Edgar Allan Poe: The Cask of Amontillado (Essay Example)


The Cask of Amontillado is an intricate illustration of how far a man will go to deceive others for the sake of seeking vengeance. Though the narrator in Edgar Allan Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado" reveals his true intentions to the reader immediately in the story, he goes to great lengths to deceive Fortunato into believing that they are companions. Once Fortunato is murdered, there is a notable dispute on whether or not Montresor's execution of revenge is successful. As Montresor narrates, he introduces two elements of his revenge: "I must not only punish, but punish with impunity.", which includes Montresor not emotionally punishing nor facing any punishment. He is able to commit the physical act of murder with no remorse and is able to make himself known as the perpetrator to his victim. He escapes the situation with no suspicion or harm done to his reputation, however, as half a century goes by and guilt builds up, Montresor feels penance and impunity for committing the crime. Montresor confesses to a priest that he murdered Fortunato. Ultimately, Montresor fails to meet his conditions of revenge by carrying the guilt of murder and eventually confessing his crime. 

The first condition to be met is simply the physical act of punishing. Montresor is able to formulate a precise plan to guide Fortunato away from the crowd by using the excuse of tasting wine, something Fortunato was passionate about, as a lure. First, Montresor needed to gain even more of Fortunato’s trust so that Montresor could numb his attentiveness with alcohol. When Fortunato begins coughing due to the air of the vaults, Montresor suggests heading back home to where Fortunato would be able to breath and talk with ease. However, Fortunato refuses, assuring Montresor that a cough would not kill him. To ease his throat, and to further push his plan of dulling Fortunato’s senses, Montresor gives Fortunato some alcohol to drink. As they continue their journey deeper into the catacombs, Montresor urges Fortunato to drink more, trying to appear as a concerned friend rather than a manipulator with an ulterior motive. Shortly the two reach their destination when Montresor begins to set his plan into motion. He chained Fortunato to the walls, and this is where the act of his punishment begins.

Montresor then begins to place stones to cover Fortunato’s location while panic sets into place for Fortunato, who is now sober enough to realise that his life was in danger. Fortunato begins to scream and yells, and Montresor mocks him by yelling back louder. Fortunato falls silent, understanding that no one would ever hear his cries for help and as a desperate attempt to be unchained, he tries to humanize himself to Montresor by reminding him of the wine they were originally in the vault for. Montresor initially entertains this idea as he places the last stones into place and begins to back away from the catacomb. After hearing a final low cry from Fortunato, Montresor’s heart “grows sick”, hinting towards the sorrow and remorse beginning to emerge within Montresor’s mind. Nevertheless, by Fortunato understanding that Montresor had complete control over his fate, and Montresor leaving Fortunato to eventually die, the act of punishing had concluded. To this day the stones Montresor placed near Fortunato’s deceased body have remained undisturbed. 

Although Montresor does not suffer any physical form of punishment, he does experience the emotional punishment that he inflicts on himself. The second condition of revenge is being able to punish without impunity, in other words being able to punish Fortunato without facing any type of punishment including punishing himself by having a guilty conscience. In order for this condition to be met, Montresor must escape any form of punishment both emotional and physical. This includes feeling unbothered by his actions of killing his friend. However, Montresor quickly is unable to meet this condition as his heart grew sick while he heard the last strangled cry from Fortunato. From that moment on, Montresor begins to feel remorseful for leaving his childhood friend to, and the feeling worsens as years pass. Fifty years comes and goes before finally Montresor surrenders to his feelings and decides to seek contentment by confessing to a priest. The priest, although still another person who knows of what Montresor has done, cannot tell someone else or report the incident by law. Montresor proves his intelligence in this way once again, telling his story to someone who can never speak of it to another soul. He is still able to avoid any type of punishment that someone would’ve given him if the story got out. Despite the fact that Montresor is able to elude any punishment that anyone can inflict upon him, he ironically ends up emotionally punishing himself instead, therefore failing to meet the second condition.

In order for Montresor’s revenge to be successful, he must satisfy the two requirements. First, he, as the avenger, must make himself known as such to his victim, Fortunato. Secondly, he must not only punish, but punish with impunity: that is, without being punished himself. Montresor, while meeting the first condition with ease by carrying out his plan as Fortunato hopelessly watched, still falls short of meeting the second condition. From the second he heard Fortunato’s last stifled cry, Montresor carried guilt and felt remorse after killing his old friend. The murder haunted him until he ultimately confesses to the priest.

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