Ahmed Messid Professor Hamilton

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Ahmed Messid

Professor Hamilton

LEH 352

11 November 2016

In Refining a Fortunato Amontillado, Michael Jay Lewis examines how Montresor sees Fortunato as an art piece. Lewis uses the process of making amontillado as a metaphor to compare how Fortunato was murdered by Montresor. Lewis explains that amontillado is a type of sherry that is made when yeast is allowed to form in the pipe or cask of the wine. The sherry is neglected by not adding more flor or by adding more alcohol thus finally creating the amontillado. Just as Montresor kept providing alcohol to Fortunato and then finally neglecting him by enclosing him in a tomb he has created his masterpiece.

Robert Long believes Montresor and Fortunato halves of the humankind’s nature in his writing Poe’s The Cask of Amontillado. He believes Montresor stands for “the physical and material world (Long 129)” and Fortunato stands for “fortune’s favorite (Long 129).” Montresor has stated he has suffered injured/insults from Fortunato, but Long believes these injuries did not come from what Fortunato has said, but they are merely the lifestyle Fortunato lives. Montresor is jealous of his lifestyle and it has driven him to the point to murder his friend. Even though Montresor knows the consequences he will face in the afterlife he still goes through with the murder. Finally, the exchange of “for the love of god, Montresor” and “yes … for the love of god” shows Montresor knew what he was doing with a conscious mind and knew the outcome and still “boldly defies god (Long 130).”

The Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allan Poe is a short story that depicts how the narrator Montresor kills his friend Fortunato by promising him that a bottle of amontillado was waiting for him in the catacomb’s of Montresor’s house. Montresor wants to exact revenge on Fortunato for something that is not clear, all we know is that it was an insult. Montresor deceives his friend into going to the cellar so that he can bury his friend alive. After 50 years the bones were not disturbed until now as he tells the story of how he buried Fortunato alive. Long and Lewis look for deeper meaning in Poe’s work such as Fortunato is seen as an art piece by Montresor or that they represent two halves of human nature. I believe this is a story about someone who was mad because he felt insulted, but instead of talking about the problem he decided to kill someone. Montresor is a sociopath who pretended to be normal, but never was. To devise such a murder, one is not doing it for art nor is it human nature simply put Montresor is a monster!

The first thing that gives away Montresor’s monstrous demeanor is when he meets Fortunato he is covering his face with a black scarf. As we have seen in gothic literature black is associated with death. By Edgar Allan Poe adding that one little detail in the poem he has foreshadowed what is to become of Fortunato. If Montresor had regarded this death as art as Lewis has stated, why would he keep the death hidden for 50 years? If This was art he would want to show it to everyone, he would have no problem sitting in a jail knowing he had made a masterpiece. Human nature is defined as shared psychological characteristics, feelings and behavior by all humans. Being a sociopath is not human nature, the data shows that about 25 to 50 active sociopaths at active at any given time. Barban states “the argument about Montresor’s insanity rests upon the presupposition that insults ought to be differentiated and that only some of them are offensive enough to call for murder while others may be handled in a more civilized manner.” Carol-Davis details the same points as Barban when she says “In Montresor’s world, words are deadly. Insanity drives the main character and narrator Montresor to murder Fortunato who has insulted his family a thousand times” Someone who is a sociopath suffers from a mental disorder and has no regard for other living organisms they will murder over the smallest thing, that is not human nature. If this was human nature, we would all kill each other.

In gothic literature and culture people were buried with a string wrapped in the deceased’s hand in case they were not truly dead. “No answer still. I thrust a torch through the remaining aperture and let it fall within. There came forth in return only a jingling of the bells (Cask)”. The jingling that you hear towards the end of the store is of that same mechanism, this begs to ask; why would someone used this mechanism if they want the person truly dead? It is out of satisfaction that you can ring the bell all you want, but no one will help you. Only god and I will know what has happened here.

The practice of burying someone alive was only used on certain crimes as Platizky has state “it is worth recalling that live burial was once a practiced form of capital punishment,” but it only used for sexual offenses and grand larceny. This goes back to the topic of Montresor killing Fortunato because Montresor was a sociopath. As Platizky explains “although there is no concrete evidence of Fortunato’s having committed either of these offenses, Montresor implies that his rival, a member of the Freemasons; is responsible for his loss of status, happiness, love, and respect.” Montresor could have used this anger to build his name and family to becoming respectable again why adapting and learning from his mistakes, but he decided to give into his demons and take the life of his friend/rival, to go down the life of a sociopath.

Montresor has become a socio-pathic killer.  His behavior is deplorable and despicable though he believes himself clever because of the success of his plan.   The murder of Fortunato demonstrates Montresor’s callous disregard for moral restraint.  These restraints keep normal people from committing violence against another person (Carol-Davis).”

Sociopaths are also characterized as being charming and manipulative, you see both of these qualities in Montresor.I continued, as was my in to smile in his face, and he did not perceive that my smile now was at the thought of his immolation.” Karadas explains the way Montresor uses his words to manipulate not only Fortunato, but the reader into taking his side. “They become in the hands of Montresor a weapon serving for the manipulation of the addressee.” It can be seen from the beginning of the story when Montresor states “the thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as best I could, but when he ventured upon insult I vowed revenge” (Cask). As I read the rest of Karadas examination of The Cask of Amontillado he talks about how Montresor has obstructed our view of his true self, and this holds true for myself as I originally thought Fortunato was the bad guy. Karadas states “However, he does not state how Fortunato injured and insulted him and thus obstructs the addressee’s access to his inner dark world” (Karadas). Then goes to say language for Montresor became his greatest weapon in persuading us that Fortunato was in the wrong that he was only righting that wrong.

