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

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Who is the narrator of "The Cask of Amontillado" and how would a different narrator change the story?

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The narrator of "The Cask of Amontillado" is a man named Montresor. He is narrating the story many years after the events happened, probably as a deathbed confession. At the time of the events narrated, he appears to be a member of a noble family which has declined in fortune and power, and he attributes some of this decline to Fortunato. While we can be sure that Montresor has some sort of grievance against Fortunato, we do not know the actual details nor, in fact, whether the grievance is entirely in Montresor's head.

Given the secrecy of Montresor's actions, there are really only two other potential choices of narrator, Fortunato and perhaps the priest listening to the confession who could tell this as a framed narrative. A framed narrative would have less immediate emotional impact and suspense but might give us a deeper understanding of the characters and situation. It would also be possible to tell the story from Fortunato's point of view and retain the horror and suspense, but the closure at the end would be complicated as Fortunato is left to die slowly; technically, this might need a third person limited narrator in order to end the story after Fortunato is walled up and mention his death. The first person point of view would not really provide an ending proportionate with the pacing of the rest of the story. 

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"The Cask of Amontillado" is narrated by a man whose last name is Montresor (he and Fortunato are known only by last names). We learn his name when he and Fortunato descend into the catacombs and he names his family. Further, Montresor is narrating events that took place in the past: at the end of the story, he says that it has been a "half of a century" since these events took place. Therefore, the point of view is first-person objective because the narrator is a participant in the story and because he is narrating events after they have transpired instead of while they are happening.

If the story were narrated from a different point of view, it would certainly change dramatically. If, for example, Fortunato narrated the story, it would have to be while it was taking place (since he dies at the end), and since Fortunato was extremely drunk and missed the clues that might have helped him to understand what Montresor was intending to do (i.e. Montresor hid his identity, was carrying a trowel, and said something about turning back before it was "too late), the story would lose all sense of suspense or foreshadowing. He would just bumble along, enjoying the wine, thinking very highly of himself, until he found that he was being walled in at the end.

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