What irony, characterzation, and imagery in the story supports the insanity theory that Montresor is psychologically unstable?"The Cask of Amontillado" by Edgar Allan Poe

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator



Immediately, Montresor's obsession is presented as  "the thousand insults" of Fortunato that he will avenge in the only proper manner: 

  • punishment must come with impunity
  • the retribution must not take over the redresser
  • the avenger must make himself known to his victim

His explanation of how he has dissembled seems rather unbalanced.  For, Montresor states that when Fortunato accosts him in his motley costume,

I was so pleased to see him that I thought I should never have done wringing his hand.

Montresor banters with Fortunato, calling his attention to the "white web-work" of the walls while at the same time encouraging Fortunato, leading him farther into the catacombs, then objecting to the unlucky man's progression in an affected concern for his health, while at the same time ridiculing his cough, "Ugh!ugh!ugh!ugh!....." and calling Fortunato "friend." After this, Montesor makes a pun upon the word mason, ridiculing Fortunato's pride at being in the society of Freemasons; subsequently, he feigns concern for Fortunato as he says, "...let me implore you to return." [irony,also] 

At this point, there are possible sexual innuendoes, suggestive of the perverseness of Montresor's plan for revenge.  Before Montresor begins building his wall, the tettered Fortunato "ejaculated" the words " The Amontillado!" then Montresor hears a low, moaning sound from Fortunato and ceases his work, sitting down.  When Fortunato begins to scream, Montresor narrates that he began to "Unsheath my rapier," and "grope with it about the recess."  Certainly, the use of sexually suggestive language points to the perversity and sadism of Montresor who also mocks Fortunato in his desperate cry, "For the love of God!" as he himself cries the same words.

After all this, the horror that Montesor feels is the horror within him; the evil of which he has been capable, and he takes fifty years to tell his tale.


There is much sight and sound imagery suggestive of imbalance. Regarding sight--

  • the harlequin costume of Fortunato
  • the insufferable dampness of the vaults.
  • the bones scattered "promiscuously"
  • the coat of arms with a golden foot crushes a serpent who fangs are imbedded into the knight's heel
  • the chains and padlock
  • the rapier
  • the stones of the trap
  • the flambeaux that cast only a few rays upon Fortunato
  • the torch that Montresor thrusts into the remaining opening to the tomb that he finally closes.
  • the rampart of bones

regarding sound--

  • the jingling of the fool's cap on Fortunato acting as an ironic foreshadowing of what is to come.
  • the drops of moisture trickling among the bones
  • the low, moaning cry of Fortunato
  • the silence after Montesor finally calls out "Fortunato!"


Montresor's carefully executed betrayal and retribution against Fortunato are meshed and intensified in meaning with the skillful and pervasive use of irony.

  • The first irony occurs with Montesor's intentional telling the servants that he will be gone so that they will run off.  This reverse psychology illustrates the skewering of relationships.
  • He toasts to Fortunato's long life
  • He expresses concern for Fortunato's health
  • He waves the trowel, saying he is a mason, giving an ironic twist to Fortunato's use of the word.Shortly afterwards, he points to his coat of arms that states that "No one provokes me with impunity."
  • He assures Fortunato that he will not die of his cough
  • He gives "for the love of God" another meaning.









efg12345 | Student

He tells his house servents that he will be back tomorrow and not to leave knowing that when he turned his back they would be gone. He needed them gone to carry out his plan in the catacombs. This tells us that he thinks everything through.

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The Cask of Amontillado

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