In "The Cask of Amontillado," why does Montresor wait fifty years to confess? How would the timing be significant to the story?

That Montresor acknowledges that fifty years have passed since he committed the crime speaks to his pride in having escaped any punishment for what he believes was Fortunato's well-deserved murder.

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The fact that it has been fifty years since Montresor has murdered Fortunato speaks to his pride in getting away with the crime. He isn't confessing in the traditional sense, as that implies some level of guilt about his wrongdoing. From the very beginning, Montresor makes clear that he "would be avenged" of the "injuries" he has suffered at the hands of Fortunato. He cleverly ascertains Fortunato's "weak point" of being a respected wine connoisseur. And as they progress along the journey to Fortunato's eventual tomb, Montresor toys with the man's emotions and sense of pride, inflating his ego about what a wonderful man Fortunato is. Using puns, Montresor tells Fortunato that he is "a man to be missed." Montresor's plans work flawlessly, and he is able to trap Fortunato just as he'd planned.

Montresor ends the entire story with "In pace requiescat," or "rest in peace." Perhaps this applies more to Montresor's own soul than it does to Fortunato's. By avenging his suffered injuries, Montresor's soul has seemingly been at peace ever since. He believed that Fortunato deserved to die, and he accomplished exactly what he carefully planned to do. The fact that he has hidden his crime for fifty years and has not been questioned for Fortunato's disappearance shows that this was a well-executed crime and one that he has carefully hidden for five decades. Montresor is proud of his success and shows no remorse for his actions; he simply wants his audience to know that he's gotten away with this crime for many years.

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Monstresor is not confessing, but rather telling a story. The story may be true or it may be false. The simple fact is we just don't know. But if it is true, then one can understand why Montresor would wait so long to tell it. Committing such a brutal murder isn't exactly something you'd shout from the rooftops.

Fifty years is a long time, but perhaps it's only now that Montresor feels able to articulate exactly what supposedly happened all those years ago. If Montresor really is guilty of this appalling crime, then we can be sure that he's confident of escaping punishment for his actions. That tells us that, for some reason or another, something always prevented him from telling his story, some situation or other that would've made it impossible for him to set out in such lurid detail the precise events of that fateful day. Now that situation has changed, and Montresor is finally able to tell his tale.

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Montresor is not confessing but writing a description of an event in his life of which he seems to be proud. The fact that he has waited fifty years to tell anyone about it only is intended to demonstrate that he has gotten away with a perfect crime. Many people express doubt that he really received any injuries or insults from Fortunato. These same people often believe that Montresor is making a verbal confession to a priest and seeking forgiveness for his sin. They call Montresor an "unreliable narrator." If so, then nothing in the story can be believed. Maybe he didn't even kill Fortunato. But if he didn't, then why is he confessing to it? Maybe Montresor is making up the entire story. But it is Edgar Allan Poe who made up the story, isn't it? Did Poe make up a story about a man who made up a story about an event that didn't actually happen? Why not read the story the way it is written? Why not assume that Fortunato injured Montresor approximately a thousand times and then ventured on insult? If we question Montresor, we can end up questioning every story written in the first person, including Huckleberry Finn and Moby Dick and The Catcher in the Rye.

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Montressor does not actually confess to the crime he has committed and we the reader do not even know if the story he tells is true because he is not a reliable character or he is not credible. He is so distraught with his feelings of vengeance and a desire for revenge that we do not know for certain that he actually went through with it. The narrator only tells us that for half a century the "rampart of bones " went undisturbed. He never says for certain that the reason they were disturbed half a century later was because he confessed. Furthermore, if Fortunato was buried alive he was buried in the catacombs which were actually the tombs of the family of the house so discovering a body among a mass tomb would not be suspicious.

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Montresor was very specific in the beginning to explain that Fortunato had "wronged him" and deserved punishment.  However, in order for that punishment to be fair and just to the insults hurled upon Montresor, it had to be done secretly  This secret, as Montresor says, is "not only punish, but punish with impunity''; that is, to punish Fortunato without being caught or punished himself.  Therefore, he can not confess to the crime.  We can assume that this confession is being done towards the very end of his life, perhaps even on his deathbed, when not punishment could be exacted upon him.

In addition, Montresor is an unreliable narrator.  He is obsessed with injuries that he does not even describe in detail, suggesting perhaps that those injuries were not as damaging as his violent act suggests.  The lack of remorse he shows 50 years later, coupled with the passioned explanation of his actions that he makes, help to support the idea that this is an unstable man run amuck with perceived insults, and not a sane man dealing out deserved punishment.

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