What is the purpose of the narrator's "May he rest in peace" at the end?

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William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Montresor's purpose in killing Fortunato was not so much to dispose of Fortunato as it was to rid himself of his bad feelings. What Montresor wanted was what these days is frequently called "closure." I take it that closure means being cleansed of feelings of hatred and bad memories. In the opening paragraph Montresor specifies exactly what he feels he needs to do in order to achieve the perfect revenge.

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 such to him who has done the wrong.

The fact that Fortunato's bones have not been discovered in fifty years is proof that Montresor punished with impunity. He got away with it. He shows at the end of the story that Fortunato might have been drunk but that he was aware of what was happening to him and who was causing it to happen. Fortunato does not address Montresor by name until near the very end when he cries:

“For the love of God, Montresor!”

So Montresor achieved perfect revenge, perfect satisfaction, perfect closure fifty years ago. He no longer harbors any ill feelings towards Fortunato at all. This, we believe, should always be the case if we get revenge against someone we hate. We can't hate a dead body. We might even pity our victim. We might even feel sorry for committing the crime--but only after the fact. When Montresor ends his tale with the words "In pace requiescat!" he means it sincerely. He needs to say it because he is the only one in the whole wide world who knows what happened to Fortunato and where his skeleton lies.

pmiranda2857 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Montresor, the narrator, tells this story of events that took place 50 years in the past.  When he utters at the end, "may he rest in peace," even though he does not feel remorse for murdering Fortunato, Montresor now hopes that the wrong that was done to him has not prevented Fortunato from finding his eternal rest. 

"The story's last words, In pace requiescat (Rest in peace), are taken from the Roman Catholic funeral ritual spoken in Latin. Critic John Gruesser believes that Montresor tells the story of his crime ‘‘as he presumably lies on his deathbed, confessing his crime to an old friend, the 'You' of the story's first paragraph who is perhaps his priest.''

Montresor could be feeling worried about his own salvation at the time when he tells the story, because, he obviously has committed murder, a capital sin, that is against man as well as God.  We don't know if he is sorry, the author does not make that clear.  However, he is worried about his immortal soul.   

Update: I have read more about this, Montresor is saying Rest in Peace, addressing his ancestors who can now be at peace because he has avenged their name and his with the murder of Fortunato.

jlcannad eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This really is an ambiguous line. The obvious answer is that he is hoping that Fortunato has rested in peace. Literally, the answer is that Fortuanto has rested in peace without anyone disturbing his bones because no one has found him.  So, is Montressor saying that he hopes Fortunato continues to "rest in peace" meaning the body is never found and he his never outed as a murder?  Perhaps.  Maybe Montressor is trying to feign some mercy for Fortunato's soul saying that he hopes Fortunato rests in peace in heaven.  That interpretation is certainly supported by the opening line of "You, who so well know the nature of my soul."  If Montressor is speaking to a priest on his deathbed as many critics claim, he must show remorse for his crimes in order to receive absolution.  He might even be speaking of himself in third person.  The glory of Poe's work is that there is never one interpretation which is easy or obvious.  

alexb2 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think the lines are spoken to emphasize that Montressor is truly evil-- the line is ironic, as the customary "rest in peace" is being inverted to refer to the peace of the narrator and not his victim. 

Against the new masonry I re-erected the old rampart of bones. For the half of a century no mortal has disturbed them. In pace requiescat!

I do agree it could be considered somewhat ambigious, especially as the previous lines are:

My heart grew sick; it was the dampness of the catacombs that made it so. I hastened to make an end of my labour. I forced the last stone into its position; I plastered it up.

This could be read as someone remoreseful, although I prefer to think that this is just atmosphere, and that Montressor's final statement is a deliciously evil ironic statement.

amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Maybe it's not about Fortunato...maybe it's about Montressor and the realization that he has just committed murder.  Perhaps he's hoping that not only his victim, but himself...upon his future death...will both rest in peace?  Peace from the ongoing argument and strife they have had on earth, and peace in the afterlife regardless of the way each man lives or dies.

kwoo1213 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I will be the odd man out here and say that I have always read this line as one that is pure sarcasm.  To me, he says this as an exclamation point to end his horribly cruel murder of this man.  He is rather proud of the care he has taken to entomb this man and I do not think he truly regrets doing so at all.  

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It is a good question you ask here. I have always thought of it as a kind of throwaway line. I do not think he meant much by it. It is not necessarily a sign of guilt or even regret.  He has had fifty years to think about it!

pookyginn14 | Student
What is the purpose of the narrator's "May he rest in peace" at the end?

What is the purpose of the narrator's "May he rest in peace" at the end?

because if you read at the end of the story that montresor may be having his doubts of what he just did so i guess that is why he said it.

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The Cask of Amontillado

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