The characterization of Montresor in Edgar Allan Poe’s the Cask of Montillado was not done in a conventional manner. This is because there is no other source of information other than the narration of Montressor. This means that Montressor was both the main character and narrator rolled into one.
This means that he can twist the facts and he can project himself as the hero of the story when in fact he could be the villain. This means that Montressor cannot be a reliable narrator and this assertion can be supported by looking at the way Montressor was characterized in this story.
A wary reader can immediately sense that something is amiss when it comes to the characterization of Montressor. Through the words of the narrator Montressor was characterized as a man who was a victim of a foul crime. However, Montressor did not went to the authorities. If he was a man who was at the receiving end of iniquity then he should have felt violated and demand that the lawbreaker pay for his sins. He could have sought justice through the legal process but instead he opted to become a murderer.
Another thing that Montressor did that could easily arouse the suspicion of the reader is his being secretive. No reason was given as to why Montressor wanted his friend dead. Furthermore, Montressor was not only interested in murder, one of his primary goals was to kill and to hide the evidence of the crime, to hide the body so that no one would know that Fortunato died from the hands of an assassin. For that reason Montressor employed a ghoulish strategy that necessitates the slow and painful death by burying Fortunato alive in the wine cellar under his house.
In addition, Montressor said that he was a friend of Fortunato but he seemed to have acted out of character when he assumed the habits and characteristics of a cold blooded killer. If one will take a closer look at what he said and the action and reaction of Fortunato, it can be said that Montressor could not justify the need for murder.
For example, Fortunato had no idea that he had offended Montresor. There was not even a slight hesitation on the part of Fortunato when he saw Montressor. He did not panic or did not become tense. He had no idea that he had besmirched Montressor’s reputation or if he had cheated him in any manner or even if he had said something that has caused him shame.
The final evidence that Montressor was not a reliable narrator and that he twisted the facts in relaying his side of the story can be seen in the final act when he retstrained Fortunato with a chain and padlock and began building the enclosure that will bury his friend alive.
In this moment of triumph when Fortunato had no chance of freedom and retaliation, when he was cornered in the catacombs, Montressor could have expressed his anger and his desire for revenge.
It would be the appropriate behavior of a man wronged to solicit a confession from the person who had commited a sin against him. But Montressor offered no explanation and thefore one can argue that there was no justification for his actions and he simply wanted his friend dead because of a minor offense.
Montressor was not a reliable narrator for he projected himself as the victim when in fact he was nothing but a cold-blooded killer. He offered no explanation and presented no evidence why he believed that Fortunato was guilty of death. Fortunato could be guilty of something but he did not deserve to die. Most importantly he did not deserve to suffer a terrible death, alone in the damp darkness in the catacombs.