The Cask of Amontillado is an Edgar Allen Poe short story that was published in 1847. The story opens to Montressor narrating to an unknown audience he is familiar with. He begins talking about the “thousand injuries” (Poe, 4) Fortunato has given him and his plan for revenge. His plan is simple, to entomb Fortunato in the catacombs beneath his home. It is at this point we find Montressor is absolutely mad.
Evidence of Montresor’s madness can be found all throughout the story. Madness as defined by Merriam-Webster is a state of severe mental illness. One of the first indications that Montressor is not okay is that he seems unable to specify what his motivation is. He only gives vague statements such as “thousand injuries”(Poe 4) and that Fortunato finally “ventured upon insult” (Poe 4) at which point Montressor vows revenge. Even as he describes his vision for revenge his thought seems scattered, saying he must have revenge without being punished himself and must inflict a significant enough pain as to actually ensure Fortunato feels it.
A further observation of Montresor’s madness is the apparent indecision about his feelings toward Fortunato. Upon first meeting Fortunato he states, “I was so pleased to see him that I thought I should never have done wringing his hand.”(Poe 4). Obviously, a majority of the time we hear him speak with a loathing attitude, but there are a few glimpses of respect and it could be argued admiration for Fortunato and his expertise in Italian wines.
One of the biggest indications that Montresor is in fact insane is how he gives Fortunato multiple chances to escape and at one point shows him the tool of his future demise. Upon the first mention of the pipe of Amontillado Montresor tells Fortunato he is headed to find Luchresi a fellow wine drinker to help determine if the Amontillado (a high-quality wine found at a good price during this time of festival season) is indeed what he purchased or if he has been taken advantage of. There would be no way to know for sure that Fortunato would first decide to help Montresor telling him that Luchresi wouldn’t know the difference. At this point Montresor tells Fortunato that he could not impose, he has many places to go and a bad cough. The catacombs Montresor explains are filled with nitre and are damp which will aggravate Fortunato’s cough. Fortunato presses and insists. Two more times in the catacombs Montresor pleads with Fortunato to turn back and save his health. On the second occasion Montresor explains that people will miss Fortunato, that he is a wealthy and loved man like Montresor was. Is Montresor’s fall from power and wealth the reason he has gone mad? In another act or recklessness while toasting with wine Fortunato makes a gesture with the bottle and asks if Montresor is a Mason and asks for a sign that he is a Mason. Incredibly Montresor shows him a trowel, a tool he will later use to entomb Fortunato. It can only be assumed the Fortunato is very intoxicated at this point because he thinks nothing of the trowel and why somebody might be carrying it. At the end of the story we are told nobody has disturbed the tomb for at least 50 years. This tells us that Montresor might be returning to the scene of the crime to admire his work or see if he has been found.
At the end of our story we find Montresor is walling up the tomb and upon hearing Fortunato’s screams, frantic attempts to escape, and pleading for release Montresor takes his time to appreciate this, taunting back, and yelling loud then even Fortunato. Surely only someone who has absolutely lost his mind would take this kind of pleasure in such a task.
In light of these things it is quite reasonable to believe that Montresor is mad. Montresor never points to any actual offense that has happened and Fortunato does not seem to be aware of any wrong doing. If Fortunato had wronged Montresor as much as is claimed there is a strong possibility he would know and be suspicious. Montresor also does not keep clear thoughts on his feelings towards Fortunato moment to moment we see that he is described as a drunk, then next he is being admired for his ability to discern wines. This also makes it appear as though he himself might not be convinced that he should go through with his plan. We also find that Montresor gives Fortunato many chances to escape his own doom. This again shows that he does not seem completely decided about his course of action or it has become a type of game. Next, we see the Montresor in a very bold move takes out the trowel he plans to entomb Fortunato with and shows it to him telling him he is a Mason. Finally, we know Montresor has checked in on his work when he tells us the site has not been tampered with for 50 years. Many deranged criminals will return to the scene of the crime to admire their work. Poe tells a great story about a mad man who takes a man’s life in a sadistic way.