Character Analysis in The Cask of Amontillado
Poe avoids having to use a lot of exposition to explain his characters by positioning the story as a letter or confession from Montresor to an intimate friend or confidant. This forces the audience to determine the personalities of both characters from clues within their dialogue and Montresor’s distorted narration of events. By the end of the story, the audience gets the sense that Fortunato is condescending, arrogant, foolish, and proud, and that Montresor is vain, clever, vindictive, and sociopathic. However, all of these character traits must be inferred over the course of the story and the audience can never know for sure what the characters’ relationship is or who they really are.
Character Analysis Examples in The Cask of Amontillado:
The Cask of Amontillado
"intoxication of Fortunato..." See in text (The Cask of Amontillado)
In the beginning of the story, Montresor explains that an essential aspect of revenge is for the victim to be aware of the situation. This means Fortunato must become sober enough to understand that Montresor is taking his revenge upon him. Montresor designs his plot of revenge with this in mind, chaining Fortunato up and then allowing him to slowly realize what has happened.
"Ha! ha! ha!—he! he! he!—a very good joke, indeed—an excellent jest..." See in text (The Cask of Amontillado)
Having sobered up and realized his situation, Fortunato tries to manipulate Montresor by appealing to the false sense of friendship between the two characters instead of pleading for his freedom. Poe insinuates that Fortunato’s manipulative character has not changed, even when his only real hope for survival is begging for mercy.
"the bells jingled...." See in text (The Cask of Amontillado)
Poe continues to mention the jingling of the bells on Fortunato’s cap in order to remind readers of how Fortunato’s jester costume symbolizes the foolish nature of his character—which has yet to change in the story.
"I replied to the yells of him who clamoured..." See in text (The Cask of Amontillado)
Poe indicates a touch of madness in Montresor with these lines. Montresor seems to relish screaming at his victim after having made certain Fortunato has not escaped. In so doing, Montresor also reassures himself of the thickness of the catacomb walls—no one will hear either of their screams, and Fortunato has no way out.
"leer..." See in text (The Cask of Amontillado)
Poe gives insight as to what Montresor’s “thousand injuries” might be. Fortunato knows that this palazzo hasn’t been in Montresor’s family for generations, and his sneer indicates that he looks down on Montresor because of his lower social status. Notice how Fortunato continues to insult Montresor with his condescending tone.
"the brotherhood..." See in text (The Cask of Amontillado)
Poe alludes here to the Masons, a fraternal organization which was widely considered sacrilegious during his time. By making Fortunato a Mason, Poe taps into the then-widespread sentiment against the group, as well as further illustrates Fortunato’s sense of superiority to Montresor.
"Luchesi..." See in text (The Cask of Amontillado)
Having told his initial lie about buying the wine at a bargain price, Montresor cannot afford to allow Fortunato time to make inquiries. By repeatedly suggesting that Luchesi could verify the Amontillado, Montresor deliberately provokes a prideful reaction from Fortunato, ensuring that he leave the carnival with Montresor.