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Cask of Amontillado

Cask of Amontillado

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Published by Hannah Ransom

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Published by: Hannah Ransom on May 13, 2011
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Hannah Ransom Ransom 1English 1BProf. HollingsworthFebruary 13, 2007The Psychology of a/ Mad ManEdgar Allan Poe is infamous for his short stories that are often morbid andtwisted, and “The Cask of Amontillado” certainly fulfills and even surpasses thisexpectation. In “The Cask of Amontillado” the protagonist Montressor is portrayed as amonomaniacal fanatic who is consumed by his need for vengeance and his desire to berevenged devoid of punishment. This monomania with revenge and how Montressor goes about achieving it, illustrates a dominant theme in the story concerning thesometimes -warped psychological forces that drive all people.Montressor’s physical description gives the reader the first insight into hischaracter. For example, Montressor states that, “putting on a mask of black silk, anddrawing a roquelaire closely about my person, I suffered him to hurry me to my palazzo”(540). In this case, the black mask acts as a symbol for his dark and morbid character andmind. This can be seen in the fact that the mask is described as being black and silk.Black is a well-known symbol for evil in western countries and hints the reader off to thefact that Montressor may be up to malicious intent in the story. It is also significant thatthe mask was silk, because silk connotates smoothness and slyness. Therefore, this initialself-description of Montressor gives the reader some very good insights into his character that proves to be more than true as the story progresses.Another crucial element in fully understanding Montressor’s character is theinterplay between his character and his eventual victim Fortunato. In the storyMontressor is the protagonist while Fortunato is a smaller flat character that acts as a foil
Ransom 2into both Montressor’s mind and thought pattern. The meaning behind both of their names provides a key insight into this interplay. When translated into EnglishMontressor’s name denotes ‘my fortune’ while Fortunato’s name denotes ‘the fortunateone’. The meaning of Montressor’s name acts as symbol for the fact that murderingFortunato will be his eventual fortune because once Fortunato is dead he will berevenged. In turn it proves very ironic that Fortunato’s name means the fortunate one because in the end of the story his kismet proves far from fortunate. Another significanceof their interplay can simply be seen in how cordially they interact considering there issuch a grievance and injury between them. For example, although it is clear thatMontressor has “vowed revenge” (539) against Fortunato none of his vehemence is ever shown to Fortunato until the correct time and place. Montressor’s calmness in such acircumstance clearly illustrates the fact that his mind is solely on revenge and it is theneed for revenge itself that is keeping him calm and controlling his very mind.The opportunities that Montressor gives Fortunato to escape his grasp also givesunderstanding into his twisted character and mind. For example, Montressor toldFortunato that, “ we will go back; your health is precious. You are rich, respected,admired, beloved; you are happy as once I was” (540). This piece of dialogue gives just aminimal amount of awareness into the motive behind Montressor’s well thought outrevenge. This can be seen in the end of the quote when he states, “you are happy as onceI was” (540). This is about the only information the reader can ascertain about whyMontressor is so monomaniacal about achieving his revenge. Therefore, this quotedemonstrates psychologically where Montressor’s thought pattern is and how already
Ransom 3twisted and warped his mind has become by his desire to get revenge. It is alsosignificant that Montressor gives Fortunato so many chances to escape from his death.This also shows how twisted his mind is because he knew Fortunato would never stopuntil he tasted some of the alleged Amontillado. Therefore, Montressor gave Fortunatoopportunities to escape that he knew would not be taken simply so that his revenge could be more exactly executed later on. This is due to the fact that not only would Fortunatodie, but he would die with the regret that he was given several opportunities to escape hisown death. Only a man who was surely psychologically deranged and driven by dark internal forces would plan out so neatly and morbidly the death of a man that he onceknew as a friend.The structure of the plot also gives understanding into Montressor’s mind and theforces that drive his actions. The plot starts out in medias res with Montressor stating,“the thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as best as I could; but when he venturedupon insult, I vowed revenge” (539). The author’s use of in medias res that sets thereader in the middle of the story is key because the reader never fully knows whyMontressor needs to be revenged. This major omission in the plot not only keeps thereader actively reading to the end hoping that it will be told, but also provides anawareness about Montressor’s character. The omission about what injury Fortunato boreunto him makes Montressor appear very deluded to the reader and only aggrandizes thereader’s perception of him as a monomaniacal fanatic. This is due to the fact that withoutknowing what wrong Fortunato has done the reader cannot hate him as Montressor does.This is because the reader does not know if Fortunato truly deserves the punishment that

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