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The short story, “The Cask of Amontillado”, written by Edgar Allan Poe is a truly fascinating story that when read, it comes across as heavy and fearful as well as mysterious. The theme of the story points to getting revenge by a cruel murder. Personally, after analyzing “The Cask of Amontillado” I got the sense that Poe was setting the mood of dark and suspenseful especially after providing the information at the beginning of the short story that the main character, Montresor, is seeking revenge upon another character, Fortunato. In the article “The Motive For Murder in ‘The Cask of Amontillado’ by Edgar Allan Poe” written by Elena V. Baraban denotes a few possible motives of Montresor’s actions and talks about the various commentators on the story. Between my personal thoughts and Baraban’s article, they both share the idea that the main motive of killing Fortunato was in fact the death of Fortunato itself.
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Personally, after reading “The Cask of Amontillado” I felt as thought Poe was trying to communicate, especially for the plot, that there is more to the story than what is being said. I honestly believe that Montresor was exaggerating whatever Fortunato did to him to make him want to get revenge, which I would say makes him an unreliable narrator. From this, a question came to mind that I could not find a direct answer to in the story: did Fortunato have the slightest knowledge that Montresor was angered by something that he had done a while back? In addition, if Fortunato did know, would he have lived? Based on the knowledge of Poe’s writing, I doubt it because he does not write such stories, and this one in particular was bound to have a dead person at the end. The dark and suspenseful mood of the story is what makes me believe my observation. The dark mood is set by Poe telling the readers that Montresor is going to get revenge on Fortunato and it builds the readers suspense of when something might happened to Fortunato. We know as soon as the story begins that Fortunato is going to die, but we have no way of telling if he has any knowledge of Montresor’s dislike for him.
Elena V. Baraban’s article, “The Motive For Murder in ‘The Cask of Amontillado’ by Edgar Allan Poe”, sums up the essence of what all the commentators on the story concluded, that Montresor was insane. Baraban supports her claim of Montresor being insane by saying “Far from being a mediocre murderer, Montresor elaborates a sophisticated philosophy of revenge: ‘I must not only punish, but punish with impunity. A wrong is unredressed when retribution overtakes its redresser. It is equally unredressed when the avenger fails to make himself felt as such to him who has done the wrong.” (Baraban, 48) All this planning and timing to murder someone because of an insult is more than just boarder-line crazy, that’s just insanity. Edward Hutchins Davidson commentates, “We never know what has made him hate Fortunato nor are we aware that he has ever laid out any plan to effect his revenge…. There is nothing intellectual here; everything is mad and improvisatory — and Montresor succeeds just so far as he is able to adapt himself to a mad, improvisatory world.” To Baraban and Davidson has somewhat contrasting ideas of Montresor’s plan, but both came to the same conclusion of him being insanely mad. Another commentator, Stuart Levine, considers Montresor to be mad man since he “murders because of an unnamed insult”. “In Levine’s opinion, ‘The Cask has no passage to tell the reader that the narrator is mad; the entire story does that’. Levine is certainly right in observing that there is no textual evidence of Montresor’s insanity. Therefore, one may add, there is no reason to assume it.” Both commentators and Baraban agree on Montresor’s actions as his mentality being mad. As to say, I would agree too.
Both my personal analysis and the article’s analysis, we have the similar idea that Montresor’s motive to kill Fortunato was the knowledge of Fortunato actually being dead, not what he had done to Montresor years before. The short story may conclude that Montresor’s motive was because he intended to seek vengeance in support of his family motto: “Nemo me impune lacessit.”(“No one assails me with impunity”) (52). That seems like a dead give away, but Poe was a greater writer than to just give away answers in his stories. Think about it, Montresor wouldn’t be happy until Fortunato was dead. The fact that Fortunato insulted him have him an excuse to why he had murdered Fortunato, but looking deeper into the story, it can be concluded that Montresor just really wanted him to suffer and die because he simply did not like him. “Montresor does not murder Fortunato secretly, but stages a spectacle of execution so that the victim knows who kills him. If Fortunato does not understand why Montresor has decided to kill him, he may believe Montresor is a madman. Typically, some scholars who argue that Montresor is insane turn to the last scene in the story,” (56). Baraban comes to the conclusion that if this was all about revenge then Montresor would have directly told Fortunato about the insult, but in the last scene he fails to mention why is committing the crime against Fortunato. I agree with Baraban’s evidence and see why she believes in a different motive that what the story says Montresor believes to be his motive because he is technically an unreliable character.
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The article shaped and influenced my understanding of the story quite dramatically. At first, the motive seemed quite clear as though Fortunato was going to be murdered by Montresor for insulting him. However, his plan just seemed too sophisticated and he never mentioned to Fortunato that he was murdering him because he insulted him a while back. After reading the article I have a deeper understanding of the story and a different perspective of Montresor’s motive for Fortunato’s death.
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