Motivation of Murder in The Cask of Amontillado
Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado,” tells a story of murder and revenge from the point of view of Montresor. Montresor, being the crook in the story, is seeking revenge on Fortunato, due to that Fortunato has insulted Montresor. Montresor is now telling his story years and years later to an unknown source. As Elena Baraban, in her article, stated, “This is a confession of a man who committed a horrible crime half a century ago” (Baraban 167) As it is a confession, you couldn’t say it was a confession of guilt. You could say Montresor found it as something that had to be done. Montresor’s motivation for the murder was revenge and the protection of his family name. With his motive, it can be said his mind was clear and Montresor is not in fact insane. Montresor tended to show little remorse for what he has done and absolutely no fear. Fear was also instilled in the story by Montresor. Montresor himself is not afraid, but he puts fear upon Fortunato as he is murdering him. Which with Montressor’s lack of remorse, makes it harder for the readers to feel sympathy for him.
The motives of Montresor were made to be very clear at the beginning of the story. Montresor had stated in the opening line, “The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult I vowed revenge” (Poe 174). With the following, we can assume that Fortunato and Montresor have quite a bit of history. Fortunato tends to be someone that his a high status of Montresor and tends to belittle him. Montresor addressing that there had been many injuries from him, is assumed this is a long time running issue. Montresor proceeds to say action needed to be taken place when the insults started to arise from Fortunato. Montresor himself had stated, “He had a weak point --this Fortunato --although in other regards he was a man to be respected and even feared” (Poe 174). In which this gives the evidence that Fortunato was of the higher power. Montresor felt threatened in a way by Fortunato due to his highly respected status. This brought Montresor to the queue that Fortunato had to be served his revenge. Montresor couldn’t have someone of such power disgracing his family name.
Montresor really backed himself up by stating, “A wrong is unredressed when retribution overtakes its redresser. It is equally unredressed when the avenger fails to make himself felt as such to him who has done the wrong” (Poe 174). Montresor’s statement showed that since Fortunato was not righting his wrongs, he deserved his fate. Fortunato also was made out that he felt no remorse for how he treated Montresor, as he was not trying to make amends with Montresor for the pain inflicted. Montresor at this point decided what exactly needed to be done with his clear motives. What seems to be questioned though, is Montresor insane for this act? Raymond DiSanza states, ”If Montresor is insane, then he requires neither audience nor motive”(DiSanza pg. 3) DiSanza’s statement seemed to be diminishing of the idea of insanity. If Montresor was insane, he wouldn’t need his motives to perform the act.
From this point, we are introduced to the very devised plan Montresor set up. Which also rules out the idea this could be an act of rage or that he was clinically insane.It is ruled out due to that someone acting out of insanity would not tend to have a clear enough mind to devise a plan as complex. Montresor also had a clear enough mind to know how to use Fortunato’s weaknesses to his advatange. Fortunato’s biggest weakness was that of wine. Montresor stated in his detail,” in the matter of old wines he was sincere.” (Poe 174). Montresor’s plan was to get Fortunato drunk and lure him into the trap. Montresor had planned to make sure no one would be home when he lured Fortunato there. Montresor told the listener this by saying, “There was no attendances at home; they had absconded to make merry in honor of the time.” (Poe 175). Montresor had quite a brilliant plan, and with his charming personality, he was able to make this possible. Montresor charmed Fortunato by saying he was more well informed about wine then Luchresi. These were pleasing to Fortunato and made him eager to follow Montresor.
The lack of remorse was showed very strongly through Montresor’s response to Fortunato as he was burying him alive. Montresor was turning this into a joke and showing his pure joy throughout the crime. This doesn’t become extremely evident till the end although. In the end, he cries out something that perhaps showed he was proud and making light of this. “ ‘Yes," I said, "for the love of God!" But to these words, I hearkened in vain for a reply.” (Poe 179). Montresor was in a sense mocking Fortunato showing his little remorse. Montresor also showed that he was seeking for Fortunato to cry out as he was waiting for a reply. Montresor felt joy in hearing Fortunato suffer, as Fortunato had deeply hurt Montresor.
