Why does Montresor feel he has the right to take justice into his own hands?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

This is an interesting question. Evidently Monrtresor does not care about the moral or legal right to kill Fortunato and does not even consider it "justice" to do so.  He knows that what he intends to do is a criminal offense and that if he were caught he would be sentenced to death. He has no legal defense. He knows he is committing a crime and he doesn't care. He only cares about satisfying his desire for revenge and about not getting caught. In this respect he is no different from the narrator of Poe's story "The Tell-Tale Heart." That person too was aware that he was committing a crime and that it was a capital offense.

Even if Montresor were on trial for murder and recited the "thousand injuries" he had suffered at the hands of Fortunato, the horrible way in which he had killed him would have been sufficient to get him the death penalty. The entire story is about the careful way in which he managed to elude "justice." After all, if a man is going to commit a cold-blooded, premeditated murder, how can we expect him to be concerned about such a thing as "justice"? People commit murders all the time without worrying about justice, except in the sense that the agents of justice might find them out. The world is full of people like Montresor. He is a far cry from Dostoevsky's Rodion Raskalnikov, who committed a double murder in Crime and Punishment and was so tormented by guilt that he gave himself away and was sent to Siberia.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Montresor is insane, but you should also consider his family's motto that no one harms a Montresor without being punished. Even his family's crest is of a snake biting a heel, so acts of revenge run in his family. We don't know whether other people in his family took revenge to the extent that Montresor does against Fortunato, but he believes he has the right to take justice in his own hands partly because of his family's  name, but mostly because of his madness. He has taken revenge to the extreme, and the reader isn't sure whether Fortunato even did anything to Montresor. Because he's insane, Montresor may have just imagined that Fortunato had insulted him.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial