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 does Poe do to foreshadow the ending of "The Cask of Amontillado"?

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The first paragraph in "The Cask of Amontillado" offers a chilling foreshadowing that ominous events are going to occur. The story opens with Montresor declaring he has suffered a "thousand injuries" from Fortunato, including an "insult" that he feels obligated to repay. Montresor speaks of revenge from the first line of the story, leading us to anticipate and be curious about what he might have planned. The stakes grow higher as we learn that Montresor has orchestrated his revenge not only to harm his enemy but to make sure that Fortunato knows that he, Montresor, is the mastermind behind whatever is planned.

Montresor's cold-blooded calculation in deceiving Fortunato becomes even clearer in the second paragraph, when he says,

It must be understood that neither by word nor deed had I given Fortunato cause to doubt my good will. I continued, as was my wont, to smile in his face.

This statement leads us to be even more worried about what Fortunato's fate will be. From the start, we are aware that whatever will happen has been well planned, is meant to hurt, and is not a momentary impulse. When we then learn that Montresor knows Fortunato's "weak point" is his vanity about his wine expertise, we are led to expect that wine will have a part in this revenge. We learn early on, too, that the catacombs they are about to enter are cold and damp. All of this builds our anxiety and suspense.

Fortunato's jingling fool's cap foreshadows his role as the fool or dupe of Montresor, while Montresor's black face mask foreshadows his evil plan. Catacombs are ancient burial sites, so this also foreshadows Fortunato's end.

We might also be very worried when we find out that Montresor has planned for his servants to be gone:

There were no attendants at home; they had absconded to make merry in honor of the time. I had told them that I should not return until the morning, and had given them explicit orders not to stir from the house. These orders were sufficient, I well knew, to insure their immediate disappearance, one and all, as soon as my back was turned.

We know from this and from how he treats Fortunato with exaggerated concern that Montresor is a master at manipulation.

More foreshadowing comes later in the story, when Montresor tells the drunken Fortunato he is a mason and brings forth his trowel. Fortunato mistakenly believes Montresor is telling him he is a member of the freemasons, a secret society that Fortunato is part of. But in showing the trowel, Montresor is foreshadowing how he will kill his enemy.

Another foreshadowing of Fortunato's death comes when we are told the crypt they enter at the end is filled with human bones. By this time, deep inside a dark, cold isolated space, we cannot feel Fortunato's fate can be anything but a terrible one.

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