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 is the resolution in Edgar Allan Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado"?

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At the beginning of the story Montresor specifies his problem. He must satisfy all the requirements he describes in order to achieve a complete resolution. This is how he explains the problem:

I must not only punish but punish with impunity. A wrong is unredressed when retribution overtakes its redresser. It is equally unredressed when the avenger fails to make himself felt as such to him who has done the wrong.

Montresor succeeds in luring Fortunato through the crowded streets without being recognized as his companion. He succeeds in getting his victim down into his catacombs. He manages to get Fortunato into the narrow niche and to chain him against the granite wall. Fortunato sobers up quickly when he realizes what is happening. He cries: "For the love of God, Montresor!" This is important because it is the first time Fortunato has called Montresor by name. It shows that one of the requirements for revenge is satisfied: Montresor has made himself "felt as such to him who has done the wrong." It also shows that Fortunato is not in a drunken stupor and unable to understand what is happening to him.

Only one requirement is still to be met. "A wrong is unredressed when retribution overtakes its redresser." Poe must show the reader that Montresor has never been accused of killing Fortunato and has probably never been suspected. Montresor concludes his story with what is the true resolution:

Against the new masonry I re-erected the old rampart of bones. For the half of a century no mortal has disturbed them. In pace requiescat!

The body has not been discovered in fifty years. It will never be discovered. Nobody is looking. Fortunato has been forgotten. Montresor is completely safe. He has fulfilled the requirement he specified at the beginning: "I must not only punish but punish with impunity." He was never suspected because he took such pains to show Fortunato and everyone else that they were the best of friends. Montresor keeps addressing his victim as "My friend," and referring to him as "my friend" and "my poor friend" throughout the narrative. The Latin quotation at the very end, which means "Rest in peace," is not ironic. It is intended to show that Montresor has resolved his problem with such complete success and satisfaction that he has cleansed himself of all the hatred he felt for his victim. He has achieved what is so often described these days as "closure."

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What is the resolution to the story "The Cask of Amontillado" by Edgar Allan Poe? 

In the opening paragraph, Montresor explains his motive for wanting revenge against Fortunato for a thousand injuries and a recent insult. Then Montresor specifies what he will accept as complete revenge.

At length I would be avenged; this was a point definitely settled--but 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. It is equally unredressed when the avenger fails to make himself felt as such to him who has done the wrong.

The resolution to the story will therefore come when Montresor achieves his revenge and makes himself known as such to Fortunato. The main story is about how Montresor lures his victim to his catacombs and keeps him drunk and befuddled until he succeeds in chaining him to the granite and building an elaborate stone wall to conceal him from ever being discovered. The resolution is reached when Montresor completes his wall.

Against the new masonry I re-erected the old rampart of bones. For the half of a century no mortal has disturbed them. In pace requiescat!

He has accomplished what he intended. Fortunato has shown that he is well aware of the identity of the avenger when he cries out, "For the love of God, Montresor!" And, since fifty years have passed, Montresor knows he has committed his murder with impunity. He has cleansed himself of the bitter feelings he had about Fortunato. When he says, "In pace requiescat!" it shows that he no longer hates his victim but actually feels some pity for him. He is not being sarcastic. He sounds relieved because he has successfully achieved "closure" without ever having been suspected of being involved in the disappearance of his "good friend" Fortunato. Montresor has not only tricked Fortunato, but he has tricked everyone who knew Fortunato and everyone in Venice.

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