What is the irony of “masons” and “brotherhood” in "The Cask of Amontillado"?

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A "mason" was a member of a secret "brotherhood" or fraternity called the Freemasons, perhaps influenced in its origins by the Knights Templar or the groups of stonemasons from the Middle Ages who were responsible for building abbeys, cathedrals, and the like. Fortunato does a secret sort of sign of...

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A "mason" was a member of a secret "brotherhood" or fraternity called the Freemasons, perhaps influenced in its origins by the Knights Templar or the groups of stonemasons from the Middle Ages who were responsible for building abbeys, cathedrals, and the like. Fortunato does a secret sort of sign of his membership in this fraternity, a move designed to identify who is a mason and who is not, and this irritates Montresor, as another proof of Fortunato's pride. Montresor, however, insists that he is also a mason, though he is referring to the type who build stone walls, and he produces a trowel from his cloak by way of evidence. He is essentially foreshadowing his plans for Fortunato: he will brick him up inside the wall. Therefore, Fortunato refers to the fraternity of masons as a way to embarrass Montresor, but Montresor refers—unexpectedly—to masons who build walls.

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The terms “masons” and “brotherhood” are examples of sophisticated social groups, and Montresor pretends to belong to one while Fortunado does.

Montresor in convinced that Fortunado did him some kind of injury, in the form of an insult he does not describe.  He considers himself an equal to Fortunado, even though he does not seem to be.

I broke and reached him a flagon of De Grâve. He emptied it at a breath. His eyes flashed with a fierce light.  He laughed and threw the bottle upwards with a gesticulation I did not understand. (p. 6)

Fortunado is aware that Montresor is not really a mason, and not one of the brotherhood.  He is a pretender, thinking that he is someone he is not. 

Of course, the word “mason” and “brotherhood” are also ironic because they are terms of friendship, and Montresor is about to kill Fortunado—by building a brick wall in front of him.

 

 

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