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

Start Free Trial

What strategies does Montresor use to engage and lure Fortunato in "The Cask of Amontillado"?

Expert Answers

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

Montresor tricks Fortunato into coming into the crypt by using reverse psychology on him and trying to keep him at ease.

Montresor’s main strategy is to pretend that he does not want Fortunato to come see the wine.  First he implies that it would be better to let someone else...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

look at it.  Then he continually inquires about Fortunato’s health, implying that he is too ill to remain.  He makes jokes to prevent Fortunato from knowing what is happening, and indeed the victim has no idea until he is already in the wall.

The first non-verbal cue Montresor gives Fortunato is shaking his hand.  He makes him think that he is happy to see him because they are friends. The reality is that he is happy to see him because he has a carefully orchestrated plan to kill him.  It would be a shame to let such a plan go to waste.  Fortunato is drunk, because of the Carnival.  His guard is down.

Montresor tells Fortunato that he has a special cask of wine that he needs an opinion on.  He knows that if he tells Fortunato that someone else will look at it, Fortunato will not be able to resist.  He also pretends to worry about Fortunato’s cold, so that the man will not realize how badly he wants him to go underground.

"My friend, no. It is not the engagement, but the severe cold with which I perceive you are afflicted. The vaults are insufferably damp. They are encrusted with nitre."

"Let us go, nevertheless. The cold is merely nothing. Amontillado! You have been imposed upon. And as for Luchresi, he cannot distinguish Sherry from Amontillado."

Montresor succeeds in getting Fortunato underground.  Once there, he uses a combination of verbal and nonverbal cues.  He jokes about being a member of the Masons, a secret society, and shows Fortunato the trowel.

"You? Impossible! A mason?"

"A mason," I replied.

"A sign," he said, "a sign."

"It is this," I answered, producing from beneath the folds of my roquelaire a trowel.

"You jest," he exclaimed, recoiling a few paces. "But let us proceed to the Amontillado."

The trowel gesture is designed to keep Fortunato at ease, making him think that everything is okay and it is all a joke.  It also explains away the presence of the trowel.  Montresor does not believe that Fortunato will question his having it now that he has shown it to him.  In fact, that is pretty much what happens.  Fortunato still thinks it is a joke until he is being bricked up in the wall. 

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

Explain the verbal and nonverbal strategies the narrator uses to lure Fortunato to his unfortunate end in "The Cask of Amontillado."

In "The Cask of Amontillado," Montresor uses verbal manipulations and nonverbal strategies to lure Fortunato to his unfortunate end. Montresor has studied his enemy well and knows his weak points. He has also picked an ideal night for his crime.

Understanding that Fortunato thinks of himself as an expert in wines, Montresor lies and tells Fortunato that he has a rare kind of sherry called amontillado in his wine cellar. He knows this will excite Fortunato's interest. It does, especially when Montresor says he is not sure it is the real thing. Fortunato becomes more and more interested in wanting to go down into the catacombs immediately and taste the amontillado for himself to make a determination. Then, Montresor heightens Fortunato's desires even more when says he will ask Luchesi, a rival, to do the sampling, as Fortunato is busy. Fortunato, who has the vanity to think he is the true expert, eagerly insists he is fully available.

Montresor uses more reverse psychology to trap Fortunato, saying it is too damp down in the catacombs for Fortunato to go there and that nitre, or mold, is growing on the walls. However, the more obstacles Montresor puts in his path, the more Fortunato is determined to head for the catacombs, which is exactly what Montresor wants, despite all his protestations of fake concern for the health of his "friend," such as saying "the vaults are insufferably damp."

By calling him "friend" and flattering him with concern, Montresor causes Fortunato's guard to lower. Fortunato has no reason to suspect that Montresor would do him harm.

Even as they are making their way through the catacombs, Montresor continues to use manipulative verbal reverse psychology and flattery, pretending he has Fortunato's best interest at heart. For example, after Fortunato has a coughing fit, Montresor says,

"Come," I said, with decision, "we will go back; your health is precious. You are rich, respected, admired, beloved."

Yet the more Montresor tries to deter him, the more Fortunato insists on going forward.

An important nonverbal strategy Montresor uses is to pick the night of Carnival, when Fortunato is drinking and partying, to approach him. Fortunato is in a happy space, deep into enjoying the festivities. A second nonverbal strategy Montresor uses is to keep Fortunato drinking as they travel through the catacombs. This way, Fortunato cannot think straight, making it easier for him to miss signs of danger.

A third nonverbal strategy Montresor uses is to wear a black silk face mask. This would be expected during a carnival, but it serves the purpose of hiding any facial expression that might tip Fortunato off to danger.

Montresor has planned his terrible crime well, using the verbal lure of a fine wine, flattery, playing on Fortunato's vanity, reverse psychology, and then, nonverbally, the setting of Carnival, alcohol, and his mask to disguise what he is doing from his enemy and wall him up in the catacombs to perish.

Last Updated on