Abcarian and Klotz define the Human Condition as, “Man strives to give order and meaning to his life, to reduce the mystery and unpredictability that constantly threaten him. Life is infinitely more complex and surprising than we imagine, and the categories we establish to give it order and meaning are, for the most part,” momentary stays against confusion. “At any time, the equilibrium of our lives, the comfortable image of ourselves and the world around us, may be disrupted suddenly by something new, forcing us into painful reevaluation. These disruptions create pain, anxiety and even terror but also wisdom and awareness” (4). The above quote states that all people learn by the same process. Initially there is a disruption. This is followed by an emotional response. The emotional response calls for action which will rectify the disruption. Once this is done, the person gains knowledge from the experience. Montresor in the short story, “The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allan Poe (rpt. in James P. Place, Literature: A reader for Freshman Composition II, 2nd ed. [Boston: Pearson, 2012] 37-43) is an example of a character who is altered by an aspect of the Human Condition.
Montresor’s disruption was when Fortunato insulted Montresor’s honor and family name. Montresor was a noble man and what most insulted him was an insult about his honor or family name. “The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could.” This was what Montresor said about Fortunato, which shows us that Fortunato bothered Montresor and made fun of him many times before, but Montresor was a wise man. He always controlled himself and knew how to respond to Fortunato, until the day that Fortunato insulted him. On this day Fortunato insulted Montresor but not as he usually insulted him. Instead, Fortunato insulted his family name and honor, which in those days were the most important things to a man. This disruption was what really infuriated Montresor and led him to react emotionally.
His emotional response was to remain calm. He didn’t show any signs of anger at that moment. Montresor preferred to stay calm without taking any action until he made a perfect plan, quietly waiting for the right moment. Montresor took this insult as offensive to his honor. He wanted revenge but with “impunity,” meaning he wanted revenge without being punished for his action. Montresor wanted to kill Fortunato without suffering any consequences, and he said “A wrong is unredressed when retribution overtakes its redresser.” This statement shows that Montresor thought that he was the redresser; he was the one who would bring justice to this situation. Montresor believed that if he would get caught by the law then his justice wouldn’t be counted, so he wanted to do it without getting punished for it. However, he didn’t immediately get back at Fortunato. Instead, he kept smiling at Fortunato and faking his friendship with him. He wanted to take his time making the ideal plan against Fortunato. Montresor wouldn’t take any risks until an opportunity would present itself and this emotional response caused him to take action.
The action he took was killing Fortunato. He came up with a plan to kill Fortunato during the carnival season that was going on during that period of time. He needed to execute it well, so he didn’t take any risks. He planned to persuade Fortunato to come with him without anyone knowing, by using Fortunato’s point of weakness, his love and knowledge of wine. Montresor told Fortunato that he was not sure if the Amontillado he bought was of good quality. Fortunato loved these things, so he told Montresor that he should come with him because he was very knowledgeable about wine. Fortunato was so proud of his knowledge. To remove all risks and doubts, at first Montresor refused to take Fortunato with him down to the catacombs to check the wine. This made Fortunato insist about going down with him because he said he knew better about the wine....
Cited: Abcarian, Richard, and Marvin Klotz, eds. Literature: The Human Experience. 5th ed. New York: St. Martin’s Press.1990. Print.
Edgar Allan Poe in James P. Place, Literature: A reader for Freshman Composition II,
2nd ed. Boston: Pearson. 2012. Print.
English 104 – 021
Professor James Place
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