Why does Montresor appear concerned about Fortunato's health?

Montresor appears to be concerned about Fortunato’s health because they are supposed to be “friends.” Friends care about each other, and so, in order to avoid making Fortunato’s suspicious of his motives, Montresor must continue to act like a friend.

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Montresor appears to be concerned about Fortunato’s health because he wants to maintain a ruse of friendship, and even admiration, so that Fortunato does not become suspicious. Montresor has carefully plotted a meticulous revenge on Fortunato to ensure that Fortunato knows who has brought about his demise and to ensure...

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Montresor appears to be concerned about Fortunato’s health because he wants to maintain a ruse of friendship, and even admiration, so that Fortunato does not become suspicious. Montresor has carefully plotted a meticulous revenge on Fortunato to ensure that Fortunato knows who has brought about his demise and to ensure that Montresor will face no negative consequences for his revenge. Anything less, he feels, is not real revenge. Montresor says,

It must be understood that neither by word nor deed had I given Fortunato cause to doubt my good will. I continued, as was my wont, to smile in his face, and he did not perceive that my smile now was at the thought of his immolation.

If Montresor begins to treat Fortunato as an enemy, then Fortunato might be on his guard and become more difficult to deceive. So, Montresor continues to treat Fortunato as a friend, and friends care about the health of their friends.

In addition, by continuing to recommend that Fortunato protect his health and return to the ground level, Montresor also creates the opportunity to have Fortunato later realize that his own pride played a major role in his ruin. Having chained the confused Fortunato to the wall inside the niche, he says, “Pass your hand […] over the wall; you cannot help feeling the nitre. Indeed it is very damp. Once more let me implore you to return. No? Then I must positively leave you.” In saying this, Montresor makes it clear that if Fortunato had not been so eager to prove Montresor wrong about the amontillado, so eager in fact that he jeopardizes his own health in order to have the chance to gloat, he would still be above ground and safe.

Therefore, not only does Montresor seem to care about Fortunato’s health in order to avoid raising his victim’s suspicions, but he also does it in order to impress upon Fortunato his own faults and torment him further.

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Many elements of Poe's story serve a double purpose for reasons of economy. Poe's main reason for giving his character Fortunato a bad cold was to make it difficult for him to talk. Here is the most significant dialogue pertaining to Fortunato's cold:

"How long have you had that cough!"

"Ugh! ugh! ugh! -- ugh! ugh! ugh! --ugh! ugh! ugh! --ugh! ugh! ugh! -- ugh! ugh! ugh!

My poor friend found it impossible to reply for many minutes.

The bad cold of the intended victim makes his motivation to sample the Amontillado appear even stronger. It gives Montresor excuses to urge him to turn back (thereby showing his friendship and lack of any sinister motive). It causes Fortunato to drink more wine, thereby becoming drunker and easier to beguile. But most importantly it prevents Fortunato from asking a lot of awkward questions. Poe specified in his famous review of Hawthorne's Twice-Told Tales that not a single word should be included in a short story which did not contribute to the single effect; yet he uses fifteen "ughs!" This means the cold is very important.

If Fortunato hadn't been hampered by his cough he would almost certainly have asked such questions as:

When did you buy this Amontillado?

Whom did you buy it from?

Who was the exporter?

How much did you pay for it?

Who was the dealer?

Why did you store the cask so far from the bottom of the staircase?

Where are you taking me?!!

Poe avoids all such questions by the simple expedient of giving Fortunato a bad cold. Evidently Fortunato knows more about Amontillado than Montresor, so Montresor would have had a hard time answering questions about his non-existent cask of Amontillado, and Fortunato's suspicions would have been aroused.

 

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Montressor needs to make sure that his plan goes off without a hitch.  If Montressor were to act indifferent to Fortunato's health, Fortunato may suspect that Montressor was up to no good.  Montressor is simply trying to put Fortunato at ease, and play the concerned friend who would never do anything to harm his "friend" Fortunato--see, Montressor is even concerned for Fortunato's health.  There's no reason Fortunato shouldn't follow this man deeper and deeper into the underground.

It also serves as a delicious irony for Montressor.  He can act concerned about Fortunato's health, even though Montressor knows that Fortunato's cough and general health are the least of his concerns right now and will not be the cause of Fortunato's death.

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Montresor has planned his actions against Fortunato carefully, and this includes the manner in which he treats his enemy as he leads him into the catacombs for a taste of the nonexistent bottle of Amontillado. He only pretends to be concerned about Fortunato's health so that Fortunato will not suspect Montresor's true intent. Montresor knows that Fortunato is intoxicated and that it might take the man some effort to follow him into the "recesses" of the wine cellar. When Fortunato coughs from the nitre built up on the walls, Montresor tries to convince him to turn back in order to preserve his health. But it is only a ruse: He knows Fortunato will follow him in the expectation of sampling the rare vintage, and that Fortunato will not "die of a cough." Montresor has other plans for him when they finally reach the spot he has chosen deep in the family catacombs.

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