The 1846 short story novel provides a chilling and puzzling account to its audience. Narrated in first person by an evil protagonist called Montresor, the tale also features Fortunato confession of having committed a horrible crime half a century ago. Montresor deceives his opponent to travel with him in the family vaults in the pretext that he desires his opinion concerning the newly obtained Amontillado wine. Fortunato meets his Waterloo at the catacombs. The emerging issue to the readers is the failure to identify the crime motive. Unable to find a compelling reason for the murder's misdeeds commentators cite that he is psychological unstable. This paper will discuss Poe's tale through psychoanalytical criticism lens. The paper will apply Feudian psychology to help in understanding seemingly profound mind of Montresor.
According to DiSanza (197), psychoanalytic criticism is a critical thinking construct that highlights reasons for people unbecoming behaviors. For many years, readers have queried the motive of committing the unfathomable cruel act of burying another person alive. Freudian psychology cites that the subconscious part of mind tends to control most of our behaviors. The id is part of the brain that has a gratification seeking system that drives impetuous and risky behaviors.
Montresor is a person in Poe's narrative that follows the trappings of his id (Poe 123). His passion for revenge tends to conflict with his moral laws. The killer while committing the ordeal appears calm and collected. He has no feeling of remorse in fact he perceives the act as a successful way to revenge Fortunato. Waters (42) says that Montresor has an overactive id that he views himself as a victim and thereby derives satisfaction from committing the deed. Through the id lens, the murder is logical and proper way to retaliate wrongs perpetrated.
Montresor applies the id part of the mind to attain unthinkable gratification. The id is the origin of all vile gratifications. The part of the mind gratifies its passion without consideration of social conventions or moral restraint. Failure to control id can lead to self-destruction in a bid to fulfill the impulses for pleasure. The readers query Montresor main reason to lure his ally and murder him (Baraban 176). While Montresor provides the victim ample time to head back to the party, he seems to derive pleasure from his criminal activity. He has time to dress appropriately resembling an executioner to foreshadow his heinous deed. Fortunato like his people was foolish since he thought that confession would translate to forgiveness.
Consequently, Montresor in his id did not have a moral regard to kill his friend albeit he provided him with an option of going back severally. The criminal gave the victim a false sense of security through his id. Changes in personality in the killer's id attributed to the killing of Fortunato by Montersor (Baraban 178). A person's ego can dominate reality making it impossible to inhibit an inner passion and finally the person starts to have a different reality. Later on, a person such as Montesor develops delusions of grandeur or paranoia.
Montresor through his ego led him to interpret the insult by Fortunato as an injustice. With that, he had to entice Fortunato through the vaults. Montresor viewed the wrong as one that inflicted the entire family. The wrong inflicted Montresor inner passions and revenge served the purpose of restoring the killer sense of reality.
Feudian psychology asserts that superego part of mind seeks to repress the id demands and avert the gratification of basic physical appetites. The book does not inform of any person that can help remind Montersor of the divergence between good and bad. In essence, Montressor insisted they leave for the carnival and thus he was alone. Probably his parents did not teach Montressor the difference between right and wrong. It may be that he has been suffering a guilty conscience for fifty years due to his criminal ordeal.
Montressor in the first sentence says that for all troubles by Fortunato he could manage with the exception of insult that he had to revenge (Poe 125). The words sets the tone for an insane person and the audience have an idea of what such a person may end up doing. One of the chilling aspects of Poe's tale is a sudden and unpredictable plan to murder a victim due to an insult that occurred fifty years before its retelling. Another phrase that display anger and vengeance of the protagonist is, "not just punishment but one with impunity." Montresor depicts sophistication in the revenge philosophy.
DiSanza(204) argues that Montresor fails to revenge immediately Fortunato insults him, rather he waits fifty-years for him to suffer a ravage of conscience. The words, "you, who so well know the nature of my soul" (Poe 848) tends to address the confessor. The narration by the murderer supports the argument of Montresor's troubled conscience. Whether or not the narration takes place at Montresor's deathbed, it is questionable if the confession provides evidence that the criminal suffers pangs of conscience for fifty years. According to Waters (50), Montresor's through his Id and ego can recall the happenings at the catacombs.
Briefly, while it is hard to decipher the psychology behind Montresor's actions, it is easier to understand upon the application of Freudian psychology. This paper has examined the purpose of id, ego, and superego so that the audience can unravel the motive of the murder.
Baraban, Elena V. "Critical Readings: The Motive for Murder in 'The Cask of Amontillado' by Edgar Allan Poe." Critical Insights: The Tales of Edgar Allan Poe, Jan. 2010, pp. 163-181.
DiSanza, R. (2014). On memory, forgetting, and complicity in "The cask of amontillado". The Edgar Allan Poe Review, 15(2), 194-204. doi:10.5325/edgallpoerev.15.2.0194
Poe, Edgar A. The Cask of Amontillado. Alex Catalogue, Raleigh, N.C, 1990.
Waters, Charlene. "The Influence of Blackface Minstrelsy in 'The Cask of Amontillado.'" Edgar Allan Poe Review, vol. 19, no. 1, Spring 2018, pp. 39-52.
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