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 is it about Montresor that makes him an especially effective enemy to Fortunato?

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Montresor is an especially effective enemy of Fortunato for a few reasons, not the least of which are his intense pride and ability to manipulate. As he says early on, "I must not only punish but punish with impunity." He feels the need not only to avenge the wrongs done...

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Montresor is an especially effective enemy of Fortunato for a few reasons, not the least of which are his intense pride and ability to manipulate. As he says early on, "I must not only punish but punish with impunity." He feels the need not only to avenge the wrongs done and insults given to him by Fortunato, but also to exact his revenge without having to endure some punishment for it. His family motto translates to "You will not harm me with impunity"—in other words, no one can harm a Montresor and get away with it. His personal and familial pride make him especially relentless and ruthless when it comes to Fortunato.

Further, Montresor clearly put a great deal of thought into his revenge, and he manipulates his staff and the public, as well as Fortunato, to achieve it. He tells his servants he will be gone all night and that they must remain at home, knowing they will all go to the festival as soon as he leaves (and will claim they were home all night to avoid trouble). He makes sure his costume covers his face so he will not be seen with Fortunato in public, and he concocts an elaborate story about a pipe of Amontillado, knowing Fortunato's pride will compel him to risk his own health in order to prove Montresor has been had. He is so thoughtful and manipulative, which makes him a perfect enemy for the relatively simple and straightforward Fortunato.

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Montresor claims that he has borne a "thousand injuries of Fortunato" but he never says exactly what they are. He adds that it is an insult that sends him over the edge and propels him toward thoughts of revenge. And this is severe revenge: "I must not only punish, but punish with impunity." 

But even though Montresor is filled with anger and a thirst for revenge, he never lets these hateful thoughts known to Fortunato. He coldly informs the reader that he continued to be friendly to Fortunato and to smile but that "he did not perceive that my smile now was at the thought of his immolation." This is Montresor's first strategy. He acts as if he and Fortunato are still good friends and therefore, Fortunato will never expect anything sinister from Montresor. 

Montresor also knows Fortunato's weakness: his pride in being a connoisseur of wines. 

When Montresor greets Fortunato at dusk during the carnival, he is friendly and then starts to lure Fortunato by telling him he has just bought a cask of Amontillado but is not sure it is genuine. He further tempts Fortunato when he says that since Fortunato seems busy, he will summon Luchesi to taste-test the supposed Amontillado. Fortunato insists that he is the better judge of wine and insists on going with Montresor to judge for himself.

Using reverse psychology, Montresor continually tries to talk Fortunato out of accompanying him to test the wine. He says that he doesn't want to be a bother to Fortunato and that he doesn't want Fortunato to get sick in the damp vaults where he stores the wine. These friendly protests only make Fortunato more determined to test the wine. As they descend into the vaults, Montresor keeps feeding Fortunato drinks to dull his senses and make it easier for him to continue manipulating Fortunato. 

Montresor continues to alternate these strategies. He is friendly and appears concerned for Fortunato's health. But he keeps him drunk and keeps using Fortunato's pride to lure him deeper into the vaults. 

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