Malicious Vengeance: The Ghastly Acts of Murder
Both Edgar Allen Poe’s short story, “The Cast of Amontillado,” and Louise Erdrich’s essay, “Fleur,” have prominent themes about revenge, Poe focused on the act of Revenge, whereas Erdrich focused more on the events leading up to the horrific act.
Poe’s short story of revenge discusses how the main character, Montresor, abuses the victim’s trust to ultimately kill him. The story starts out with the victim, Fortunato, and the avenger, Montresor, joking and drinking merrily while walking through a
carnival together. Then, Montresor lies to Fortunato about having a rare wine, in a hidden location, that he would love to share with him. Fortunato, an avid wine connoisseur, is pleased to follow him due to his drunkenness, and also for the chance to taste such an exquisite wine.
By this time, Fortunato is so drunk and trusting of Montresor that he blindly follows Montresor deep into the back of a catacomb. During their journey Montresor gives Fortunato plenty of chances to turn around; Montresor tells his victim at one point “we will go back; your health is precious. You are rich, respected, admired, beloved; you are happy, as once I was. You are a man to be missed.” (Poe 1316) Upon reaching the end of the cavern, Montresor does not explain himself, and does not gift his enemy with a bottle of wine, but instead sentences him to a slow and horrific death.
In his short story, Poe describes the act of revenge almost as a dark insanity that plagues the main character. Montresor’s madness is shown when he goes from friend to foe. He gives the impression that he is worried about Fortunato’s health at first, but towards the end takes satisfaction in hearing the cries of his helpless victim. Montresor even told the listeners of his story “I ceased my labors and sat down upon the bones. When at last the clanking subsided, I resumed the trowel, and finished without interruption.” (Poe 1318)
Poe views the act of vengeance as a solemn, sinister, and deranged work of hatred. I hold this to be true because he portrays an image where the murderous avenger can look into the victim’s eyes while burying him alive behind a wall of brick and mortar. Montresor can also continuously hear “the furious vibrations of the chain.” (Poe 1318) After finally finishing the wall that separates the victim from life, Montresor sits in the catacomb awhile until he can no longer hear the dreadful screams of Fortunato.
Poe takes the approach that revenge is all about making the victim suffer ten-fold. His idea of revenge is apparent throughout the whole story. Poe’s main character does everything in his power to swindle Fortunato out of his life. After Montresor leads Fortunato to the back of the catacomb, Poe describes Montresor’s revenge as a slow and appalling act of murder through suffering.
Erdrich’s essay is told by a second person narrator, about the life of a Native American named Fleur. Through the narrator, Pauline, Erdrich starts out her story by giving background information about Fleur. She focuses a great deal on how Pauline ended up meeting Fleur, and how she became to teller of Fleur’s tale.
Fleur came to work for the same butcher shop that that Pauline was currently working at. Pauline described herself as the quite person that no one ever recognized, until Fleur came along. Fleur seemed to be the only person at the butcher shop that would even look at her, therefore Pauline came to care for Fleur’s well-being. After witnessing such a shocking act done by her co-workers, towards her friend, she acts upon a perfect opportunity.
The essay starts its climax when Pauline secretly follows Fleur home after she had won a huge pot in poker, where Fleur angered many of her co-workers by winning. While Pauline was hiding from sight, she witnessed Fleur getting jumped and robbed of her jackpot by the people that they both worked with. The very next day, Pauline noticed that Fleur did not show up for work, but the co-workers that had jumped her did. She also noticed that they were hung-over and worthless, which may have helped to commit her unthinkable crime.
Soon after she arrived to work the weather turned bad, and there was a major storm that was about to touchdown. As soon as Pauline noticed this fact, she also noticed that all of her fellow co-workers took shelter in the large meat freezer towards the back of the business. In noticing that, Pauline casually walks over to the meat locker door and locks it. After Pauline did her deadly act of confining the perpetrators in the freezer to meet there doom, she casually walked away and acted like nothing happened. The co-workers were found frozen the next day.
Erdrich focuses on the events that lead up to Pauline’s decision of commenting her act of revenge. She does not go into great detail about what Pauline was thinking or feeling when she committed her crime of murder, but rather why she made her decision to do such an act. Erdrich’s approach to Pauline’s revenge was very different then that of Poe’s.
