Analysis Pages

Plot in The Cask of Amontillado

Plot Examples in The Cask of Amontillado:

The Cask of Amontillado

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"My poor friend..."   (The Cask of Amontillado)

Montresor constantly addresses Fortunato as "my friend" and refers to him as "my friend." He is not being ironic. He wants to have everyone think that he and Fortunato are the best of friends. Consequently he has conditioned himself to think of Fortunato as his friend in spite of the fact that he hates him and plans to kill him. When Fortunato's disappearance is discovered there will be a thorough investigation—but no one will suspect Montresor of foul play because the two men were known to be such great friends.

"I perceive you have an engagement. Luchesi—” “I have no engagement;—come.”..."   (The Cask of Amontillado)

Once again Montresor pretends to think Fortunato is expected somewhere. This time Fortunato gives him the answer that satisfies him and frees him to go ahead with his revenge.

"As you are engaged..."   (The Cask of Amontillado)

Montresor is fishing for information. He wants to make sure that Fortunato is not expected anywhere that evening. If, for example, Fortunato were expected at home and didn't show up, his wife might send out relatives and servants to find him. Montresor would like Fortunato's disappearance to go unnoticed until the next day at the earliest. By then many people might remember having seen him but would not remember anything else.

"He had on a tight-fitting parti-striped dress, and his head was surmounted by the conical cap and bells...."   (The Cask of Amontillado)

The fact that Fortunato is so conspicuously dressed might seem to make Montresor's task harder, but in fact the jester's costume and the cap-and-bells are an asset because Fortunato attracts all the attention and makes Montresor, dressed all in black and wearing a black mask, like a shadow. It doesn't matter how many people remember seeing Fortunato, as long as they don't remember seeing anyone with him on the night of his disappearance.

"At length I would be avenged; this was a point definitely, settled..."   (The Cask of Amontillado)

Poe quickly disposes of the question of Montresor's motivation for killing Fortunato. The story is solely concerned with the problem of committing a murder without getting caught. This is a big enough problem without going into a detailed explanation of why Montresor wants to commit a perfect crime. As the story opens, he has made up his mind to kill Fortunato. "...this was a point definitely settled..." Montresor's reasons and Fortunato's injuries are all in the background. By inventing a confidant—"You, who so well know the nature of my soul"—Poe has eliminated the need for a back story which would only weaken the "single effect" he wanted to achieve.

"nitre..."   (The Cask of Amontillado)

Nitre is another word for the mineral form of potassium nitrate. This mineral is toxic when breathed for extended periods of time or in high concentration. Poe gives Fortunato a severe cold for a purpose, as the nitre makes him cough frequently and keeps him from asking a lot of questions about the Amontillado that Montresor might not be able to answer.

"intoxication of Fortunato..."   (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.

"rheum..."   (The Cask of Amontillado)

Rheum is a thick watery discharge from the eyes. Poe uses vivid description in this line to emphasize how intoxicated Fortunato currently is. Notice how Poe continues to use Fortunato’s intoxication to help Montresor set the stage for his revenge.

"to hurry me..."   (The Cask of Amontillado)

Notice how Poe abruptly ends one scene and opens another immediately in the next line. The reader is given the impression that the two men arrived at Montresor's palazzo with great haste and without any unforeseen problems such as bumping into a common acquaintance along the way.

"And in the middle of the carnival!..."   (The Cask of Amontillado)

Poe sets his story during the carnival season in order to give Montresor the perfect cover for his plan. Like everyone else on the streets of Venice, Fortunato is drunk and in a festive mood, which makes him easier to fool. The carnival also distracts the attention of any bystanders who might otherwise notice Monstresor leading Fortunato to his palazzo.

"—I was skilful in the Italian vintages mysel..."   (The Cask of Amontillado)

Fortunato knows that Montresor has experience and knowledge with Italian wines to purchase them without expert advice. Given that Montresor is a French name, Fortunato would also likely believe Montresor to not need his help judging French wines. These reasons are why Montresor uses a rare Spanish wine, the prized Amontillado, to appeal to Fortunato’s arrogance and lure him into his snare.

"with the aid of my trowel, I began vigorously to wall up..."   (The Cask of Amontillado)

Recall the earlier pun regarding Montresor's status as a mason and as a source of dark humor. When the pun is first presented, drunken Fortunato thinks his friend is being a fool. Now the trowel that he thought of as a joke is the instrument of Montresor's ruthless revenge.

"wine..."   (The Cask of Amontillado)

Poe uses alcohol as a plot device throughout the story. In this passage, we learn that Fortunato's obsession with wine allows Montresor the opportunity to take advantage of it. Note how Montresor continues to use wine throughout the rest of the story to achieve his gruesome goal.

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