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“The Cask of Amontillado”: Guilt can Never be Silenced
Montresor’s reasoning for wanting revenge on Fortunato does not justify the crime he commits, which contributes to why he feels guilt for the act. In the very beginning of the story, Montresor says, “The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I very best could, but when he ventured upon insult I vowed revenge” (714). The purpose why Montresor is seeking revenge is not since of the injury brought on, but simply because Fortunato has insulted his family’s name. It is revealed that Montresor’s loved ones motto is “Nemo me impune lacessit”, which translates to “No one particular insults me with impunity” (717). Montresor feels as even though he can not let Fortunato get away with his insults due to the motto his household has lived by. But, at the very same time, that reasoning is not enough to justify murder, not even to Montresor. That is why he can not move on from the crime he commits. Although the insults are never described in detail, it can be inferred that they have one thing to do with societal standards. There is a war between Montresor and Fortunato over their rank in society. The Montresor name has diminished in value, even though the Fortunato name has flourished. Montresor tells Fortunato, “You are rich, respected, admired, beloved you are happy, as once I was” (716). Montresor is jealous of Fortunato since he has acquired all the items Montresor has lost. His revenge is structured not only about requitement for his family’s name, but also out of his personal personal envy. Fortunato has every little thing Montresor wants, but no longer has. Even though the jealousy and hope to avenge his family’s insulted name push Montresor to kill Fortunato, in the end they do not hold up as meaningful justifications. Montresor has difficulty repressing the crime he has committed due to the fact the guilt is too strong. His motive for murder was not robust sufficient to permit him to see the crime as justified, which is why he lives buried in guilt over a crime that occurred more than half a century ago.
All through the story, details derived in irony foreshadow that the crime will not go the way Montresor wishes it to go. In the catacombs, Montresor describes his family’s coat of arms to Fortunato “A enormous human foot d’or, in a field azure the foot crushes a serpent rampant whose fangs are imbedded in the heel” (717). The description depicts a foot crushing a snake, even though the snake bites the foot. It is a double ended sword that is ironic to the predicament at hand. As if a single is the snake and one particular is the foot, both Fortunato and Montresor will be hurt by Montresor’s actions. Fortunato will be killed, and Montresor will reside in guilt. Montresor seeks revenge for the insults to the Montresor name, even though the Montresor coat of arms warns about the outcome. With his motive clear, Montresor states that he should commit the crime with out receiving caught “I must not only punish but punish with impunity” (715). This straightforward statement proves to be incredibly ironic due to the fact Montresor succeeds in punishing Fortunato, but he fails in acquiring away with it. The only guideline to how he must manage his revenge is the 1 that is not followed. Though Montresor does not get caught by other individuals, he is the only force standing in the way of his freedom from the crime. Montresor has failed in his activity. Even though Fortunato is dead, Montresor has lived, and will live, beneath the heavy burden of guilt. In an ironic twist, the murder was in vain, as it was not completed with impunity. The Montresor coat of arms and the strategy to punish with impunity are ironic specifics that serve in foreshadowing Montresor’s fate, and his in no way-ending burden of guilt.
In the end, Montresor effectively kills Fortunato, but due to the guilt he can by no means neglect, he never gets away with the crime. When he is constructing the wall that buries Fortunato, Montresor has problems with the final stone, “There remained but a single stone to be fitted and plastered in. I struggled with its weight” (719). The final stone represents the deed finally being done. Montresor struggles with it because he then need to come to terms with the crime he has committed. With the final stone in place, the crime is done, and it is true. The weight of the last stone also symbolizes the weight finishing the crime has on Montresor, and the emotional struggle repressing the act will have. Montresor has problems with the physical burial of Fortunato just like how he has trouble with the emotional burial of his personal guilt. The crime is played out like a mirror the final stone and the burial representing the emotional weight of the crime and the burial of the guilt. In addition, there are moments in the story that lead to the belief that Montresor is hesitant with the crime. When he first chains Fortunato to the wall, he all of a sudden stops, “For a brief moment I hesitated, I trembled” (718). Montresor is unsure about what he is doing. He has to quit before he can continue. The act of committing the crime is becoming actual in this moment, it is no longer just a strategy. When it is all more than, Montresor falls ill, “My heart grew sick it was dampness of the catacombs that produced it so” (719). The nitre is not the lead to of Montresor’s heartsickness. The cause is the crime. Montresor does not want to think that he could be feeling ill from what he has completed, so he proposes and excuse. In reality, Montresor is being to feel guilt. “He nevertheless remembers his heart’s ‘growing sick – on account of the dampness of the catacombs,’ but his heartsickness most likely arises from the empathy with the man he is leaving to die amid that dampness” (Baraban). Montresor will never ever be able to escape the heartsick feeling he feels in the catacombs simply because it follows him his complete life. When the story is more than, Montresor says, “In pace requiescat”, which means, “May he rest in peace” (719). This short statement indicates that Montresor is sorry for what he has done, and additional supports the fact that he will never get more than the crime he has committed. The weight of the final stone, the hesitation in the crime, and the apparent guilt that is felt proves that Montresor will not be capable to get away with the murder of Fortunato.
The guilt for the sin Montresor has committed stays with him for most of his life, supporting the concept that the conscience can't be silenced. Montresor desires to get away with the murder, but he is standing in his own way of freedom. Soon after he has finished sharing the story of Fortunato’s death, he says, “Against the new masonry I re-erected the old rampart of bones. For the half of a century no mortal has disturbed them” (719). Montresor is sharing this story fifty years right after it has occurred. Even although he has attempted to bury the emotional burden, it could not be ignored. G.R. Thompson argues that “Montresor, rather than possessing successfully taken his revenge ‘with impunity’…has as an alternative suffered a fifty-year’s ravage of conscience” (Baraban). Montresor has failed in his process to murder Fortunato with out paying for it due to the fact he has payed for it for fifty years. His guilt has been a weight on him and lastly he is telling the truth and admitting to the crime. Baraban explains that “Thompson uses the fact that Montresor’s narration is really a confession produced on his deathbed to support the argument about Montresor’s troubled conscience”. Fifty years after the crime, Montresor is dying. He has suffered half of a century with the weight of a sin crushing him. He reveals it as he is dying, unable to die with no confessing his guilt. Montresor suffered “pangs of conscience” for nearly all his life (Baraban). The fact that the story is told by Montresor fifty years right after it occurred implies that he had been struggling with his guilt for all that time, supporting the concept that conscience can by no means be silenced.
In “The Cask of Amontillado”, by Edgar Allan Poe, the unjustified motive for murder, the ironic information that foreshadow the outcome, and the guilt that Montresor feels help the claim that conscience can by no means be buried or ignored. Montresor tried to commit a crime in order to extract revenge. In the end, he successfully killed Fortunato, but destroyed himself in the method. The guilt of the crime weighed heavy on Montresor for fifty years until he could no longer hide the crime he committed. This story is a cautionary tale that serves to warn other folks guilt can't be buried as easily as the body.
Baraban, Elena V. “The Motive for Murder in “The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allan Poe.” Rocky Mountain Evaluation of Language and Literature 58.2 (2004): 47-62. Net.
Poe, Edgar Allan. “The Cask of Amontillado.” The Norton Anthology of American Literature. Volume B, 8th ed. Ed. Nina Baym. New York: W. W. Norton & Business, Inc., 2012. 714– 719. Print.
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