In Erdrich’s essay, Pauline takes vengeance against the group of victims that attacked her friend; the co-workers were avenged by a person that witnessed their horrible act of violence, not by the person that was initially wronged. Pauline’s revenge was without much emotion due to the fact that she was not personally attacked or humiliated by her victims. She was very calm throughout the whole essay, even when she committed the awful deed of murder.
Both sets of victims were confined within a small and enclosed space; they were more or less buried alive. They were both also under the influence of alcohol when their attacker took advantage of them. Even though they were both drunk and confined, each author goes about their importance towards revenge differently. The victims in Erdrich’s essay willingly walked into there enclosure, whereas Montresor tricked his victim.
Pauline’s co-workers had no idea they were murdered. After finally noticing they were locked in the freezer, the moment to revenge had already been committed. It probably did not cross their minds that Pauline locked them in there intentionally, or that Pauline even had anything to do with them being locked in. The fact that they were probably trying to find ways to escape until they died did not give them much time to consider that they were murdered.
Poe’s victim was deceived into his final resting place; Montresor ticked poor Fortunato into trusting him. I do not think the thought of betrayal came into Fortunato’s mind until Montresor chained him up. Fortunato suffered a great deal because his death was very horrific then that of the victims in Erdrich’s essay. Fortunato knew throughout his suffering that he had been murdered by someone he trusted, unlike the co-workers of Pauline.
Poe’s and Erdrich’s style in showing the reader acts of revenge were vastly different. Erdrich focused more on why the act of revenge took place, whereas Poe focused on the act itself, and did not really explain the circumstances. I found both stories to be very good at getting their point across to the reader, even though they were very different.
Even the endings to each story were very different. In Poe’s story, Montresor ended his tale by mocking the victim. This is apparent when Fortunado makes one last ploy for his life by saying, “Ha! ha! ha!- he! he!- a very good joke indeed- an excellent jest. We will have many a rich laugh about it at the palazzo- he! he! he!- over our wine- he! he! he!” Montresor then replies to Fortunado by saying, “Let us be gone.” (Poe 1319)
Erdrich ends her story in a much happier fashion. At the very end, Pauline tells the reader that she “went to help out in her Fleur’s cabin when she Fleur bore the child.” (Erdrich 1329) The fact that Erdrich brings up the point that Pauline is talking about Fleur giving birth, the story ends happily. A birth is always looked at by society as a positive happening, and the fact that the author turned her focus towards life shows that everything has a positive spin.
Even though the two stories differ greatly, they both shared one common characteristic; both avengers did not get caught for doing such a horrible crime of killing another human being. Poe’s story is told by the avenger many years after what he had done to Fortunado. If he did get caught, I do not think Montresor would be telling his story with all the emotion. Erdrich’s essay also illustrates that Pauline was able to visit Fleur many different times after her act of revenge.
I believe that Poe presented his story of revenge in a more gruesome fashion then that of Erdrich. His portrait of revenge is more potent because Montresor can see and hear his victim’s anguish while sentencing him to an untimely death. Poe also illustrates his main character taking a break to enjoy the screams of his victim, and he also points out that Montresor screams back at Fortunato.
I do not find harmful malicious vengeance to be acceptable by any means. I believe that nature will act upon the “eye for an eye” belief by its self without me interfering. I also think that if I take my revenge on a person, or group of people, I will also suffer bad karma from nature. I believe that revenge comes from hatred, and living with an excess of hatred throws off one’s balance in life, like the ying-yang idea.
Even though I disagree with acts of revenge, I still battle with those undesirable thought. Just today, November 2, 2004, my car was stolen while in Reading class, and I would love to meet the people that stole it. I have thoughts racing through my head about how much I would enjoy making that person, or group of people suffer. I am so angry; I even have thoughts of inflicting pain to anyone that just looks at me wrong. Even though I am very angry about what this person has done to me, I would not do anything outside of my moral and ethical point-of-view to that particular person.
Poe’s and Erdrich’s story styles were very different, even though both stories accomplished the same goal of showing the act of murderous revenge. I enjoyed Poe’s story of horror much more then the tame story of revenge that Erdrich showed.