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The Cask Of Amontillado

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An Analysis of "The Cask of Amontillado

In "The Cask of Amontillado" Edgar Allan Poe takes us on a trip into the mind of a mad

man. The story relates a horrible revenge made even more horrible by the fact that the vengeance

is being taken when no real offense had been given. Even though this is a short story, Poe creates

a nightmare, almost guaranteed to give the reader a sleepless night.

The plot of the story is simple. Montresor takes revenge on his friend Fortunato by luring

him into the tunnels under the family estate. There he leads Fortunato into the depths of the

catacombs where he buries him alive by walling him into a recess in the wall. The story is told in

first person from the point of view of Montresor himself. The exposition of the story occurs

when Montresor tells us that he wants to take revenge on Fortunato because "he ventured upon

insult"(191). We also learn that he intends to go unpunished for this act of vengeance. The

narrator informs us that he is going to continue to smile in Fortunato's face, but use the pride his

victim has in wine to lure him into the catacombs to taste some of his non- existent amontillado.

At this point, the reader knows the conflict will be one of man versus man. It is an external

struggle because Fortunato and Montresor are in a life and death fight. However, the conflict is

largely internal, because Montresor has a fierce hatred that Fortunato is unaware of. The

narrative hook seems to occur when Fortunato follows Montresor into the vault. Even if the

reader was confused by the language of the first paragraph or is puzzled by the motive of the

narrator, he/she is curious to know what will happen next. Knowing that revenge is at hand the

reader wonders what it will be. Why is he taking him underground?

The climax of the story is when Montresor chains Fortunato to the wall and begins to

layer the bricks. It is the high point of emotional involvement. It is at this point that the reader

may ask themselves if this is really about to happen. The conclusion lets us know that Montresor

was never punished for this crime. Fifty years has passed and he is an old man telling the story on

his deathbed. The true horror is that Fortunato died a terrible death, utterly alone, and his killer

was never brought to justice.

Perhaps the theme in the story is the least important feature. After all, it is about a

senseless crime, and what sense can be made of such horror? Perhaps the idea behind the story is

that no one can find refuge from a deranged mind, or that terrible crimes can be committed when

an imaginary offense can fester into a deep hatred. Perhaps Poe is saying that there have always

been great crimes that go unsolved. How many undiscovered remains are there in the walls of

medieval buildings?

In this story the character of Montresor is revealed through his own words. When he

reveals he is going to punish Fortunato for merely insulting him, that he has planned the whole act

of vengeance, and that he has been playing as being Fortunato's friend, we know we are dealing

with a demented personality. His character is also revealed with references to his family. It is

almost as if Poe has Montresor's ancestors tell the reader how nicely he fits into the family tree.

His legacy from his family motto "No one attacks me with impunity"(193) and a coat of arms

that depicts a serpent whose last wish before death is to poison the foot that crushed it. Does the

fruit of ever fall far from the tree? Montresor is as evil as his forebears were. He shows no

remorse about what he has done, even in old age. When he says, "May he rest in peace"(196) at

the end of the story, the reader gets the feeling he means, " I hope you stay there and rot" rather

than, "I hope you found joy and peace in heaven."

We don't really know much about Fortunato: just enough to know that he must not have

really known the true heart of his friend. He must not have been a guarded person. He must have

said too much to make Montresor think he was insulting him and he must have boasted about his

knowledge of wines. You feel that Fortunato was probably a bit too sociable and a bit foolish.

He was an unfortunate man who

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