Which of Montresor's words and actions could have revealed his plan to Fortunato in "The Cask of Amontillado" by Edgar Allan Poe?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Montresor narrates “The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allan Poe. Everything in the story comes through the point of view of Montresor, an unreliable narrator. As he takes the reader along on his murderous journey with the drunken Fortunato, Montresor shows himself to be evil, sinister, and unashamed of his devious plot. 

The plans for Fortunato’s death are so well constructed that the reader goes along thinking that the amontillado had better be good for such a creepy trip.  From the first words of the story, Montresor does hint that he will seek vengeance with impunity.  This equates to the perfect crime which Montresor does accomplish.  The reader learns that the entire story has been a flashback for Montresor looking back fifty years later.

What hints did Montresor declare that should have warned Fortunato that everything was not as it seemed?

(1) If Fortunato had not been drinking, Montresor would have been less likely to draw Fortunato into his plan.  Who would go down into a cold, stinking, corpse-filled tunnel to taste wine? Obviously, Montresor had studied his enemy and knew his weaknesses.

(2) If he had not been so drunk, the ploy of using Luchesi in reverse psychology as a better judge of wine. This repeated threat of bringing Luchesi into the tasting of the wine makes Fortunato want to go even more.

(3) After the terrible coughing spell, Montresor makes a statement that should have made Fortunato at least inquire as to what Montresor meant:

”Come," I said, with decision, "we will go back; your health is precious. You are rich, respected, admired, beloved; you are happy, as once I was. You are a man to be missed. For me it is no matter. We will go back; you will be ill, and I cannot be responsible. Besides, there is Luches-"

The statements indicating that Montresor is no longer happy and that he would not be missed should have been a sign that Montresor is harboring some unhappiness.

(4) Then Fortunato says that he will not die of a cough.  Montresor using verbal irony states: "True --true," I replied; "and, indeed, I had no intention of alarming you unnecessarily --but you should use all proper caution. A draught of this Medoc will defend us from the damps. Even though, Montresor does not make it obvious that he knows how Fortunato will die, he could have picked up on the unusual statement.

(5) As the two proceed down the tunnels of the catacombs, a discussion occurs concerning the Masons.  Fortunato insults Montresor again that he could not be a member.  Montresor pulls from under his cloak a trowel.  Why would someone carry a trowel? This should have made Fortunato at least question why he had it with him.

Unfortunately, for Fortunato, his hubris and drunkenness led him not to the amontillado but his own tomb.  Fortunato betrays himself by not paying enough attention to his surroundings. It is there that he will spend eternity.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

There are several clues that Montressor has nothing good plannned for Fortunato. For one thing, he mentions his family motto, which translates into "No one attacks me with impunity (freedom from punishment)".  Had Fortunato realized that he'd insulted Montressor in some way, that motto would have given him a clue that Montressor would take revenge.  Montressor also mentions his family crest, which is a foot stepping on a snake, but the snake in turn is biting the foot stepping on it.  This is a pictorial representation of the motto regarding revenge.  Even if he never realized that he'd insulted Montressor, Fortunato could have been alerted by the trowel Montressor carried.  Who needs a trowel to see a cask of wine?  They even chat about Montressor being a mason, so that conversation might have made Fortunato wonder about the reason for the trowel.  But Montressor is clever and plays on Fortunato's pride about being a wine expert, and even suggests several times that they turn back if the nitre is too much for Fortunato.  It is Fortunato who insists that they continue.  Montressor, in  his mind, tells himself, "Hey, I gave him every chance, but he's the one who refused to go back."

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Well, first of all his fawning attentions should have raised some alarm.  Montressor becomes syrupy sweet in his praise and such compliments might have been suspect in anyone not quite so dense as Fortunato.  However, as for specific verbiage, these lines certainly are omninous:

"A huge human foot d'or, in a field azure ; the foot crushes a serpent rampant whose fangs are imbedded in the heel."

"And the motto ?"

"Nemo me impune lacessit."

"Good !" he said.

Montressor intends to crush Fortunato beneath his heel, and the Latin translation is "No one provokes me with impunity."  We never know exactly what Fortunato has done to provoke Montressor to such murderous rage, but his doom is nonetheless assured.   


Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial