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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Why must Montresor "punish with impunity" when is a wrong "unredressed" and why must an avenger make himself known to his victim?

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It would seem that Montresor is mainly interested in getting rid of his bad feelings about Fortunato, as opposed to getting rid of Fortunato himself. If Montresor were to murder Fortunato and then get caught and sent to prison, he would not be rid of his bad feelings. There must be many men who are suffering through long years of imprisonment after having committed a murder motivated by hatred, jealousy or revenge. Most have probably not cleansed themselves of the painful emotions that caused them to commit their crimes in the first place. Montresor is simply saying that he wants to commit the perfect crime, and the perfect crime, by definition, cannot be perfect unless the perpetrator gets away with it. Montresor is so successful in committing his murder of Fortunato that he is cleansed of his hatred.

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The narrator, Montresor, is saying here that he doesn't just want to punish Fortunato, that would not be enough. He must do it in a way that will make the notion of revenge perfect and complete. This means he wants to avoid being caught for killing Fortunato, because that will undermine the very idea of revenge. In his view, revenge is simply the righting, or 'redressing' of a wrong, so that the revenger must not be punished. He further goes on to remark that there is no point in revenge unless the victim understands just why doom has come upon him, and for this the avenger has to make his identity and motive quite clear to his victim. 

In holding these views on the necessity and the nature of revenge, Montresor is following his family motto to the letter: 'Nemo me inpune lacessit', which means, 'No-one injures me and gets away with it.' However, we are not told just what Fortunato did to him; it may be that he is reacting out of all proportion to the event.

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