In "The Cask of Amontillado," what is the meaning and significance of Montresor's statement, "A wrong is unredressed. when retribution overtakes its redresser."

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Indicative of his vengeful intentions and devious machinations, Montresor's statement also points to his careful preparations and "the very definitiveness" in planning the demise of Fortunato. As the second part of his explanation of the meaning of revenge, Montresor adds, 

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

Thus, Montresor establishes two conditions for perfect revenge:

  1. The avenger must not get caught in his revenge; if he is punished somehow--"retribution overtakes the redresser"--then he has not succeeded in attaining retribution against the one who has wronged him.
  2. The person against whom the avenger seeks retribution must understand what is taking place; that is, he must know that he is being punished for wrongs committed against the avenger.

As the remainder of the narrative demonstrates, (1) Montresor metes his revenge without discovery:

For the half a century no mortal has disturbed them. In pace requiescat!

(2) And, before he dies, Fortunato is well aware of what is being done to him: Fortunato cries out, not as a drunken man, but as one who realizes his situation; he pulls vigorously on his chain in an attempt to free himself; he screams, hoping someone will hear him; he laughs in the desperate expectations that Montresor is merely playing a perverse prank upon him; and, finally, Fortunato pleads with Montresor, appealing to his Christian beliefs: "For the love of God, Montresor."

Indeed, Montresor has avenged "the thousand injuries of Fortunato" and with an audacious tone, he boasts in his tale of his perfectly executed retribution.


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The Cask of Amontillado

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