  And in the middle of the carnival!"  Then, he says that "Luchesi cannot tell Amontillado from Sherry."  Later, he even calls Luchesi "an ignoramus."  In other words, he is certain that Montresor has overpaid for the wine, and he feels himself to be a far superior judge of wine to Luchesi as well.  If he weren't so proud and so eager to prove that Montresor has been played for a fool, he would have remained safely above ground.  As is, he is willing to compromise his own health in order to satisfy his pride.  

Later, when the two men are within the Montresor family vaults, below ground, Fortunato

laughed and threw [an empty] bottle upwards with a gesticulation [Montresor] did not understand. . . .  He repeated the movement.  "You do not comprehend?" he asked.  "Not I," [Montresor] replied.  "Then you are not of the brotherhood."  "Yes, yes," [Montresor] said, "yes, yes." [And Fortunato declared,] "You? Impossible!  A mason?"

Fortunato even demands a sign that Montresor is a member of this elite organization.  In other words, then, Fortunato attempts to reassert his superior social standing by referencing his membership in this sacred brotherhood and by pointing out that Montresor is not a part of the club.  It seems designed not to see if Montresor really is a member but rather to make Montresor feel less important than Fortunato.

Therefore, Montresor does provide some proof of Fortunato's terrible pride (he is willing to sacrifice his health to prove Montresor wrong), as well as Fortunato's intent to insult him (by rubbing his nose in the fact that Fortunato is a mason and Montresor is not).  This certainly doesn't provide a good reason to murder someone, but there is some indication that it isn't all in Montresor's imagination.

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Montresor is an unreliable narrator, yes, because he is clearly mentally unstable.  He cannot be trusted.  In addition, there is no evidence that Forunato did, in fact, insult or do anything of great harm to Montresor at all in the story.  Poe provides no details.  Because the narrator is unreliable, we cannot trust him when he says that Fortunato has wronged him.  We do not know if this is true at all.  EVen if Montresor HAD provided evidence, we still could not trust him because he is an unreliable narrator.  For all we know, he could be making it up.  It does not take long to look for evidence to support the fact that Montresor cannot be trusted and is unreliable because of his murderous plot and because he is emotionless and remorseless for what he is doing.  He has no regrets and is happy with his plans.

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