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the love of God, Montresor!”
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
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.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Poe’s Short Stories!