What is Montresor's attitude toward revenge, or punishment in "The Cask of Amontillado"?
It is apparent that Montresor feels revenge is justifiable when insults and injuries go beyond the pale [outside the boundaries of normal behavior].
Poe's unreliable narrator explains to his audience that he has endured multiple injuries until the point that they become so excessive—"a thousand injuries"—as well as compounded with "insult" that he feels compelled and justified to avenge himself. Nevertheless, there are certain stipulations for seeking true revenge:
- The act of revenge must punish, and it must punish without any risk to the avenger. (In his act of luring Fortunato into the catacombs, Montresor takes no risk as he commits this act during the Carnival in which people are distracted in their celebrations; furthermore, Fortunato is disguised by his costume.)
- The revenge must "punish with impunity." There must be no consequences that result from this act of retribution. (Apparently, there have been no consequences for Montresor since it has "half a century" and "no mortal has disturbed" the remains of Fortunato.)
- The avenger must not himself be the recipient of any retribution for his act. (Montresor has received no punishment for his crime. No one has avenged Fortunato's death against him, either.)
- The revenge is not accomplished if the victim is not aware of the identity of the avenger. (Fortunato certainly has known that he was being walled in to die by Montresor.)
Throughout the short story, Montresor mentions that he had been wronged a thousand times by Fortunato and felt justified in taking his revenge. Montresor mentions at the beginning of the story that in order to right a wrong, he finds it necessary to make Fortunato pay for his hurtful actions. Montresor understands the delicate, careful manner that he must approach his revenge and makes sure not to reveal anything about his plans to anybody. Montresor also mentions that in order to enact the perfect revenge, he must not suffer as a result of his actions, which is why he approaches his plan with such care. Montresor also believes that Fortunato needs to know that he is paying for his actions and that it is Montresor who is making him pay. Clearly, Montresor's attitude towards revenge is specific and direct. The fact that he carefully plans his revenge by making sure his servants are not home and by enticing Fortunato to follow him under the guise of drinking a rare wine reveals Montresor's calculated plot and deliberate ideas about revenge. Fortunato's death is also terrifying and brutal, which again illustrates Montresor's seriousness about enacting revenge. Also, Montresor is telling the story nearly fifty years after enacting revenge, which indicates that his crime went unpunished, and he met his own standards.