The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could; but when he ventured upon insult, I vowed revenge. So begins The Cask of Amontillado, Poes horrifying tale of pride and retribution. Told by Monstresor, this story tells of how he lured his friend Fortunato into literally walking into his own grave. From the opening sentence the reader can perceive that Monstresor is proud and vengeful, and would do anything to save face. As the story progresses, Monstresor unravels the chilling tale of how he got his revenge, though vengence had been taken when no real offense had been given.
In the midst of a great carnival Monstresor approaches Fortunato, claiming he has purchased a cask of Amontillado. He goes on to say that he doubted the authenticity of the wine, and was on his way to Luchresis to ask him to taste it. Fortunato prided himself on his connoisseurship of wine. This pride eventually leads to his downfall, for he criticized Luchresis, saying he cannot tell Amontillado from Sherry. Thus Fortunato accompanies Monstresor to the latters family vault, where the nonexistent Amontillado was being stored.
The vault, deep underneath the Monstresor estate, is insufferably damp and encrusted with nitre. The way Poe describes these catacombs further accentuates the morbidness of the situation. We passed through a range of low arches, descended, passed on, and descending again, arriving at a deep crypt, in which the foulness of the air caused our flambeaux rather to glow than flame. The ominous tone of this story is characteristic of the gothic style of writing.
Poe uses a good deal of symbolism in this story. For example, the Monstresor family coat of arms is a huge human foot dor, in a field azure; the foot crushes a serpent rampant whose fangs are imbedded in the heel. The arms symbolize Monstresor and Fortunato, with the former being the foot, and the latter being the serpent. Though Fortunato has hurt Monstresor in the past, Monstresor will ultimately crush Fortunato.
Foreshadowing also plays an important role in this story. The Monstresor family motto is Nemo me impune lacessit, which stands for No one attacks me with impunity. Both the motto and the coat of arms suggest retribution. When Monstresor inquires of Fortunatos cough, which is made worse by the nitre in the catacomb walls, Fortunato simply replies, The cough is a mere nothing; it will not kill me. I shall not die of a cough.To which Monstresor agrees, knowing his friend will in fact die from dehydration in the crypt. As Monstresor offers Fortunato a draught of Medoc, he drinks to Fortunatos long life, which is ironic, considering the latter will soon die at the hands of his friend. Another instance of foreshadowing comes with the trowel scene. Fortunato asks whether Monstresor is a member of the Masonic order, but Monstresor replies with a visual pun. When he declares that he is a mason, he means that he is a stone mason — that is, that he will be building things out of stones and mortar: namely Fortunatos grave, (Sparknotes.com).
The menacing atmosphere is just one element of the gothic style. The sinister catacombs and the wicked Monstresor also play a key role in developing this tale of horror. What makes this story even more horrifying is that there is no real violence in the modern definition of the word. Monstresor was vengeful, yet he was very intelligent in his actions to kill Fortunato. Without a doubt, this tale of retribution is one of Poes best works.