45 pages 1 hour read

Edgar Allan Poe

The Cask of Amontillado

Fiction | Short Story | Adult | Published in 1846

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Character Analysis


Montresor is the first-person narrator, but he is an unreliable one, as he vows to carry out revenge on Fortunato without providing concrete justification. Unlike some unreliable narrators whose inconstancy arises from their own confusion or incompetence, Montresor’s untruths are fundamentally devious in nature. This is clear in his abundant lies as he tricks Fortunato into descending the catacombs for a taste of the fabricated Amontillado.

While the story centers on a murder and contains substantial mystery, “The Cask of Amontillado” is not a murder mystery in the traditional sense. Traditionally, such a mystery enshrouds the murderer’s identity, but in Poe’s story, the perpetrator—Montresor—is overwhelmingly explicit. He even gloats about the fact and describes in detail his murder methods. The real mystery is his motivations, and much scholarship surrounds this riddle. Montresor remains vague about the crimes ostensibly eliciting his vengeance, but even in their obscurity, the accusations illuminate the character of Montresor: Fortunato’s irrevocable fall from grace was when he “insulted” the narrator, a fact dramatizing the narrator’s thin-skinned pride and perhaps his paranoia. Montresor also indirectly suggests that his murderous motivations involve envy; he remarks on Fortunato’s wealth and high social standing and hints that he himself is dispossessed of these privileges.