From the onset, an author lets the readers know which characters are important. This is the norm in any literary medium, including novels, plays, poems, and short stories. Other characters in works of literature are given a considerably less face time compared to the main character. In long works of literature such as novels and plays, minor characters take up a substantial space of the literary medium. However, in short, literary works such as poems and short stories, the main characters end up taking most of the space with minor characters contending with very little coverage. In short stories, the author mostly focuses on the protagonist’s details. Therefore, only very few and relevant details about the non-protagonist characters are supplied to the readers. Nevertheless, those few details and subtle, indirect hints often help the reader to infer some helpful insights and understandings about the non-protagonist characters in a short story. This paper defends this notion using details about the character of Fortunato in Edgar Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado.”
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The main character in “The Cask of Amontillado” is Montresor with Fortunato being a minor character in the short story. Also, Montresor is the story’s narrator, and a lot of details about his character are revealed in the story. On the other hand, the readers only learn about Fortunato’s character by gathering few and scanty details about him through his actions, words, and Montresor, the story’s narrator. At the beginning of the story, it is revealed that Fortunato is the victim of Montessori’s revenge plan. However, Montresor, the narrator does not reveal much about his prey, including the details about how Fortunato insulted him. After learning that Fortunato is the victim, the readers can sympathize and relate with his character. The fact that Fortunato’s accuser does not back his accusations against him makes the readers suspicious.
I t is also possible to know that Fortunato is addicted to wine. Montresor’s revenge plan is modeled around Fortunato’s wine addiction. Montresor is almost certain that Fortunato cannot resist the temptation of wine. On the other hand, Fortunato falls into Montresor’s trap quite easily. Even when Fortunato starts to cough, and Montresor offers him the chance to back off from his quest, he does not give up on the chance of tasting good wine. Fortunato is already drunk by the time he and Montresor get to the catacombs. Fortunato’s addiction seems to be his main undoing and eventually leads to his defeat.
Even though the short story does not dwell on Fortunato’s character, readers can decipher that he is insensitive. First, it does not look like he realizes that he hurt Fortunato. Second, when Montresor comes to carry out his revenge on him (Fortunato), he does not notice that Montresor is angry with him. Fortunato’s insensitivity also makes him a poor judge of character. Halfway through his execution, he still thinks that Montresor is playing a joke on him.
Another Fortunato’s trait that can be deduced from the few details in the short story is his greed and pride. When Montresor offers the wine tasting chance to someone else, Fortunato opposes this idea vehemently. Moreover, it is revealed that Fortunato is naïve. Fortunato follows Montresor sheepishly without considering the suspicious environment they are going past when going to fetch the wine. This naivety ends up being Fortunato’s main undoing.