The Cask of Amontillado
by Edgar Allan Poe
Analysis: Plot Analysis
Most good stories start with a fundamental list of ingredients: the initial situation, conflict, complication, climax, suspense, denouement, and conclusion. Great writers sometimes shake up the recipe and add some spice.
An insult, and a vow of revenge
Fortunato and Montresor have a history, and a painful one at that. Fortunato has wounded Montresor a “thousand” times. Montresor never complains. But one day, Fortunato goes too far: he insults Montresor, and Montresor vows revenge.
How to make things right – forever
For Montresor to revenge himself for Fortunato’s insult, he has to get away with it – if Fortunato can revenge him back, then Montresor has lost. The punishment must be permanent − Fortunato has to feel it, and he has to know it’s coming from Montresor.
It’s almost too easy…
There really isn’t much complication. After a few carefully dropped hints from Montresor (think “Amontillado” and “Luchesi”), Fortunato insists on following Montresor down into the underground graveyard of your worst nightmares. Montresor baits him and plays with him, but Fortunato never considers turning back until it’s way too late.
Trapped in a conveniently man-sized space!
Montresor brings up Luchesi, Fortunato calls Luchesi an “ignoramus,” and boom! He’s chained inside an upright casket in the foulest depths of the catacomb! That’s the story’s big, explosive moment.
Brick by brick by brick…
Montresor is building a wall of suspense, especially if you are Fortunato. Fortunato’s watching himself being bricked in, waiting, breathlessly to see if this is some kind of really creepy carnival joke.
The final brick
After Montresor puts in the final brick, the suspense is dissolved. He’s heard the pitiful jingle of Fortunato’s bells, and it means nothing to him. As soon as the air is used up in the tiny brick casket, Fortunato will be dead.
It’s impossible to know how old Montresor is when he kills Fortunato, but in the second to the last line of the story, we learn that the murder happened fifty years ago. So Montresor is probably pushing eighty when he’s telling the story. And he could be far more ancient. More importantly, this conclusion lets us know that Montresor has gotten away with his crime so far. His vengeance has been a success, and he wants us to know it.