What is the meaning of the phrase "A wrong is unredressed when retribution overtakes its redresser"?"The Cask of Amontillado" by Edgar Allan Poe

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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These are the words of narrator in the exposition of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado" as Montresor offers the reader his explanation of veritable revenge.  According to Montresor, it is not revenge, or retribution when this retribution comes upon the "redresser" suddenly; in other words, when the avenger is himself punished by being caught or harmed, etc.  Nor is it retribution when the avenger does not reveal his hatred to the one who has done the wrong:

I must not only punish, but punish with impunity.  a wrong is unredressed when retribution overtakes its redresser.  It is equally unredressed when the avenger fails to make himself felt as much to him who has done the wrong.

The elaborate plan of the man who has endured "the thousand injuries of Fortunato" fulfills the requirements that Montesor has set down.  For, Montesor punishes "with impunity"  since the revenge has been exacted fifty years ago, and no one has discovered his victim: 

For the half of a century no mortal has disturbed them [Fortunato's bells].  In pace requiescat

Montesor has also made himself known to his victim.  Fortunato cries out from behind the wall, "For the love of God, Montresor," and Montresor responds, "Yes,...for the love of God."

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