"I hope you have not been leading a double life, pretending to be wicked and being really good all the time. That would be hypocrisy." - Oscar Wilde, "The Importance of Being Earnest".
In "A Cask of Amontillado," Edgar Allen Poe reveals the emptiness of revenge and the wreckage that results. Poe paints a vivid picture of a man tormented by "the thousand injuries," (219) bestowed upon him by a rival. Is it the rage of a man pushed too far? Or is it something more sinister, such as jealousy that drives Montresor to murder Fortunato? There is ample evidence within the story to believe that Montresor is evil and acts with depraved indifference towards the fate of Fortunato. However, if one reconsiders all the facts of the story an alternate conclusion emerges. .
There is no disputing that Montresor planned his enemy's demise in a cold, calculating manner. However, throughout the story we see indications that Montresor is actually a man pushed too far, trying to deal with the mix of emotions that result from his conflict with Fortunato. The relationship between the two characters is much like that of a bully and victim. Fortunato has singled out Montresor for ridicule and embarrassment time and again, yet Montresor continues to show reservations about killing his tormentor. .
Montresor knows that Fortunato is deep in his cups when he meets him on the street during carnival. Fortunato is kept in a state of functional drunkenness by his host during the trip into the catacombs. The alcohol serves two purposes for Montresor: it anesthetizes his victim if he actually goes through with his plan; or it serves as an amnesiac should Montresor fail to murder Fortunato.
Lacking the resolve to carry out his plan, Montresor offers Fortunato several opportunities to live. Montresor repeatedly suggests they leave the catacombs, yet Fortunato persists. Not only does Fortunato continue into the catacombs, but he also continues to insult his host along the way.