Humor and Greed

“You jest,” he exclaimed, recoiling a few paces. “But let us proceed to the Amontillado.” (555)
In The Cask of Amontillado, Poe showcase the conflict between two friends, Fortunato and Montresor. This conflict had escalated to a point such that Montresor wants to silence Fortunato for good. Although short in length, the passage above sums up the story fairly well. While Fortunato is showing some hints that he’s being led into a trap, he himself could not resist the temptation of tasting the Amontillado. There is an ironic use of the word “jest” in this passage. Although being stated by Fortunato, it is Fortunato that is the jester in this story, both physically with his costume and symbolically. His sense of humor and greed eventually led to his death by the hands of Montresor.
Fortunato could be describe as a humorous individual. In light of the carnival season, Fortunato dressed himself in a comical jester costume. When being led down the dark and cold chambers of the catacombs, the bells on top of the costume provide a stark contrast upon the dead souls that populate within the confine of the catacombs. The costume itself further enhances Fortunato humoristic qualities. In fact, Fortunato utilize humor until the very last moments of his life when calling out to Montresor and with the final sound of bell signaling his death. In a larger scheme, it might be his humor that led to his demise. Montresor remarked that he started to plan his revenge as soon as Fortunato’s comments “ventured upon insult (553).” A man such as Fortunato might not realize when some of his comments might have been taken out of context and viewed as insults in the eyes of Montresor. Fortunato might also not realize that Montresor was offended and thus kept on comically insulting him until Montresor has pass his breaking point. Even within his death chamber of the catacomb, Fortunato’s expression of humor via a low laugh haunts Montresor by “erecting the hairs (557)” on his forehead.
Although humor might have killed Fortunato in the long run, it was his greed that cause him to walk into Montresor’s trap. Taking pride upon his knowledge of wine, Fortunato quickly pounced on the idea of getting a sip of the Amontillado. He had so much confidence in himself that eventually turn into arrogance when he denounce Luchesi’s ability to distinguish wine. Throughout the text, Montresor give Fortunato many chances to back out of this situation by commenting on Forunato’s health. Fortunato neglected these comments and keep on pushing further and further into the eventual chamber of his death. It was not until Fortunato slowly sober up that he realized that his quest for a sip Amontillado has led to his confinement.
As for Montresor, his plan for killing Fortunato is representative of the Montresors’ coat of arm. In the text, Montresor recall that his family coat of arm is represented by a foot crushing a serpent whose fangs are in the heel. This along with the motto “No one wounds me with impunity (555).” The coat of arm and the introduction passage in which Montresor remark about his hostile relationship with Fortunato foreshadow what was to come in the text. For Montresor, his goal will not be satisfied until he has gotten his complete payback. There is nothing for Montresor to lose “you are a man to be missed. For me it is no matter (554).” Therefore, Montresor, who is deeply entrenched in his plan, had no regrets or sadness in ending the life of Fortunato. In the end, it was Fortunato’s greed and lingering humor that lead to his death while Montresor executed his plan thoroughly. Once again, Poe’s stylistic writing around the theme of death and suspense had led to a remarkable story in The Cask of Amontillado.


One comment

  1. I really thought you’re point regarding Fortunato’s humoristic qualities was a very good point. The evidence, with the costume and the dialogue, is all there. The fact that Fortunato is dressed that way is revealing. Perhaps his costume is supposed to make him seem more innocent or naive. The way I interpreted the story, I thought that the costume was supposed to highlight the fact that Montresor is overreacting. I mentioned this in class, but it would be interesting to see the story from Fortunato’s point of view. Perhaps Fortunato’s comments that Montresor sees as “venturing upon insult (553)” are simply good-natured teasing. Part of the irony of the story could be that Montresor is crazy, and that he overreacts to Fortunato simply teasing him. Since we only see Fortunato’s personality through Montresor’s eyes, perhaps his perceived arrogance and greed are overblown.

    Also in response to your paragraph about the Montressor coat of arms representing revenge, I think the line “you are a man to be missed. For me it is no matter (554)” is a telling line. It shows that Montressor has no remorse in ending another man’s life. Again, in my opinion this shows that Montressor may not be entirely right in the head. This analysis also keeps in line with Poe’s tendency to create main character’s with mental problems. The coat of arms could represent revenge, but it also could represent Montressor’s lack of remorse and faulty justification in killing Fortunato.

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