Edgar Allan Poe's stories often leave out important facts so that the reader shall form his or her own opinions about the story and decipher it in their own way. According to Dawn Sova, Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado" "is considered a masterpiece because of its blend of horror at the protagonist's actions with the ironic humor of the situation" (Sova 45). The fundamental question in and main reason for contemplation about "The Cask of Amontillado" is the nature of Montresor's motive for the revenge the vowed to obtain when Fortunato "ventured upon insult" (Poe 209). Montresor believes a wrong is "unredressed when the avenger fails to make himself felt as such to him who has done the wrong" (209) and hopes to "punish with impunity" (208). While Montresor endeavors to make his vengeance known to Fortunato, the author's reference to masonry in his use of characterization, setting and irony indicates Montresor's motive for revenge.
Fortunato throws back a bottle of wine in a "gesticulation Montresor did not understand," a sign of the Masons, a secret society of which he affirms he is a member (212). This passage from the story represents the main conflict between the characters, and hints at the content of the rest of the story. Both men are proud, yet Fortunato is the more cocky and brash of the two. His nonchalant attitude as he essentially is led to his execution sharply contrasts with Montresor's businesslike and somber attitude. As Michelle Marietta notes in her essay about death in Poe's tales, Montresor is focused to the task on hand to the point of "obsession with planning the perfect crime and equal obsession with the absence of detection" (Marietta 2). Fortunato's mention of his being a mason is, unlike his other statements and actions, quite serious and secretive. This secrecy is imitated in Montresor's slaughter of his foe. .
Montresor's deadly act, he himself, and ultimately Fortunato are all shrouded in mystery and secrecy.