Poe & Fortunato

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What is mr. Poes message about people and our existance. In the Cask of AMONTILLADO. Next question can you please exsplain who Fortunato is representive of in The Cask of AMONTILLADO.


-- Anonymous, September 03, 2000



Depending on the source, I am sure there are various messages to be found in this tale of revenge. What it may say about people and our existence, is really left to the interpretation of the reader. One thing I find most interesting about this story is the differing opinions related to the justice or injustice of Montresors deed. Clearly, his actions constitute premeditated murder, executed in a rather shocking fashion. Yet by the end of the tale, where do our sympathies lie? Do we grieve for the contemptible, arrogant Fortunato who used his wealth and social position to gain respect through fear? Or do we empathize with Montresor who infers that he merely wishes to fulfill his obligation to avenge the familys honor? Where are your sympathies, Stacy?

In The Cask of Amontillado, Montresor, the master and only surviving member of the noble House of Montresor had endured repeated injuries at the hands of a pretentious and arrogant boor, Fortunato. We are not told the nature of these injuries, only that they were great in number and we perceive them as an attempt to denigrate or, at least socially, to embarrass Montresor. Montresor had tolerated these indignities but was unable to forgive or forget Fortunatos insult upon the House of Montresor and, compelled by family honor, vowed revenge. But not just any revenge. In the very beginning of this tale, Poe clearly spells out the rules by which his vengeance must be committed. In the end, not only must Fortunato die, but he must know that he will die at the hands of Montresor and that it was Fortunatos own arrogance that Montresor had employed to seek his revenge. As Fortunato slowly dies, shackled and enclosed within the dark, damp niche of the catacombs, he was to recall his repeated refusal to leave the catacombs at the urging of Montresor and agonize over the irony.

As to the second part of your question related to who was represented in the character of Fortunato, I believe it was a compilation of individuals. In a letter to Thomas Chivers on July 10, 1844, Poe wrote "I disagree with you in what you say of man's advance towards perfection. Man is now only more active, not wiser, nor more happy, than he was 6000 years ago."

This expression of disappointment in the progress of man in general, I believe, was born of Poes difficulty in achieving the success and literary independence of which he dreamed. Given his broad recognition for The Raven in 1845, I believe he felt added disappointment and some measure of insult for his lack of acceptance by, what he termed, the New York Literati. Poe felt this wealthy and influential literary clique was responsible for his lack of recognition and exposure and that its membership, for the most part, was gained as a result of wealth and social position and not talent or literary ability. Like Montresor, he vowed revenge and wrote many scathing articles aimed at the Literati. Perhaps, it was this group, collectively, upon whom Poe wished to seek revenge.

It is also thought that Fortunato may have been representative of John Allan, Poes foster father and one biographer, Kenneth Silverman, has suggested that Allans name can be found in the title word, Amontillado. John Allan was a wealthy businessman of Scottish origins and, in fact, the national motto of Scotland is Nemo me impune lacessit. I doubt seriously this was used by Poe coincidentally. The similarities between John Allan and Fortunato do not stop there. They were both known as men that were wealthy, respected, admired, beloved and feared. Both were interested in wines and both were members of the Masons.

I hope this assists you in some measure, Stacy. Let me know how it goes.


-- Anonymous, September 04, 2000

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