Montresor then went on to say, “My heart grew sick; it was the dampness of the catacombs that made it so.” (Poe 179). Montresor’s statement made it extremely apparent there was absolutely no remorse from the murder, in fact, he showed quite a bit of joy. The joy also comes from the above quote when he was mocking Fortunato. Elena Baraban also felt the same way about Montresor lack of remorse. Baraban states in her article, “Montresor is perfectly calm and rational in his account. He never expresses pity for his enemy or feels remorse for what he did” (Baraban 3). Which his calmness in the telling of the story shows his lack of remorse. His lack of remorse might also stem from the idea that this was a way in which to protect his family name.
The installation of fear Montresor brought upon Fortunato brought the thrill to the story. Fortunato had seemed to sober up rather quickly when he knew Montresor’s plan. Montresor placed the sense of fear in Fortunato by saying, “But now there came from out the niche a low laugh that erected the hairs upon my head. It was succeeded by a sad voice, which I had difficulty in recognizing as that of the noble Fortunato” (Poe 178). At this point, Fortunato was in fear that his life was going to end tonight. This also accumulates the readers to feel remorse for Fortunato, as he is now in fear for his face. Montresor himself was never in fear, he only instilled the fear upon Fortunato. This also made a fearful effect on the readers.
Montresor kept this story for 50 years, so why does he feel the need to tell it now? As this story takes place 50 years ago, it should be assumed that Montresor is on his deathbed by now. This doesn’t seem to be told on a guilty conscious though, maybe rather as an untold story of twisted fate. It seems as maybe he feels joy from the story. In Raymond DiSanza’s article, he states, “Fifty years after he commits the murder he can recall and conjure every detail of the evening” (DiSanza pg. 8). 50 years is a long time to remember something, alluding that this action of revenge might have brought a great deal of satisfaction to him. Montresor seemed to tell this as he was the saver of his family name, as we know that family pride was his motive for this as well.
From assumptions, we can only guess who is listening to Montresor’s story. In theory, we can tell this might be someone he is close to or might trust. As if you were confessing a murder, it would have to be someone you trusted. From an earlier quote, we can tell Montresor might be close with the listener. Montresor had said, “You know the nature of my soul” (Poe 174). As mentioned earlier, to truly know the nature of someone’s soul you would have to be particularly close. DiSanza also looked into the quote and its meaning. DiSanza elaborated that, “This utterance has, for quite some time, been used to suggest that Montresor, on his deathbed, is unburdening his soul to a priest who is well acquainted with the nature and state of Montresor’s soul” (DiSanza pg. 5). The statement made by DiSanza was one of very good predictions.
This was also sugessted somewhat in the story towards the very end. The very last sentence had also suggested that Montresor might also be religious and this could be spoken to a priest. Montresor at the very end shouts out, “In pace requiescat!” (Poe 179). In English, this sentence means may he/she rest in peace. As this could have been the end of his confession or simply what he had stated after the murder. With little to no background on who exactly is the listener, leads the reader to question and make assumptions for themself.
In conclusion, Montresor had indeed made his motives very clear. Montresor craved his vengeance and was able to successfully obtain it without getting caught. Through his charm and brilliant mind, Fortunato was willing and didn’t know his fate till the end. Montresor is in fact deemed not insane, as he had clear motives and a clear plan. Montresor saw that the only way to keep his family name intact was to murder Fortunato. Montresor needed his family name to be respected and not one to mock. Fortunato status would have given people the impression that the Montresor name was one of a joke. Montresor thought out this was the only way to free his family name of humiliations. This is also seemingly why he might tend to show no remorse to his deed. As he saw it as something that needed to be done. Montresor motivation was to ultimately protect his family name and seek revenge that Fortunato deserved.
Baraban, Elena V. “The Motive for Murder in ‘The Cask of Amontillado’ by Edgar Allan Poe.” Rocky Mountain Review of Language & Literature, vol. 58, no. 2, Fall 2004, pp. 47–62. EBSCOhost, doi:10.2307/1566552. Accessed 1 March. 2019.
DiSanza, Raymond. “On Memory, Forgetting, and Complicity in ‘The Cask of Amontillado.’” Edgar Allan Poe Review, vol. 15, no. 2, Sept. 2014, pp. 194–204. EBSCOhost, doi:10.5325/edgallpoerev.15.2.0194. Accessed 1 March. 2019.
Poe, Edgar A. The Cask of Amontillado. 1846. Print. Accessed 1 March. 2019.