Edgar Allan Poe

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.

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Killing Them with Kindness

“I continued, as was my wont, to smile in his face, and he did not perceive my smile now was at the thought of his immolation.” – Poe 553

            Everyone has heard of keeping your friends close and your enemies closer. In “The Cask of Amontillado” the narrator, Montresor, does just that when he gives his “friend” a chance to validate a pipe of Amontillado. This mentality is captured by the quote on page 553 of the text. This passage reveals just how dastardly the man is. He says that he smiles at Fortunato not as a sign of friendship, but at the thought of his murder. Poe cleverly includes “as was my wont” in the text, letting the reader know that this man was accustomed to being friendly to Fortunato. “Now” is also italicized, giving emphasis that thoughts of aggression towards Fortunato were very real and would happen soon. This passage is critical to understanding the text because it sets the mood for the piece. From now on the reader knows Montresor’s intentions are anything but friendly and that any actions he takes from this point forward were premeditated. The text is very ironic because the reader knows that Montresor is scheming and putting on a façade to Fortunato but he is completely unaware.

            Montresor’s intentions can be best explained by the passage before which talks about how Montresor had been wronged by Fortunato many times, giving a motive for revenge. After the selected passage, Montresor reveals how he will lure Fortunato by exploiting the Italian’s hubris of wine connoisseurship. When given this context, the quoted piece is given a few finer details as to why or how he was going to murder Fortunato. In this way a consistent theme is established. We know that Montresor is controlling the situation and that Fortunato is almost clueless to the ruse.

            The rest of the text can now be interpreted with this keystone, Montresor is trying to kill Fortunato with kindness. On page 553 and 556 Montresor keeps calling Fortunato his friend. With the knowledge that the selected text has given the reader, he or she knows that this is extremely ironic. How friendly is it to be plotting someone’s death? The selected text explains many more actions. On page 553, Montresor compliments Fortunato on his dress then criticizes himself for not inquiring for Fortunato’s assistance when deciding to purchase the Amontillado. In this instance, Montresor is trying to stroke Fortunato’s ego, entice him into validating the wine. Upon entering the catacombs on page 554, Fortunato is twice warned that the cold will make him ill. These well timed caring actions not only reassure Fortunato that Montresor is a friend but encourages him to go on as if to prove that he was strong to his male companion. On page 554, Montresor offers Fortunato alcohol, a sign of friendship but also part of his scheme in making sure that Fortunato continues the journey through the catacombs, blinded by intoxication.

            Interestingly enough, one characteristic of friendship is knowledge about the person. In this regard, Montresor may actually be classified as a friend. He knew how much pride Fortunato took in his wine tasting abilities. On page 553, it shows that he also knew that Fortunato was the kind of man who’s “enthusiasm is adopted to suit the time and opportunity”. Knowledge of this fact allowed to Montresor to present Fortunato an opportunity of a lifetime, the possibility of a cask of Amontillado. He also knew that Fortunato had a competitive spirit. He challenges this multiple time throughout the text by stating that he should just bring the wine to another man, Luchesi. Fortunato vehemently rejects the idea by calling Luchesi an “ignoramus” on page 556, and taking the thought of such a thing as an insult to his wine tasting prowess.

            With a fake smile and knowledge of a close friend, Montressor murdered Fortunato. Throughout the text, Montressor offers the warmth of friendship and alcohol to him. However at the end of the day, neither would be able to warm Fortunato’s cold dead body in those catacombs. Turns out that kindness was just as suffocating as the stones used to seal him in.