Amontillado Motive for Muder in Essay

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However, we get no inclination that Fortunato is in any way better situated than Montressor -- only that he has insulted him. Montressor's vanity has been stricken, and he will strike back. But there is the sense in Iago that he wants something the Moor has -- whether it is power, Desdemona, ability, etc. There is a look in his eye, a sound in his speech, a hint in his words that he is jealous of the Moor. Does this transfer to Montressor, a latter-day representation of the evil Iago? Is it fair to say so? Is it even fair to say jealousy is at the root of Iago's hatred? Critics for centuries have puzzled over the mystery of Iago's hate. "Motiveless malignance" is all the better they have been able to name it. Therefore, one might not wish to prosecute the perpetrator Montressor by laying the blame at jealousy. After all, Montressor tells us himself in the very first line: "when he ventured upon insult, I vowed revenge."

What McHugh calls jealousy can perhaps be better understood as wounded vanity. Montressor gives both the reader and Fortunato another hint that such is the case when he describes his coat of arms: The heel of a foot crushing the head of a serpent, which has sunk its fangs into the heel. Again, Montressor may be fooling with the drunk Fortunato by foreshadowing what is to come -- by foretelling what awaits him at the end of the vault. But Fortunato does not realize that he himself is the snake. Duped by Montressor's smile, Fortunato is convinced that the only snake to come up between them is Luchesi, who wouldn't know Amontillado from sherry.

McHugh does give some evidence that both predator and prey in "Amontillado" suffer from vanity: "If Fortunato were not so quick to prove himself better than Luchesi, he wouldn't have gone into the catacombs in the first place. As for Montresor, wounded pride…left unchecked can have destructive, even lethal, consequences" (McHugh 2). The lethal consequences for Montressor? By killing Fortunato he is perhaps sealing off part of his soul -- burying his conscience the same way another Poe character will bury his victim beneath the floorboards in another famous tale, "Fall of the House of Usher." But such is only speculation. The reader is given no insight into the narrator's feelings of guilt. In fact, the narrator is so kind to his victim as to offer a slight prayer for the repose of his soul: "Requiescat in pace." They are, in fact, the last lines of the story.

What all of this means is only that our narrator Montressor is a single-minded man, whose purpose of dispatching one who has insulted him is achieved and that now he can go about his daily business. If one is to read into it -- and by that, I mean read into Poe's other creations -- he might come to the conclusion that go about his daily business he cannot. But then one's proof of this depends upon Poe's other tales of murder and madness -- the beating of that heart, that hideous heart -- so to speak.

Can one place the motive at jealousy? Or does McHugh only equate jealousy with vanity? Perhaps it is the latter. But perhaps it is understandable. Despite the fact that jealousy is hardly mentioned in "Amontillado," -- in fact, is not at all -- one can excuse the misnaming of motivation -- for Montressor reminds one so much of that other great villain in literature, Iago, whose actions do convey a kind of jealousy -- even if, again, jealousy is not overtly named as a motive. In fact, all we can say for sure is that "one may smile and still be a villain."

Works Cited

McHugh, Diana. "The Destructive Effects of Jealousy." Literary Reference Center,

2005. Web. 22 Feb 2011. .

Ruhl, Sarah. "Six Small Thoughts on Fornes, the Problem of Intention, and Willfulness." Theatre Topics -- 11.2 Sept 2001: 187-204. Print.

Shakespeare, William. "Othello." The Complete Signet Classic Shakespeare. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1972. Print.[continue]

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