The story “The Cask of Amontillado” written by Edgar Allen Poe, communicates his theme that pride leads to a man’s downfall. Pride is known as a feeling or deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements. It is also the sin of Montresor and Fortunato in Poe’s short story. Montresor has been insulted by Fortunato, and his pride leads him to seek revenge. He cleverly plays upon Fortunato’s pride and leads him to his death with the promise of tasting a nonexistent cask of Amontillado..
Power of pride is clearly seen in the character of Montresor. His pride in his family name is so great that “When Fortunato ventured upon insult, Montresor vowed revenge” (199). He cannot let himself be put down because he would appear to be weak and inferior, so he plans his revenge carefully. His desire to punish Fortunato is related to his family motto, “Nemo me impune lacessit” which means “No one dare attack me with impunity’ (201).
Obviously his ancestors felt that they were above eproach, and their pride made them feel that any attack should be met with even greater force. That is why Montresor cannot turn the other cheek, he feels it is his duty to crush any “serpent” (201) who would dare to attack his honorable name. This belief leads him to his moral downfall as he plans and executes the murder of Fortunato. Fortunato’s pride leads him into the trap that Montresor so cleverly lays for him.
Montresor knows that Fortunato has a weak point “He prided himself on his connoisseurship in wine” (199). Montresor sees Fortunato’s pride as a weakness and like the clever man he is, Montresor preys upon this point, creating a nonexistent cask of Amontillado that he knows Fortunato will do anything to taste. To insure that Montresor goes even one step further and teases Fortunato’s pride by saying that he plans to have Luchesi taste the wine because “if anyone has a critical turn, it is he” (200).
Fortunato’s pride cannot accept that anyone is better at wine tasting than he is, so he insults both Montresor and Luchesi by saying, miou have been imposed pon; and as for Luchesi, he cannot distinguish Sherry from Amontillado” (200). So great is Fortunato’s pride that he does not see the effect his insults have upon Montresor he believe that he can say and do anything because of his superior skills. Little does he know that his pride is leading him into Montresor’s trap. Montresor continues to play with Fortunato’s intense pride as he leads him to his death.
Several times Montresor offers to turn back with Fortunato because of his ough and the dampness of the catacombs but Fortunato insists, “Let us go on” (201). He cannot admit to any physical weakness that would interfere with his ability to test the Amontillado. He must also prove that Montresor was taken advantage of that would make him teel even more superior knowing that Fortunato will not turn back because of his pride, Montresor leads him to the crypt where he plans to bury him alive saying “Proceed”, herein is the Amontillado” (202). The pride of both men leads them to the terrible moment.
Montresor’s pride causes him to commit murder without thinking for a moment about its immorality, and Fortunato’s pride blinds him to the effects of his insults and to his murderer’s intentions. So Poe’s theme that pride leads to the downfall of man can be clearly seen through the actions of Montresor and Fortunato. Both men are flawed by their intense pride and so are led to ruin by it. In fact, Montresor’s pride is still so great that after fifty years he is bragging about his perfect crime. He cannot see how pride led him to an evil and immoral act.