Redresser Definition

In "The Cask of Amontillado," what does, "A wrong is unredressed when retribution overtakes its redresser" mean?

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If somebody kills a man in order to get revenge for something that man did to him, and then if the killer gets caught and either gets sent to prison or executed, doesn't the killer still have his revenge? Poe seems to think the killer has to get away with...

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If somebody kills a man in order to get revenge for something that man did to him, and then if the killer gets caught and either gets sent to prison or executed, doesn't the killer still have his revenge? Poe seems to think the killer has to get away with the crime without even being suspected, or else he has not gotten the revenge he is after. Yet there have always been many people who have committed revenge-murders and gotten convicted and who probably still felt satisfied that they had gotten the vengeance they desired. There must be many cases in which the person wanting revenge actually gets killed himself in the act of killing his enemy. I can't think of examples in literature (or in the movies, either) but there must be many examples. One example that comes to mind is Hamlet, who is killed indirectly by Claudius and then kills Claudius while he himself is dying. Doesn't Hamlet get the revenge he has been wanting all throughout the play? Another example that comes to mind which might be even better than Hamlet is Humbert Humbert's murder of Quilty in the novel Lolita (and in the film adaptation). Humbert not only gets caught but doesn't even try to avoid capture.

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Montressor clarifies that statement by saying, "I must not only punish but punish with impunity." He just doesn't want to get caught or exposed as the person who murders Fortunato. He is eminently successful because Fortunato completely disappears. He continually refers to Fortunato as his friend and his good friend because he doesn't want anybody even to suspect that he knows anything about Fortunato's disappearance.

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"Redress" means "to set right" or "to rectify"

"Unredressed"--- the opposite of above.

"Retribution" means "punishment that one deserves for a wrong he has committed"

Montressor is saying that Fortunato has not "paid" for having wronged him, so Montressor is justified in taking restitution for the "insult" done to him.

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This phrase was spoken by Montresor in the opening lines of the story as he tells the reader about the wrongs committed against him by Fortunato. The word "unredressed" means not right or not made up for. What Montresor is saying here is that the wrongs committed against him by Fortunato were never made up for or Fortunato never made the wrongs right so now retribution or punishment will have to serve the redresser, Fortunato, instead. He is basically saying that Fortunato has to pay and since he hasn't taken the time to make things right, he, Montresor will have to now take matters into his own hands and issue Fortunato a fitting punishment. Montresor is a very unreliable narrator because he is secretly scheming this revenge for some wrong which he never names and his revenge plot is more than a bit extreme.

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This quotation by the narrator, Montresor, as he takes revenge on Fortunato (a name ironic in and of itself, given how he will meet his most unfortunate end) essentially means that if he (Montresor) were to get caught and punished for what he is about to do to Fortunato, then Fortunato is essentially getting away with the wrong or wrong he committed against Montresor, even though he will be dead.  For this reason, Montresor leads Fortunato, who is inebriated, into the catacombs, chains him to a wall and bricks him in while Fortunato slowly becomes aware of what is happening.  In this way, Montresor has ensured that no one will ever find Fortunato, and his revenge will stand without punishment to himself.  This is one of several places where Montresor's ramblings and whinings about Fortunato show him to be not exactly playing with the full deck. 

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Redress means to make amends or to set something right and  retribution is payback or revenge. Revenge and redressment are essentially opposites of each other. A person who seeks to redress an unjust act is trying to make the situation right. Being overcome with feeling the need for revenge would make it impossible to rectify the wrong.  Try reading the quote this way:  A wrong is not made right when revenge overtakes the person who wants to make the situation right.  It is similar to the old saying that two wrongs don't make a right.  The quote suggests that a person who has been wronged may naturally experience conflicting emotions, but if the goal is to correct the situation, then it is imperative to control the desire for revenge. 

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