illustration of Fortunato standing in motley behind a mostly completed brick wall with a skull superimposed on the wall where his face should be

The Cask of Amontillado

by Edgar Allan Poe
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What two conditions must Montresor fulfill for satisfactory revenge?

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At the beginning of the story, Montresor lists the following two conditions for a satisfactory revenge: the person taking revenge must do so with "impunity" and he must also "make himself felt as such to him who has done wrong." What Montresor means is that, first, the person taking revenge...

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At the beginning of the story, Montresor lists the following two conditions for a satisfactory revenge: the person taking revenge must do so with "impunity" and he must also "make himself felt as such to him who has done wrong." What Montresor means is that, first, the person taking revenge must be able to do so without being caught, and second, that the person he is taking revenge upon must know what is happening to him. In other words, it doesn't do any good to take revenge on a person if the person doesn't know you are hurting him. 

In "The Cask of Amontillado," Montresor goes out of his way to fulfill both conditions: he walls Fortunato into a catacomb far from any possibility of a witness and Fortunato knows, at least by the end, that he is being walled in and left to die. Fortunato knows who is killing him, and Montresor knows he won't be caught and be made to pay. But it is not clear that Fortunato knows why Montresor is taking vengeance on him: Montresor might say that doesn't matter. 

 

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Montresor doesn't just plan to murder Fortunato; he wants to make sure he gets away with it. To that end, he carries out his wicked crime on the day of the carnival, when everyone is out enjoying themselves and there are no servants about the house. This gives Montresor the opportunity to lure Fortunato down into the catacombs, where he plans to have him buried alive. It's the perfect place for a murder: dark, remote, out of sight, out of mind.

However, Montresor is not just a murderer; he's a sadistic murderer. It's not enough that he should kill Fortunato; Fortunato needs to suffer for his alleged slights, needs to know what terrible fate lies in store for him. Again, the catacombs are perfect for Montresor's purposes as they allow him to bury Fortunato alive, and most people would consider this about the worst way to go imaginable.

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In "The Cask of Amontillado", Montresor must not only punish Fortunato, but punish him "with impunity".  Furthermore, he had to let Fortunato know that he was the one who "got him".  The idea of a drive-by shooting would never have appealed to Montresor.  He wants to kill Fortunato, make sure Fortunato knows it is Montresor who did him in, and never get caught himself.  Walling Fortunato up in the catacombs under his property is an ingenuis way to do it and apparently, Montresor never gets caught.  At the end of the story, Montresor states that the bones guarding Fortunato's tomb have not been disturbed by any mortal in more than fifty years.  In pace Requiescat.

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