Montresor, We must toast to the buried that repose around us!
Fortunato, and to your long life.
A Gothic Protagonist
A thousand injuries, fine, but Fortunato's insult won't stand. I vow revenge. I must conceal it, but he must know it was me that triumphed over him in the end. The motley fool that he is.
Emotions Run High
You are not of the brotherhood. You are not of the Masons.
But, look. My trowel.
The dark, damp, and layered "cavern" that causes Fortunato to make a toast to the "buried that repoose around us" ushers in a deathly setting that traverses through a "range of low arches" until terminating at a crypt "with walls . . . lined with human remains." Poe's setting in a dark, deathly tomb fosters a rank atmosphere of descending decay.
Poe's Gothic protagonist, narrating in an egocentric first-person, demonstrates an emotionally isolated protagonist concerned with concealing his intentions of revenge ("I would be avenged"). Montresor's narcissism and verbal irony play upon his victim's ignorance. Montresor ensures his attendants were gone and no family is encountered or mentioned (reinforcing the protagonist is both socially and physically alone).
Impression Of Decay
Emotions run high as a heightened sense of drama leads to murder. Fortunato, despite signs of illness (but bolstered through intoxicated resolve and ignorance), descends to his ultimate demise. Issues of social standing and self-entitlement arise through irony: Fortunato ignorantly calling Luchesi an "ignoramus" and the final twist as the elitist Mason dies by masonry.
Foreboding is demonstrated by the narrator's foretelling ominous things in first paragraph's exposition. The narrator shares how he will be avenged by "punish[ing] with impunity" while ensuring "the avenger . . .make[s] himself" known to "him who had done the wrong." Poe's use of irony and symbolism also demonstrate foreboding. For example the family arms (foot crushing a serpent) and Latin motto suggest deathly consequences.
Nemo me impune lacessit.
Poe paints a tapestry of decay in true Gothic form. While words like "immolation," "niter," and "afflicted" invite a general mood of decay, Decomposition is almost troweled layer-by-layer in dark description while coughing Fortunato imbibes a "flagon of de Grave" while traversing down the catacombs surrounded by the dead "piled skeletons."
The narrator speaks to, "You, who so well know the nature of my soul." This "known" soul is presented as unharmed, yet the narrator speaks of a "definitiveness" of being "avenged" and, not just punish, but "punish with impunity." Here, the word "impunity" suggests that something else, perhaps supernatural, exempts the murderer from punishment. The narrator's entire descent into an underworld of death suggests more of a grim reaping anti-soul.
But now there came from out the niche a low laugh that erected the hairs upon my head . . . a sad voice, which I had difficulty in recognizing as that of noble Fortunato. . . . No answer. I called again . . . . There came forth in return only a jingling of the bells. My heart grew sick. . . . May he rest in peace.