The Character of Montresor in the Cask of Amontillado
The Cask of Amontillado (1846) is a short story written from the narrator’s (Montresor) viewpoint who demonstrates several factors about his situation with Fortunato: he has borne quietly for too long with the many insults of Fortunato and has reached a point wherein he could no longer tolerate so many offenses, hence the desire for revenge, to secretly plot retribution. Montresor reveals certain aspects of his personality: unreliability as narrator; the absence of sympathy; and confessing and bragging.
Whether or not he himself plastered Fortunato into a vault or if he is lying about this incident, Montresor proves to be an unreliable narrator who cannot be trusted. He is emotionally unstable and fails to substantiate his claims against Fortunato. The opening words of the story mention his sole desire for revenge: “The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult, I vowed revenge.” Nonetheless, he never specifies what these offenses are nor does he substantiate the veracity of such claims. Montresor speaks of the incident many years after it is supposed to have occurred, believing he is very clever and his enemy very foolish.
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The complete absence of sympathy in Montresor is evident throughout. He shows bitterness and resentment, a determined desire for retribution. One who is sympathetic is a character to whom one can relate at some level, to some extent. Nonetheless, whilst Montresor is completely alien to the reader, it is also evident how the reader may relate to Montresor in a diversity of ways. Like Montresor, everyone at some point holds a desire for revenge; everyone knows that one individual who has caused some harm even though the one responsible for such may not have been aware nor have intended to injure anyone. The reader can further relate to Montresor is because he is still living, having gotten away with what he did thus evading any trouble over it. Everyone has some “dark secret” that one attempts to hide, except from a handful of individuals one feels are trustworthy.
The final characteristic of Montresor is how he brags about and confesses a diversity of matters. Literary critics debate whether he is confessing his actions or bragging about them, but he is actually doing both: Montresor confesses his actions in order to brag about them. This is a combination of pride, vanity and cynicism, given how he delights in all he has done. Even if one were to argue he does not “brag” about anything, nonetheless, he talks openly about what he has done as if nothing, given he feels justified in what he has done.
All these aspects of the personality of Montresor speak not only of him specifically but also of human nature overall. Montresor in all this demonstrates a character that is quick-tempered and vengeful, unreliable in what he relates, unsympathetic, and proud for confessing his acts only to brag of them. And as mentioned earlier, readers will be able to relate to him in various regards.