illustrated portrait of American author of gothic fiction Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe

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Are the victims in Poe's stories really deserving of empathy? Do we know them well?

Montresor may not be telling the truth and we never really get to know Fortunato, but Poe points us in the direction of empathy by showing how pitiless Montresor is.

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In "The Cask of Amontillado ," as with most of Poe's stories, the victim is presented through the eyes of an unreliable narrator. The only information we have about the unfortunate Fortunato is provided by the man who kills him, Montresor, and we can't be sure that he's telling...

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In "The Cask of Amontillado," as with most of Poe's stories, the victim is presented through the eyes of an unreliable narrator. The only information we have about the unfortunate Fortunato is provided by the man who kills him, Montresor, and we can't be sure that he's telling us the unvarnished truth. Montresor tells us that he is motivated to carry out his terrible revenge in response to " a thousand" unspecified injuries that Fortunato is alleged to have inflicted upon him. As he never tells us the precise nature of such injuries, it's difficult to sympathize with Montresor, especially given the gruesome nature of his revenge.

By the same token, we develop empathy for Fortunato because we don't know what, if anything, he's done to deserve such a hideous fate. If Montresor's description of what happened on that fateful day is in any way accurate, then at worst Fortunato comes across as a bit of a fool, appropriately dressed in the motley garb of a jester. He certainly doesn't come across as someone who deserves to be buried alive.

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