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The climax of the story is when Montresor, having led a drunken Fortunato deep into the catacomb, chains him inside a vault and begins to brick in the enclosure, burying him alive.
A moment more and I had fettered him to the granite. In its surface were two iron staples, distant from each other about two feet, horizontally. From one of these depended a short chain, from the other a padlock. Throwing the links about his waist, it was but the work of a few seconds to secure it. He was too much astounded to resist. Withdrawing the key I stepped back from the recess...I soon uncovered a quantity of building stone and mortar. With these materials and with the aid of my trowel, I began vigorously to wall up the entrance of the niche.
We do not know exactly what offenses have driven Montresor to exact this horrible punishment, but the entire course of the story has been leading to this moment, when he gains his revenge. Fortunato, screaming and moaning, watches as Montresor closes him up, brick by brick, inside the vault, literally sealing his doom. As Montresor says at the end of the story, the bones have not been disturbed for fifty years, which demonstrates that he got away with the act.
I am in agreement with the answer provided above. The climax occurs precisely, I should say, where Montresor says, "Withdrawing the key I stepped back from the recess." In the paragraph that ends with this sentence, he has encircled Fortunato's waist with a very short chain and locked it with a padlock. This is not the kind of padlock most of us are familiar with, the kind that is snapped shut with a spring lock. Rather it is an old-fashioned padlock that has to be locked with a key. The modern kind would be easier to pry open if Fortunato had any kind of tool to work with. One of the many reasons Poe has dressed his character in a "tight-fitting" jester's costume is because such an outfit probably wouldn't have any pockets, and therefore Fortunato couldn't be carrying anything he could use against the chains or the padlock, such as a pocket knife, a set of keys, or a nail file.
In disagreement with both answers above, the climax for this story is when Montresor is about to place the last brick, for this is the POINT OF NO RETURN.
When you see the climax as THE MOST EXCITING PART OF THE STORY, it is WRONG! This would make the climax more OPINION BASED. A lot of teachers teach this method, and it is wrong! The climax of a story should be the POINT OF NO RETURN!
Hope I have educated and enlightened some people.
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