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The Concept of Revenge in The Cask of Amontillado

Perhaps one of the most well known of the tales of Edgar Allan Poe, “The Cask of Amontillado,” is a bone chilling tale of revenge and anger. In this tale, Montresor plots and eventually takes his revenge on an unsuspecting Fortunato by entombing him in the catacombs below his house. The backdrop of this convoluted plot is that Fortunato has apparently insulted Montresor, and since that day Montresor, who is narrating the story, has promised to avenge the insult done to him.

In carrying out his revenge, Montresor tricks Fortunato to come with him to the catacombs of his house by saying that he has gotten a hold of an Amontillado, a rare wine. Being proud of himself as a wine connoisseur, Fortunato is unable to resist the lure of a fine wine and accedes to the request of Montresor. As they proceed down the catacombs, Montresor alleviates the coughing of Fortunato in the catacombs by giving him wine with the end goal of making him intoxicated. When Fortunato becomes too drunk, it takes Montresor little effort in chaining him to a wall inside a crypt.

Montresor then seals Fortunato’s body and fate by creating a wall on the entrance of the crypt. For fifty years, the narrator claims that Fortunato’s body has been in there, suggesting that he got away with murder. Anent the issue of revenge, it must be discussed that while the narrator succeeds in subduing Fortunato by trapping him inside a crypt, he does not fully accomplish all the conditions he mentioned for a successful revenge. As the text reveals, Montresor was only able to carry out the first condition for his revenge.

As he states in the story, he does not want to get caught when he carries out his revenge. This is the most important goal of his when plotting his revenge. As the story progresses, the intoxication of Fortunato reveals that he does not truly appreciate the evil that befalls him and as such Montresor does not have the satisfaction of making him suffer. Yet it is clear that the fact that the body remained entombed in the catacomb for fifty years shows that Montresor was never apprehended or caught for the crime that he committed.

From the text, it can clearly be extracted that Montresor’s carefully planning was successful in one aspect of his revenge. The manner by which he was able to get his servants out of the house and his knowledge of the weakness of Fortunato for fine wines reveals the deep insult that he suffered and the lengths that he would go to get even with Fortunato. It is unclear what the exact insult may be but it is sure that it was grave enough for Montresor to plot his heinous deed. A degree of success may be considered on Montresor’s second condition.

Montresor believes that revenge undoes a wrong deed and is therefore necessary. A successful revenge is, according to him, going through the revenge part itself. He claims that a wrong is undone or corrected when retribution befalls the offender. By viewing his intention for retribution as something that needs to be done in order to correct a wrong deed, Montresor tries to justify his vindictive actions. In relation to this condition, he adds that the avenger must make his or her presence felt in order for the revenge to be successful.

It is simply not enough for the person plotting revenge to carry out his dastardly deed without making it known to the person he is taking his revenge against. The prefect revenge, according to Montresor, is when one is able to take full satisfaction and exact the full measure of revenge on the person who ahs offended him. In assessing whether or not the revenge that Montresor attempted to carry out was successful, it becomes important to see if all the conditions for a complete revenge were accomplished.

As previously mentioned, the third condition’s success is rather vague. The narrator only reveals to the readers that Fortunato insulted him. Whatever that was, it was enough for Montresor to kill Fortunato, so the question whether the revenge done by Montresor is just as harsh as the insult done to him is a mystery. Despite the mystery, reading from the text, it is clear that Montresor tried to get as much satisfaction from the suffering of Fortunato.

When Montresor was finishing up the wall, he listened intently and with content to the sounds made by the doomed Fortunato. It was the perfect revenge, or so it seemed at that time since Montresor almost had the perfect revenge: He did not get caught and he gained initial satisfaction from the revenge; but then Fortunato started laughing, trying to convince himself that it was just part of an elaborate joke that Montresor was playing on him. This, of course, is clear to the reader as Fortunato screams out to his captor for freedom.

In a last desperate attempt to free himself, Fortunate begs Montresor but to no avail. At this point it seems that the revenge is complete but a startling change happens, Fortunato soon falls silent and seemingly accepts his demise. This ruins the perfect revenge of Montresor because there is no regret on the part of Fortunato but just surrender at his fate. It becomes clear that for Montresor to be successful in his revenge he must have been able to make Fortunato suffer like he did.

The anguish and anger that Montresor nurtured was not equal to that of Fortunato’s and this is the source of his frustration. He was not fully successful in his revenge because the satisfaction that he initially got was taken from him by the mere silence of Fortunato. The surprise attack amounted to nothing in the end because Montresor was unable to fulfill the most important condition that he has planned; to make his presence felt right at the very end.

Montresor himself enumerated his conditions for a successful revenge; first is to get away with the crime, which he did; second is the act of avenging itself; third is to make the revenge as hard as the act that prompted the vengeance; and lastly, the avenger should not be obvious in his or her attempts. One out of the three major conditions is not enough to conclude Montresor’s revenge as successful. Though he did succeed in killing Fortunato, the results show that he did not have a successful revenge. He laid out the criteria for a successful hit, if he had not done so, the readers could have settled with him just killing Fortunato.

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