Edgar Allan Poe’s story “The Cask of Amontillado” ventures into the world of retribution. The entire story surround’s the main character’s desire for vengeance for an insult. This was the final straw after “the thousand injuries” that Montresor had suffered at the hands of the Fortunato
The point of view of the story is first person with Montresor as the narrator. His vague explanation for his determination to punish Fortunato makes the reader wonder about the sanity of the narrator. Montresor tells the reader that he has vowed revenge.
At length I would be avenged: this was point definitely settled…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.
To understand the quotation it is important to define these words:
- impunity- freedom from punishment or to receive immunity
- redresser-the person seeking revenge
- unredressed- unable to set things right or repair
Montresor establishes two important aspects of his punishment for
The crime can never be attributed to Montresor. If a person commits an act of revenge, the vengeance must never be connected to him. Punish with impunity---this means to punish someone without being punished for the act. Montresor must never be caught. The insult will not be avenged if the redresser [Montresor] receives any punishment.
It is important to Montresor that Fortunato knows that it is Montresor that is committing the act of retaliation. If Fortunato were to simply die from some unknown cause without knowing that Montresor caused his death, Montresor feels that this also would not complete the act of revenge.
Montresor’s family coat of arms extends the idea of retribution. A foot crushes the snake [a wrong has been done] with the snake turning its head and biting the foot [the wrong has been avenged].
When Montresor begins to close up the death niche for Fortunato, it seems odd that Montresor does not provide an explanation for his killing Fortunato. Why did he not tell Fortunato why this was happening? Fortunato was either too drunk to ask the right questions or he understood why he was receiving this punishment.
Montresor does accomplish his goal. The murder is never discovered. At the end of the story, the narrator tells the reader that it has been fifty years since the murder. No one has disturbed the bones of Fortunato. Montresor ends the story with “Rest in Peace.” He punished Fortunato with impunity.