The Cask of Amontillado is one of the best known works of Edgar Allan Poe. This is a tale woven together through the use of lies and smooth words coming out from its main character and narrator.
The short story is interesting in the sense that all the information about the characters and the events that transpired that day came only from one source (Poe, p.1). Without remorse Montressor recounted how he deceived his friend Fortunato and led him to a trap that would kill him. It is therefore fitting to use characterization as an element to support the theme of betrayal.
The theme of the story is betrayal. Montressor said that he was a friend of Fortunato and yet he plotted his murder. The elaborate scheme was revealed by the murderer himself when he gave away clues as to how he has planned the event beforehand and that it was not spontaneous act.
Betrayal is the theme most evident in the story because Montressor was able to deceive his friend Fortunato. He played on his weakness. The pride of Fortunato was his downfall but it could never have been exploited until Montressor played the part of a good friend. Fortunato was an unsuspecting prey led to a deadly trap.
The betrayal was perfectly set-up because of the personal qualities of Montressor. This is why Edgar Allan Poe’s characterization is the most important element of this short story. Without the brilliant characterization of Montressor the story cannot stand on its own and the readers would not be convinced that a betrayal of such magnitude is possible.
The author was able to paint the picture of a cold-blooded killer capable of deceiving a friend. He was able to do this by allowing Montressor to be the narrator and the only source of information regarding the other elements of the story. Although the revelation of the character of Montressor was done indirectly, the fact that he was also the narrator of the story enabled readers to have access to his thoughts and feelings.
By doing so the author was able to reveal a great deal of information regarding the foul mind of Montressor. At the same time wary readers can see how the plot to kill Fortunato evolved from an insult, to a grudge and then finally to premeditated murder. The characterization of Montressor also made it clear why the murderer succeeded and why he was able to commit the perfect crime in the sense that no one would know that he was the culprit.
The characterization also revealed how Montressor’s mind work because he was able to foresee different factors that would work in his favor. He had foresight to kill his friend at the height of the carnival because he knew that Fortunato would be drunk. He also knew that it is the only time of the year that he could wear a mask without drawing suspicion. He could also then cover his face to prevent witnesses from identifying the man who was with Fortunato the last time he was seen alive.
The most dominant theme of the story is betrayal. The challenge for the author was to convince the readers that a powerful and influential man like Fortunato can be easily led to a trap. In this regard the author had to expertly use characterization to explain the motives of the killer and why he had the capability to commit a terrible crime. The characterization of Montressor also gave readers access to his thoughts and feelings therefore clarifying that he was intent to murder and betray his friend.
Poe, Edgar Allan. The Cask of Amontillado. PoeStories.com, 2005. https://poestories.com/read/amontillado. 27 July 2011.