illustration of Fortunato standing in motley behind a mostly completed brick wall with a skull superimposed on the wall where his face should be

The Cask of Amontillado

by Edgar Allan Poe
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What can the reader infer about Montresor’s social position and character from hints in the text of "The Cask of Amontillado"?

Based on the information that readers get about his character, Montresor is a well-educated, wealthy individual who appears to be manipulative.

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One thing that seems clear is that Montresor is a well educated and intelligent individual. Readers get a good bit of support for this evaluation already within the first paragraph. The vocabulary that he uses to explain and justify his revenge motive is quite highbrow and not something that an...

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One thing that seems clear is that Montresor is a well educated and intelligent individual. Readers get a good bit of support for this evaluation already within the first paragraph. The vocabulary that he uses to explain and justify his revenge motive is quite highbrow and not something that an uneducated miscreant would use.

A wrong is unredressed when retribution overtakes its redresser. It is equally unredressed when the avenger fails to make himself felt as such to him who has done the wrong.

The fact that Montresor is able to plan and pull off his murder scheme also indicates that he is quite intelligent as well. He's sadistic for sure, but there's no doubt he's smart. Related to that intelligence is the fact that Montresor knows how to manipulate people. He knows exactly what he needs to say to Fortunato to get him to come into the catacombs. Montresor knows that the amontillado will be irresistible.

Readers also get some solid information that Montresor is quite wealthy. He speaks about enjoying wines, but that doesn't necessarily mean he's rich; however, Montresor admits to his readers that his taste palette is experienced with vintage Italian wines, and he buys them in large quantities whenever he can. He is financially well enough off to afford better than the bargain brand wines, and his home is large enough to have catacombs of storage.

In this respect I did not differ from him materially: I was skillful in the Italian vintages myself, and bought largely whenever I could.

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In the classic tale of revenge and horror "The Cask of Amontillado" by Edgar Allen Poe, the narrator Montresor lures his victim Fortunato, who has committed some sort of real or imagined wrong against him, into the dark catacombs, where he leaves him chained there in an underground tomb.

The story's text carries numerous hints that Montresor's social position is that of a privileged person, a rich man, and a nobleman. For instance, Montresor says that he collects wines. He writes: "I was skillful in the Italian vintages myself, and bought largely whenever I could." He is wealthy enough to have attendants at his home, and he orders them to remain there in his absence, although he knows they will disobey. He speaks of walking through several suites of rooms before arriving at the entrance to the underground vaults, indicating that the house is quite large. It's evident that he is a nobleman because he has catacombs under his house that he refers to as "the catacombs of the Montresors." Only aristocratic families would have private catacombs that hold the remains of their ancestors.

While they are underground, Montresor also tells Fortunato that the Montresors were a great and numerous family. They have their own coat of arms, which is another indication of aristocracy. "A huge human foot d'or, in a field azure; the foot crushes a serpent rampant whose fangs are embedded in the heel."

As for Montresor's character, he is obviously psychotic and deranged. He leads his companion into the catacombs, buries him alive, and manifests no remorse for what he has done. The only motivation he gives for the gruesome murder is found in the first sentence: "When he ventured upon insult I vowed revenge." He pretends to be a cheerful friend while using the cask of Amontillado as bait to lure Fortunato to his death. He makes it clear that he contemplated the deed and planned it out long before the execution.

His sinister and devious character is also evident in the way that he pretends to try to convince Fortunato to leave the vaults when he begins to cough, knowing that he will not agree. Finally, after Montresor chains Fortunato in his dungeon and begins to brick up the entrance, instead of feeling any compassion, he mocks Fortunato's pleas for mercy. Montresor writes: "My heart grew sick; it was the dampness of the catacombs that made it so." In other words, if he feels any remorse at all, he covers it up by attributing it to his surroundings and not to his emotions.

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