Edgar Allan Poe’s short story “The Cask of Amontillado” should best be remembered for its themes of betrayal between friends and the execution of the perfect murder. As I read the story, I discovered that the friendship between Montresor and Fortunato is not built on any solid foundation that could classify it as ever having been a true friendship. Instead it is built on a shallow understanding of Montresors personality and character by Fortunato. Fortunatos actions in the story indicate that he was only a friend to Montresor on the surface as he found himself unwilling to forgive a “friend” who had unintentionally insulted him during a drunken fit. By murdering Montresor, Fortunato only served to show that true friendship can never be solidified over a bottle of wine. Instead, it only courts betrayal and evil thoughts as the effects of alcohol alter one the personality of each person.
The basis of the conflict in the story is never truly spelled out for the reader aside from the allusion that Fortunato managed to insult Montresor verbally during one drunken gathering that they had.It is evident that the events that transpired between the friends was something that was blown out of proportion by Montresor as Fortunato does not display any recollection of the events that previously transpired between them. It is most disturbing that Montresor never displays any personal battle with the actions that he had taken that night. Instead, he gloats about performing the perfect murder many years ago.
The actions of Montresor, the way that he plotted the murder of his friend, and the lack of guilt or remorse at having committed the crime decades later leads the reader to believe that he must be a sociopath of the highest order. He must also be have been insane since he thought nothing of bragging about the crime that he committed and how he had gotten away with it to a complete stranger. Fortunato on the other hand is the character whom the readers can actually feel pity for as he is portrayed as nothing more than a drunk who was punished severely by his friend for a slighting that he did not even recall having committed. One must remember that Montresor, even during the final moments as he lay the final bricks over his panicking friend, he never told the other what he had done to deserve such a fate. These major characters are definitely plausible as friends in real life do have such falling out problems but with lesser repercussions befalling the guilty party.
The set of the story is the perfect backdrop for the personality of each of the characters. Fortunato is shown enjoying a carnival, drinking and enjoying himself without a care in the world. Then he is taken down to the catacombs by Montresor. The trek to deep into the catacombs truly symbolizes the character of Montresor, dark and secretive. The fact that the catacombs is the burial ground, or final resting place of the people who were enjoying the carnival above them shows that Montresor had played judge and jury to his friend, having cuffed him in chains to the wall as he closed it up in order to imprison his offensive friend for all eternity, never to be seen or heard from again. Fortunato had reached his final resting place.
With its theme of betrayal between friends, I found that I had this urge to review the friendships I have had in my life and evaluate them for sincerity and possible grave misunderstandings. It has made me realize the importance of communication between friends is most important in resolving any issues between friends rather than letting it fester inside, causing an even bigger, sometimes life altering situation between friends. And that, is why I chose The Cask of Amontillado for this particular subject. The character study that it allows for holds a mirror up for the reader to use in evaluating the friendships that they have in our lives. After all, nobody wants to end up like Fortunato, dead because of something that he had said but perhaps did not mean.