Cask Of Amontillado”I must not only punish, but punish with impunity. A wrong is unredressedwhen retribution overtakes its redresser. It is equally unredressed when theavenger fails to make himself felt as such to him who has done the wrong. “With these ferverous words from the introductory paragraph of Edgar Allan Poe’sCask of Amontillado, the story of Montresor’s revenge begins.
Poe repeatedlystresses the need for revenge due to bitterness and resentment in Montresor’scharacter towards Fortunato, but more importantly, stress is placed on revengeby which the victim realizes their injustice towards the redresser. Unfortunately, it seems that Montresor is denied this pure and encompassingrevenge when his victim, Fortunato, during his last few minutes with Montresor,believes that his actions are a huge charade, and not the actions of a manscorned and seeking revenge. Although in burying Fortunato alive, Montresor isable to physically accomplish what he ultimately desired, he is left with an airof insatisfaction judging by his own definition of true and justified revenge. Poe shows the resentment Montresor feels towards Fortunato from the very firstsentence of the story with, “The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borneas best I could; but when he ventured upon insult, I vowed revenge.Order now
” It isnever specified what this injury was to Montresor, but it was so obviously soheinous that Fortunato was not to be spared. Later in the story, Montresorimplores Fortunato half-heartedly, “Come, we will go back; your health isprecious. You are rich, respected, admired, beloved; you are happy, as once Iwas. ” once again showing strong resentment towards the unsuspectingFortunato, whom he clearly blames for his present lower status. We soon seeforeshadowing of Fortunato’s impending doom when the issue of Montresor’s shieldof arms is brought into the conversation as “A huge human foot d’or, in afield azure; the foot crushes a serpent rampant whose fangs are imbedded in theheel. “.
Even more appropriate is Montresor’s family motto, translated as,”No one wounds me with impunity”. Such a visual depiction and mentalconviction due to family honor and history creates all the more impetus inMontresor to carry out the punishment that Fortunato deserves for wronging him,and more likely the family honor. When Montresor finally captures Fortunato inthe catacombs, the climax of his precisely calculated deed, he revels in thesound of Fortunato’s chains rattling, and “that I might hearken to it withthe more satisfaction, I ceased my labors and sat down upon the bones”. However, his satisfaction soon turns to apprehension when suddenly “asuccession of loud and shrill screams, bursting from the throat of the chainedform, seemed to thrust me violently back”. He hesitates at this moment,when his revenge is sweetest, when he should bask in the suffering of his”enemy”, and finds himself contemplating the shrill screams of hiscaptive! He does eventually compose himself and takes a few more moments ofpleasure from his captive’s struggles, but his apprehension returns just as heplaces the final brick.
He “struggled with its weight”, showing hisconfusion at the path his revenge is taking. The little pleasure he did derivefrom Fortunato’s suffering is further dulled when Fortunato asks Montresor tofinish jesting with him, and return to the palazzo with him. To the shock andchagrin of Montresor, Fortunato does not even seem to accept that he is buryinghim alive! Before he should change his course of action, a riddled Montresorplaces the last brick as his “heart grew sick – on account of the dampnessof the catacombs. “. Montresor, although successful in his settling of thescore with Fortunato, falls short of what he had said and hoped his act ofrevenge would be.
He achieved his revenge, but at a cost to him, the”redresser”. He is left with such a guilty conscience that he isforced to confess to his crime 50 years later. As the “avenger”,Montresor also feels he fails to make Fortunato realize that he is exactingrevenge upon him, as shown by his frustration when Fortunato believes that thesituation he is in now is a joke on Montresor’s account. Fortunato, instead ofbegging for help and forgiveness, as Montresor wanted, laughed! “A lowlaugh that erected the hairs upon my head.
It was succeeded by a sad voice,which I had difficulty in recognizing as that of the noble Fortunato. “. Noble Fortunato? Even after all the infractions he suffered to his person, andall the pains he took in seeking and executing revenge, he refers to Fortunatoas noble? This is clearly his guilty and riddled conscience speaking. One canalso hypothesize that Fortunato did realize what the reality of the situationwas, and cheated Montresor from the satisfaction of his success by leaving himin a lurch as to whether he did the right thing.
What ever the case may be,Montresor unfortunately never realized the true revenge that he had hoped hewould exact on his enemy Fortunato. Revenge, although executed exactly asMontresor planned, still eluded him by falling short of his own expectations. Physically, Montresor had won this match, but Fortunato had ultimately takenaway the sweetness of this victory that Montresor so eagerly yearned.