Montresor narrates “The Cask of Amontillado,” relating the story of Fortunato's death fifty years earlier. Montresor's profession is unspecified, but it is clear that he is educated and wealthy, with a taste for fine things. Montresor holds a grudge against his “friend” Fortunato, claiming to have borne Fortunato’s insults to the best of his ability before deciding to seek revenge. Montresor reveals himself to be a skilled manipulator as he exploits Fortunato’s pride to lure him deep into the catacombs. Montresor’s conversation with Fortunato (who is drunk) reveals his ironic and darkly humorous nature: when Fortunato asks him if he is “of the masons,” Montresor pulls out the trowel that he will soon use to bury Fortunato alive. Once he lures the unsuspecting Fortunato into the deepest catacombs, Montresor mercilessly chains him up and walls him into a small alcove, leaving him to die. After Montresor has successfully walled Fortunato in, he appears to feel a momentary pang of regret but quickly attributes the feeling of sickness in his heart to the dampness of the catacombs.
For some readers, Montresor’s vague description of the “injuries” he has suffered at the hands of Fortunato brings into question his reliability as a narrator. Could Fortunato truly have offended Montresor so terribly, or is the offense only in Montresor’s head? On the other hand, Montresor’s cool, detached narration and his methodical planning of Fortunato’s demise suggest that though he is ruthless, he may be quite sane. As Montresor’s story is addressed to an unidentified person (who, presumably, knows things that the reader does not), readers cannot be certain to what extent Montresor’s revenge is justified. Just as we cannot be sure of Montresor’s motives, Poe leaves us in the dark as to Montresor’s feelings about the crime; is his exclamation “in pace requiescat!” (rest in peace) sarcastic or sincere? Some readers have...
(The entire section is 819 words.)