This tale by Edgar Allan Poe is not only about revenge but betrayal. The narrator, otherwise known as Montresor, tells the reader the tale of him, 50 years before, getting revenge on an old friend named Fortunato who had done him wrong in some unknown way. Within this short story, Poe uses many examples of black humor and irony. Poe uses Fortunato’s name symbolically, as an ironic device. Though his name means “the fortunate one” in Italian, Fortunato meets an unfortunate fate as the victim of Montresor’s revenge. Fortunato adds to the irony of his name by wearing the costume of a court jester.
While Fortunato plays in jest, Montresor sets out to fool him, with murderous results. In The Cask of Amontillado, Montresor does the reverse, readying himself to commit the crime by equating himself with an animal. In killing Fortunato, he cites his family arms, a serpent with its fangs in the heel of a foot stepping on it, and motto, which is translated “no one harms me with impunity. ” Fortunato, whose insult has spurred Montresor to revenge, becomes the man whose foot harms the snake Montresor and is punished with a lethal bite.
A very good example of humor can be found at the very beginning of the story itself: Montresor had “vowed revenge” against Fortunato. But he decided to mask his real feelings by outwardly appearing friendly towards him – “I continued as was my wont, to smile in his face. ” This grim irony of situation results in harsh ‘black humor’ with Montresor remarking sarcastically, “It was about dusk, one evening during the supreme madness of the carnival season, that I encountered my friend. He accosted me with excessive warmth, for he had been drinking much.
The man wore motley. He had on a tight-fitting parti-striped dress and his head was surmounted by the conical cap and bells. I was so pleased to see him, that I thought I should never have done wringing his hand. ” Also, Montresor, though not trying to be, is a bit funny at times. He leads Fortunato through the house, which is empty. Normally, the house would have been full of servants, and hence witnesses to the fact that he was leading Fortunato down to the catacombs. How did he get them to leave? He knew their natures well.
He states, “I had told them that I should not return until the morning, and had given them explicit orders not to stir from the house. These orders were sufficient; I well knew, to insure their immediate disappearance, one and all, as soon as my back was turned. ” This is a rather amusing commentary on the situation at hand. Tell the servants they’d better not leave, which ensured their departure. In addition to witty remarks like this, Montresor’s very intensity is a bit funny, also in a sad sarcastic sort of way.
He can’t have revenge, he must “punish with impunity. ” And, how dare Fortunato “insult” him!! The audacity! Of course the only conclusion to draw is that Fortunato must die a slow, painful, terrifying death. Yes, that’s what a sane human being would conclude…. Montresor is so extreme in his hatred and avowal of revenge that it is almost ridiculous. The reader very much so could lose insight of what the theme of the short story is meant to be seen as, while reading it.
As a reader, it would be seen as revenge, but in reality, Montresor felt betrayed and thought the only things he could do was kill him in a slow and painful way. The course of events has haunted him for the last 50 years, and in turn made him feel bad for what he had done, and you learn that near the end of the story, where you also learn he seems like he’s talking to an unknown character. Edgar Allan Poe has an eerie way of showing the context of the past event but if read and looked over, the reader could understand it’s theme well.