What are two conditions that must be met in order for Montressor to feel his revenge is successful, and does he feel remorse?

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scarletpimpernel eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Montresor believes that he must not only kill Fortunato in order to obtain revenge for Fortunato's "insult" against him, but he also wants Fortunato to suffer and to know that Montresor has "bested" him--thus, his elaborate scheme to lure Fortunato into the catacombs and brick him up alive there.

It is difficult to determine whether Montresor feels remorse because he is the unreliable character telling the story.  In the last paragraph as Montresor completes his work, he thinks,

"My heart grew sick; it was the dampness of the catacombs that made it so. I hastened to make an end of my labour.  I forced the last stone into its position; I plastered it up."

His having to explain to himself that he feels "sick" because it is damp in the catacombs might imply that he feels somewhat remorseful for what he did--not necessarily for getting rid of Fortunato but more for the gruesome task that he finds himself completing.  If Montresor feels remorse for killing Fortunato, he has an opportunity to spare him before "forcing" the last brick into place because he hears the bells from Fortunato's costume jingling faintly as he finishes the wall, but he chooses to complete his job and declares that no one has disturbed the sight since.

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It is also important for Montressor to successfully complete his crime without the possibility of detection by the law. He addresses this issue in the very first paragraph of "The Cask of Amontillado" when he states that

... the very definitiveness with which it was resolved precluded the idea of risk. I must not only punish but punish with impunity. A wrong is unredressed when retribution overtakes its redresser.

Montressor's precise planning is meant to not only succeed with his horrific crime--and to punish Fortunato in a ghastly manner--but also to avoid capture or prosecution. Getting caught and perhaps suffering a death sentence himself is not acceptable.

It is equally unredressed when the avenger fails to make himself felt as such to him who has done the wrong.

The location that Montressor chooses for Fortunato's final resting place proves to be a wise one, and it fulfills the killer's goal of the perfect crime: He accomplishes the act without the possibility of the body being found. 

deb617 | Student

He must “not only punish but punish with impunity”. Another words, not only must he enact revenge for the insults he has endured from Fortunato, but he must do it in such a way as to not get caught.

Is he successful?  Considering that Fortunato dies at the end we can assume he was at least successful at the revenge part. Whether or not he did it without getting caught is really left to our personal hypothesis as to whether or not anyone saw him -unlikely, considering the 1) madness of the carnival season..lots of drunk people, 2) the fact that Montressor dismissed all his servants. It is my belief that he did not get caught. Consider: Montressor’s purpose for revenge was highly personal. “Insults” were an excuse.  . “You were happy as once I was”. Montressor was belabored with the pain of loss (a common theme in Poe’s work). He was alone, lonely, and, in most likelihood, let few people knew that. He maintained a cordial, sociable relationship with Fortunato. Why would anyone suspect him of killing him?

Does he feel remorse? For multiple reasons, I believe he does:

·          Montressor hesitates: “My heart grew sick; it was the dampness of the catacombs that made it so”. Unlikely! Poe is careful with his punctuation; he does nothing by accident (read Poe’s composition methods…unity of effect, ratiocination). This is not the act of a murderer. This is the act of a man with a conscious who is deeply disturbed by what is happening.

·         This is a stretch: Montressor throws the flambeau into the hole…which would remove the oxygen…which would shorten Fortunato’s death…sounds like an act of remorse to me!


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The Cask of Amontillado

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