Even the motto of the family “No one attacks me with impunity” (Cask) serves at as a reminder of what type of family he is coming from. This could push the idea that Montresor was never meant to be a bad person, it was the doing of his family and environment as he grew up. White explains the motto could mean “It seems to be an assertion, at the least, of extreme punctiliousness, if not of a kind of mad arrogance. Any kind of injury or an insult of almost any degree would warrant retaliation.” This translate as how White has explained “just taking the motto at face value, we might well sense a touch of peculiar family madness here.” Montresor could be acting on the part of his family, but it doesn’t take away from him killing Fortunato.

Deciphering the text takes time reading it once is not enough, but after you read it a few times you will see the message that Poe has left for us. Poe has used famous says such as “sticks and stones may break my bones, but word will never hurt me” and literally flipped it on its head. Words really did hurt Montresor to the point stones buried Fortunato. As Carol-Davis has stated “Few people kill over a verbal insult.  Poe uses the old adage, “Sticks and stones may hurt my bones, but words will never kill me,” in reverse.  In Montresor’s world, words are deadly.” The planning of the murder alone warrants the claim of Montresor being a sociopath.

I had scarcely laid the first tier of the masonry when I discovered that the intoxication of Fortunato had in a great measure worn off. The earliest indication I had of this was a low moaning cry from the depth of the recess. It was not the cry of a drunken man. There was then a long and obstinate silence. I laid the second tier, and the third, and the fourth; and then I heard the furious vibrations of the chain. The noise lasted for several minutes, during which, that I might hearken to it with the more satisfaction, I ceased my labours and sat down upon the bones. When at last the clanking subsided, I resumed the trowel, and finished without interruption the fifth, the sixth, and the seventh tier. The wall was now nearly upon a level with my breast. I again paused, and holding the flambeaux over the mason-work, threw a few feeble rays upon the figure within.”

Remorse is a genuine feeling that sociopaths cannot feel, Montresor laughs and taunts Fortunato knowing exactly what he did and then spends the next 50 years or so living his life like nothing had happened. Fast forward to his deathbed as he telling his story he focuses on the ingenious plan and how it unfolded. He does not spend any time talking about remorse or how he was able to live with the guilt. He was able to live with the guilt because he didn’t have any. Even as Fortunato was crying for help Montresor continued to build the wall.

The theme of insanity is present literally in every aspect of the short story, starting from when Montresor and Fortunato meet the place is a carnival. If you have ever been to a carnival you would conclude it gets hectic with all the lights, sounds, and people surrounding you. You can even compare the game master to Montresor because they will try to lure to spend your money and play a rigged game. The next stage would be the catacombs, the catacombs are underground cemeteries where the bodies are stacked over each other. Skulls are lying everywhere and the dead are surrounding. Then the last piece is Montresor who brings it all together.

Revenge is the primary theme that fuels Montresor, but another theme is also driving him; pride. Pride definitely leads to insanity, but first it has to go through envy. Such as how Montresor envies Fortunato for what he has. When Fortunato yells out “for the love of God” and Montresor replies “yes, for the love God!” it can be read as him being prideful in what he has done. While at the same time it sounds like he is being sarcastic and does not want the love god, which is another sign of pride fullness and insanity.

In conclusion the short story can examine and translated in many ways, and everyone is going to have their opinion about what the story means, what do the characters represent and so on. But the evidence of Montresor being a sociopath is showcased throughout the story. Edgar Allan Poe wrote this story without any background in psychology because it was not established yet. He was able to tap into our fears; such being buried alive. It makes you think that our closest friends are capable of burying us alive over a petty argument.


Baraban, Elena V. "The Motive for Murder in "The Cask of Amontillado" by Edgar Allan Poe." Rocky Mountain Review of Language and Literature 58.2 (2004): 47-62. JSTOR. Web. 11 Dec. 2016.

Davis, Carol -. "How Is the Concept of Insanity Suggested in "The Cask of Amontillado" by Edgar Allan Poe? | ENotes." Enotes.com. Enotes.com, 16 Oct. 2012. Web. 11 Nov. 2016.

Gruesser, John. “Poe’s The Cask of Amontillado.” The Explicator 56(3) (1998): 129-30. Web

Karadas, Firat. "The Monstrous Power of Speech in Edgar Allan Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado"/Edgar Allen Poe'nun 'The Cask of Amontillado' Adli Eserinde Konusma Yeteneginin Devasal Gucu.(Montresor)(Critical Essay)." OneSearch. Interactions, 2007. Web. 11 Nov. 2016.

 Lewis, Michael Jay. "Refining a Fortunato Amontillado." The Explicator 69.4 (2011): 179-83. Web

Platizky, Rodger. "THE CASK OF AMONTILLADO.(Brief Article)(Critical Essay)." OneSearch. The Explicator, 1999. Web. 11 Nov. 2016.

White, Patrick. ""The Cask of Amontillado": A Case for the Defense. (short Story by Edgar Allan Poe)." Cengage Learning, Inc 26(4) (1989): 550(6). OneSearch. Web.

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