Describe the qualities that Montresor insists on as the characteristics of a successful vengeance in "The Cask of Amontillado"?

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hgarey71 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Edgar Allan Poe's short story "The Cask of Amontillado," Montresor seeks revenge on Fortunato for an unclear reason. The only thing the reader knows is that Montresor thinks Fortunato has insulted him. 

"The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as best I could, but when he ventured upon insult, I vowed revenge." 

I see four characteristics Montresor insists upon for successful vengeance: 1) he has to lull Fortunato into a false sense of security, 2) he has to punish him, 3) there must be no chance that he will be caught or punished for exacting his revenge, and 4) he has to make sure that Fortunato knows that he is responsible for the act of vengeance. 

First, Montresor says he will not in any way threaten Fortunato. He is willing to wait patiently for the right time to exact his revenge. He waits until Carnival--a time of joviality when he is sure to catch Fortunato unaware and unsuspecting. Then, he explains to the reader that merely punishing Fortunato will not be satisfactory. He needs to punish with impunity--with freedom from punishment. Indeed, he accomplishes this goal as we learn in the last few lines of the story that for fifty years, no one has discovered the body of Fortunato, which is walled up in Montresor's family catacombs. Next, he treats Fortunato with kindness and respect. He is careful to tell the reader that he never gave Fortunato any reason to doubt his intentions. He treats him with kindness and respect, thereby lulling him into a false sense of security. 

Montresor makes it clear that his revenge must be carried out in such a way as to not only avenge the wrongs that have been done to him but essentially get away with murder. He leads Fortunato to the catacombs right in the middle of the carnival, treating him companionably so no witness has any reason to suspect any malice. 

Finally, Montresor makes needs to make sure that Fortunato is alive and fully aware of his murderous intentions before his demise. Like a spider trapping its prey in a web, Montresor traps Fortunato in the vaults, all the while toying with him by expressing concern for his health. He takes advantage of his drunken state, trapping him in a niche at the bottom of the catacombs and chaining him to the wall. Then, he slowly and carefully builds a brick wall with which to bury him alive. 

The evidence for these characteristics of Montresor's revenge can be found in the first two paragraphs of the story: 

"The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult I vowed revenge. You, who so well know the nature of my soul, will not suppose, however, that gave utterance to a threat. At length I would be avenged; this was a point definitely, settled --but the very definitiveness with which it was resolved precluded the idea of risk. 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.

It must be understood that neither by word nor deed had I given Fortunato cause to doubt my good will. I continued, as was my in to smile in his face, and he did not perceive that my to smile now was at the thought of his immolation."

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are really only two qualities that Montresor insists on -- ones that he says are necessary if a person's revenge is to be successful.  You can find the two of them in the first paragraph of the story.  The relevant quote is

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.

So, the first quality is that the revenge must be done with impunity -- Montresor cannot get caught killing Fortunato or his revenge would be no good.  That is why he kills Fortunato during the carnival and why he makes sure his servants are gone.  He wants no witnesses...

The second idea is that the victim has to know what is happening to him.  He can't just be blown up by a bomb or killed by a gunshot in the back.  This is why Montresor does something as disturbed as walling Fortunato up in a cellar where he'll die of thirst.  He wants to be sure Fortunato knows who has killed him and that he has time to think about his death.

 

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The Cask of Amontillado

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