In “The Cask of Amontillado,” Fortunato addresses this plea—his last spoken words—to Montresor, the man who has entombed him alive. Critics have long argued about the meaning of this quotation. On the one hand, some argue that Fortunato at last breaks down and, realizing the deathly import of the situation, resorts to a prayer for earthly salvation. Fortunato, according to this interpretation, maintains the hope that Montresor is playing a complex practical joke. The italicized words signal the panic in Fortunato’s voice as he tries to redeem Montresor from the grip of evil. On the other hand, some critics assert that Fortunato accepts his earthly demise and instead mocks the capacity for prayer to influence life on Earth. In this interpretation, Fortunato recognizes his own misfortune and taunts Montresor with the mention of a God who has long ago deserted him. Just as the carnival represents the liberation from respectable social behavior in the streets above, the crypts below dramatize religious abandon and the violation of sacred humanity.
Montresor’s response of “Yes, for the love of God!” mocks Fortunato in his moment of desperate vulnerability. However, Fortunato refuses to acknowledge this final insult. On the verge of death, he uses silence as his final weapon. He recognizes that his unknowing participation in the entombment has given Montresor more satisfaction than the murder itself. When Montresor twice calls out “Fortunato!” he hears only the jingle of Fortunato’s cap bells in response. The sense of panic shifts here from Fortunato to Montresor. Montresor’s heart grows sick as he realizes that Fortunato outwits him by refusing to play along anymore in this game of revenge. Montresor faces only the physical fact of the murder, and is stripped of the psychological satisfaction of having fooled Fortunato.