What drives a person to murder? Some of the more commonly reported motives (but not the causes) include anarchism, personal revenge, retaliation for abuse or being “wronged,” moral depravity, demonic possession, and even a “lack of a conscience.” Many killers have relationships with their victims (Psychology Today). If you’ve ever read stories from Edgar Allan Poe, you know they all fall under a specific genre. Born in 1809, Edgar Allan Poe grew up in a messed-up time. Not only did his parents split when he was one year old, his mother died shortly after. Soon after, he was adopted by foster parents who didn’t seem to care much about his well-being. No wonder why his stories were so dark. Darkness was all he was surrounded by. Most people who read “The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allan Poe would call it a dark and twisted story. However, this short story revolves around one’s confinement and how it leads to their demise. The main character, Montresor is confined by his family history, and Fortunato by his irresistible wine obsession.
To begin, Montresor’s confinement can be seen in the first line of the story, “The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could; but when he ventured upon insult, I vowed revenge” (174). Here, Montresor says he vows revenge, which end up becoming one of his confinements. The word “vow” is commonly used in weddings as a form of binding a couple. In this case, Montresor is devoting his life to getting revenge on Fortunato because Fortunato insulted him. Furthermore, studies done by APS, Association for Psychological Science, have discovered that “instead of delivering justice, revenge often creates only a cycle of retaliation” (Jaffe). Thus, Montresor is not only devoting himself to getting revenge, but also revenge’s vicious cycle.
Additionally, Montresor is also confined by his family’s maxim, “Nomo me impune lacessit” (176), meaning “No one provokes me with impunity”. Insulting a family name is something that is not taken lightly today and it most likely wasn’t taken lightly in the 1800s either. From understanding not only Montresor’s family motto, but his family’s arms, a ginormous human foot made of gold that is seen crushing a serpent whose fangs are deep in the heel of the foot, illustrates how his family expects insults to be dealt in one and only way, death. Likewise, Fortunato is perceived as the snake and the fangs represent the insults. The golden foot that is seen crushing the serpent, represents Montresor. Since his family arms and maxim expect for insult to be dealt with such violence, it confines Montresor to comply.
To make matters even worse, Montresor is confined emotionally, with guilt. As Montresor is placing the last stone meant bury Fortunato alive, he “struggled with its weight” and “placed it partially in its destined place”. In a way, Montresor it not only struggling with the weight of the stone, but he is also struggling with his dark psychological state of the revenge and the murder. When he is only partially placing the stone into place, it resembles his continuous struggle with his guilt. As Montresor is placing the final stone into place, but hesitates, it reveals that Montresor does not necessarily want to kill Fortunato; However, his family’s stipulations are what confines him to finish sealing Fortunato within the walls. As a result, Montresor “forced the last stone into its position” (178), similarly to forcing himself into guilt and confinement. This might be the reason why he is telling the story half a century later.
Ultimately, Fortunato’s pride in his wine tasting abilities lead him straight to his demise. However, Montresor is truly the more confined person between the two. Before the death of Fortunato, Montresor is confined by his vow to revenge, his family motto, his family’s arms, and the need to avenge his family name. After Fortunato’s is buried inside the catacombs, Montresor experiences a sense of confinement through guilt because he will always have to think about his actions within the catacombs. This story is a great example of the psychological and physical confinement that goes hand in hand with revenge. Even though getting revenge may feel good and liberating, it comes with confinement on many levels.