The Cask Of Amontillado Conflict

What are the conflicts of "The Cask of Amontillado"?

The main conflict in "The Cask of Amontillado" is that between Fortunato and his arch-nemesis Montresor. The conflict is resolved when Montresor kills Fortunato by walling him up alive inside the Montresor family catacombs.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

"The Cask of Amontillado" is a tale of extreme revenge in which a man dies in one of the most frightening ways that can be imagined. Given this premise, the story is surprisingly lacking in overt conflict. Fortunato goes willingly towards his death and does not protest or struggle until it is too late. Nor does there appear to be any internal conflict in Montresor, who does not question that the "thousand injuries of Fortunato" have merited this grisly death.

Given that the conflict between Montresor and Fortunato is mysterious and may be altogether the product of Montresor's imagination (since Fortunato seems blithely unaware of it), Montresor has to keep engineering conflicts throughout the story to override any doubts or suspicions Fortunato might otherwise have. This he does very skillfully, knowing Fortunato's weaknesses: his stubborn pride and his vanity about his knowledge of wine.

The first conflict Montresor sets up in this way involves Luchesi, a rival connoisseur of wine. Fortunato angrily dismisses the idea that Luchesi has a "critical turn" where wines are concerned and insists on accompanying Montresor to his vault. The next time Montresor sets up another conflict of this kind, he even adds Luchesi as a grace note at the end, to make quite sure that Fortunato will oppose him:

"Come," I said, with decision, "we will go back; your health is precious. You are rich, respected, admired, beloved; you are happy, as once I was. You are a man to be missed. For me it is no matter. We will go back; you will be ill, and I cannot be responsible. Besides, there is Luchesi—"

Montresor, therefore, creates conflicts along the way as they go through the vaults, to make Fortunato the most powerful advocate for his own destruction.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In the very first line of the story, Montresor tells us that Fortunato had hurt him a thousand times and that he, Montresor, had suffered quietly. But when he discovers that Fortunato has been mocking his family name, Montresor sets out to exact a terrible revenge on him. Montresor is determined to make Fortunato pay for his slights against the name of an "old and honored family." But he wants to do so in such a way that he'll literally get away with murder. To this end, he doesn't breathe a word about his wicked plot to another living soul.

Right at the outset, then, the main conflict in the story has been established: Montresor versus Fortunato. Montresor goes about resolving that conflict by having Fortunato killed. He does this by luring Fortunato down to the catacombs on the day of the carnival while everyone is out enjoying themselves. Playing on Fortunato's self-estimation that he is a connoisseur of fine wines, Montresor persuades his enemy to accompany him to the catacombs, where he is to sample a drop of three of the finest Amontillado.

Once he's done so, Montresor moves quickly to carry out his murder plot and walls the hapless Fortunato, wearing the costume of a court jester, alive in the Montresor family catacombs. The conflict has been resolved most firmly in Montresor's favor. At long last, he has his revenge.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

A conflict derives from a motivation. Whatever makes it difficult to fulfill the motivation is what provides the conflict. The driving motivation in this story is Montresor's desire for revenge. He must induce Fortunato to accompany him into his underground vaults. But this presents many difficulties because Montresor does not want to be suspected of the murder he intends to commit. Fortunato is dressed in a conspicuous costume and even has bells on his cap to attract more attention. The story is largely about the problems, or conflicts, Montresor has with getting his victim down below and chaining him to the wall. The conflict would be the same in any story in which a man wanted to commit a crime and not get caught and punished. I am remindeded of James Thurber's story "The Catbird Seat." It might be said that the confict is about man against man (Montresor versus Fortunato), but it might also be said that the confict is about man against men (Montresor against society). There are many "perfect crime" stories in which the protagonist gets caught. (Poe wrote several, including "The Telltale Heart.) "The Cask of Amontillado" is a "perfect crime" story in which the protagonist/perpetrator does not get caught.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The main conflict in the story is between Montresor and Fortunato. Montresor, our narrator, believes that Fortunato has "inflicted a thousand insults," upon him. It is because of these "insults", which are not named in the story, that Montresor begins to execute his plot for revenge. This conflict would be man versus man, but it is interesting because it seems that Montresor is the only one of the two who is aware of the conflict. Fortunato believes wholeheartedly that the two are friends.

The other conflict we see in the story is man versus self. As Montresor places the final brick into the wall he feels sick for a moment. He tells us it is nothing, but he is an unreliable narrator too. He feels sick, for a moment, with guilt at what he is doing. His revenge plot did not give him the immediate sense of satisfaction he was hoping for and so we see an internal struggle, for but a moment, but it is there.  

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The major conflicts are revenge and forgiveness. Montresor feels he must kill Fortunato in his lust for revenge. He dreams of the many ways that he can accomplish this, and relishes the idea of Fortunato realizing his death is at the hands of Montresor.

Yet, fifty years later, Montresor is still struggling with his success in killing him. It seems he is showing contrition for his crime, and since Fortunato is dead, it must be that he is pleading to God for forgiveness.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial