illustrated portrait of American author of gothic fiction Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe

Start Free Trial

Do the victims in Poe's stories deserve empathy? Are they well-characterized?

Quick answer:

Montresor may not be telling the truth and we never really get to know Fortunato, but Poe points us in the direction of empathy by showing how pitiless Montresor is.

Expert Answers

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

In "The Cask of Amontillado ," as with most of Poe's stories, the victim is presented through the eyes of an unreliable narrator. The only information we have about the unfortunate Fortunato is provided by the man who kills him, Montresor, and we can't be sure that he's telling...

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

us the unvarnished truth. Montresor tells us that he is motivated to carry out his terrible revenge in response to " a thousand" unspecified injuries that Fortunato is alleged to have inflicted upon him. As he never tells us the precise nature of such injuries, it's difficult to sympathize with Montresor, especially given the gruesome nature of his revenge.

By the same token, we develop empathy for Fortunato because we don't know what, if anything, he's done to deserve such a hideous fate. If Montresor's description of what happened on that fateful day is in any way accurate, then at worst Fortunato comes across as a bit of a fool, appropriately dressed in the motley garb of a jester. He certainly doesn't come across as someone who deserves to be buried alive.

Approved by eNotes Editorial