The Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allan Poe
In The Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allan Poe we have the theme of revenge, pride, fear, freedom and self-importance. Narrated in the first person by a man called Montresor it becomes clear to the reader from the beginning of the story that Poe may be exploring the theme of revenge. Montresor feels wounded by Fortunato’s insults or at least what Montresor perceives to be insults. The reader cannot be clear as Montresor does not provide an example of any of the insults. Nonetheless Montresor’s feels as though his pride is under attack and as such wants revenge on Fortunato. It is also difficult to feel any sympathy for Montresor as again there is no background information as to the type of insults that Fortunato may have delivered to Montresor. Though as readers we do see how far Montresor is prepared to go in his efforts to get revenge on Fortunato. So serious is the mater to Montresor that he is prepared to kill Fortunato. Something which may shock some readers as Montresor already has murder on his mind when he bumps into Fortunato at the carnival. It is as though all Montresor needs is an opportunity and he takes the one that he considers most opportune. Lying to a drunken Fortunato and bringing him home to his cellar.
It may also be worth considering as to whether Montresor is a reliable narrator. He does after all omit to give any information about any of the insults he has had to endure from Fortunato. If anything Montresor may be a vengeful man who simply does not like others getting the better of him. Something that may play on the idea of self-importance. Montresor comes from a large and respected family. Yet he himself may not necessarily be as fortunate as his forefathers. Particularly in matters of wealth. Though he does allow himself the pleasure of buying large volumes of wine. It is also clear to the reader that Montresor is afraid while he is leading Fortunato along the cellar. It is possible that Fortunato is the first man that Montresor has killed and as such Montresor is naturally worried or afraid that things might not go as he has planned. Though fortune is on his side by way of the fact that Fortunato is in an indefensible position. He is very drunk.
It is also noticeable that throughout the story Montresor manipulates Fortunato. All in an attempt to ensure that his plan will come to fruition. In many ways Montresor is bribing Fortunato as they walk along the cellar by supplying him with some more wine. Fortunato himself has some flaws. One of which is his inability to be sensitive when it comes to others. His treatment of Luchresi being an example. He puts Luchresi down and allows for his own ego to dominant. In that way both Fortunato and Montresor are similar. They have inflated opinions about their own abilities. Another character flaw that Fortunato suffers from is the fact that he is gullible. He believes every word that Montresor tells him. Whether this is because Fortunato is drunk is unknown as the reader does not have a comparison at hand. That being Fortunato is drunk for the entire story. We never see him sober. Though there are sober cries of fear when Fortunato notices that Montresor is building a wall to enclose him in the enclave. However this cannot be used to assess Fortunato’s character as it would be natural for any man to be afraid should they be in Fortunato’s position.
The two different settings of the story may also be important as the carnival. Where Montresor meets Fortunato. Has an element of freedom. While on the other hand the cellar is where Fortunato loses his freedom when he is first chained by Montresor. There is also some symbolism in the story which may be important. Montresor’s coat of arms has a serpent being squashed by a foot. It is possible that the foot is symbolism for Montresor himself. While the serpent is Fortunato. The title of the story is also significant and symbolic. Cask is the root word of casket. The word Amontillado is the past participle of the Spanish verb ‘amontinallar’. Amontillado then would mean ‘collected in a pile.’ So the title could simply be referred to as The Casket of Death/Pile of Bones. Which would mirror exactly what Montresor has done. He has buried Fortunato behind a wall and left a pile of bones at the foot of the wall. Which have been undisturbed for fifty years. In reality Montresor has gotten his revenge and has also not been caught. He will face no punishment for his actions and will feel as though he has achieved more than retribution. Whereas Fortunato (or fortune) has had the misfortune of not really knowing what has happened to him.