The Cask of Amontillado Questions and Answers
by Edgar Allan Poe

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Why Did Montresor Decide To Kill Fortunato

Why did Montresor kill Fortunato in "The Cask of Amontillado"?

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Felicita Burton eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Edgar Allan Poe creates the portrait of a man obsessed. As a first-person narrator, Montresor aims to get the reader he directly addresses on his side by stating that this reader knows "the nature of my soul." This implies as well that he assumes the addressee will know at least some of what constitute the "thousand injuries" that Fortunato has inflicted on him. Montresor does not state, and perhaps believes that the reader already knows, what the territory of "insult" is into which Fortunato has crossed.

We never learn exactly what tipped Montresor over the edge from resentment to premeditated murder. While we do learn by the end that he achieved his goal of revenge, he phrases his intentions as reactions to the other man's offenses. The end result must be complete destruction: "immolation."

By leaving the exact "wrong" unstated, Poe encourages his reader to think of insults they have born and thus to empathize with the wronged man, rather than simply judge him as a cold-blooded killer.

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Montressor claims that the "thousand injuries" he has sustained from Fortunato have created his animosity toward the other man, but that he has patiently endured these insults. When Fortunato ventures into insulting behavior, Montressor swears revenge.  The reader never finds out exactly what Fortunato has done, and it's possible, due to Poe's penchant for unreliable narrators, that Montressor is not being entirely honest in his confession, or that the slight is entirely in Montressor's imagination. Whatever Fortunato has done, Montressor's sense of family honor demands that he avenge himself. His family crest perfectly illustrates this, as it is a...

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