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 the exposition, complication, climax and resolution of "The Cask of Amontillado" by Edgar Allan Poe?

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The exposition is the reader's introduction to the two main characters.  We know the first character as the narrator of the story, but we do not find out that his name is Montresor until much later in the text.  The other main character is Fortunato.  The most important detail of the exposition is that Fortunato has somehow offended/injured Montresor in a way that cannot be forgiven, so he has vowed to get the ultimate revenge.  

At length I would be avenged; this was a point definitely, settled—but the very definitiveness with which it was resolved precluded the idea of risk. I must not only punish but punish with impunity. 

The complication for Montresor is how to go about getting his revenge and getting away with it.  Montresor's plan is to lure Fortunato down into the wine cellar during the carnival festivities one evening under the pretense of sharing a bottle of Amontillado together.  

The climax of the story is when Montesor chains Fortunato to the catacomb wall and seals him down there with a brick wall.  The entire thing is done while Fortunato is begging for his life.  

The resolution is Montresor calmly telling his readers about his deed 50 years later.  He also admits that nobody has ever found the body, and that he feels no guilt over the entire thing. 

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EXPOSITION.  This is the background information regarding the two characters and their previous relationship. We find that Fortunato has in some way offended Montressor, who has decided that he must seek retribution against Fortunato.

COMPLICATION.  Montressor must find a way to kill Fortunato, but without the possibility of being caught by authorities. He decides to lure him into the Montressor family catacombs located beneath his home. But how will he do this without arousing Fortunato's suspicion?

CLIMAX.  Montressor suddenly thrusts chains upon Fortunato and secures him to the floor in a far corner of the catacombs. Montressor begins to wall Fortunato up--building a wall of bricks that will leave his chained prisoner no chance of escape.

RESOLUTION.  Many decades later, the older Montressor relates his story, assuring the reader that Fortunato's body has never been found and that his revenge is complete.

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