In “The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allan Poe, “Liberty” by Thomas Lynch, “Suburban” by John Ciardi and the film I Soliti Ignoti reader sees different cases of people seeking revenge. The revenge in these works is taken against a variety of things: society, the government, a neighbor, and a former adversary. Also, each case of revenge differs in severity; ranging from harmless outdoor urination to cold-blooded murder. Each work gives us insight into the mind of the person seeking revenge and helps us feel a little bit of the emotions that they experienced.
In the “Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allan Poe, the reader enters the mind of a very sinister character, Montresor. Montresor is out to get a former adversary of his, Fortunato. Early on in the story Montresor’s motives become very evident when he says, “The Thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could; but when he ventured upon insult, I vowed revenge” (Poe 1062). This one statement shows that the narrator has very evil and sinister motives to get back at Fortunato. Throughout the story he meticulously and in a very sneaky way coaxes Fortunato to fall into his trap. At the end of the story, Montresor carries out his revenge by trapping his intoxicated target deep inside the catacombs of his home. This would be his final and undisturbed resting place.
In “Liberty” by Thomas Lynch, the revenge is a little more light hearted than in “The Cask of Amontillado”. The main character is a bit rebellious and is fed up with the constraints that he has to live with in everyday society. He says, “I am from a fierce bloodline of men who made their water in the old way, under stars that overarched the North Atlantic where the River Shannon empties into sea” (Lynch, Line 5-9). The narrator feels that it is beneath him to live such a civilized life compared to the free one’s that his ancestors had. This situation clearly bothers the narrator and nags at him. Every so often he feels the need to get revenge. In his words, “Some nights I go out and piss on the front lawn as a form of freedom – liberty from porcelain and plumbing and the Great Beyond beyond the toilet and the sewage works” (Lynch, Line 1-4). The man clearly feels trapped by society and this urination is his way of giving a big middle finger to the rules. This is how the theme of revenge carries on in Lynch’s poem “Liberty”.
In “Suburban” by John Ciardi, we see another example of harmless revenge. In this poem, the narrator receives a phone call saying that his dog “deposited” in the neighbors petunia garden. The narrator believes that this whole situation is silly and that the neighbor is being a bit of a busy body by calling him. Rather than getting mad at his neighbor over the phone, the narrator decides to take his revenge in a different, more constructive way. He says, “Why lose out on organic gold for a wise crack” (Ciardi, line 11). The stance he takes is sort of “your loss is my gain.” He ends up taking the dog waste back and uses it a fertilizer in his own garden. His revenge is about as harmless and constructive and it gets.
For my event, I attended a Regina Ann Haig International Film Series Event. This consisted of the watching of the Italian movie I Soliti Ignoti and a discussion about it after. In this film a group of amateur criminals are comically portrayed. The film itself is set in 1950’s Italy, just after the end of World War II. In Italy during the war, most of the cities and infrastructure were destroyed and its people were left in poverty. The criminals in this movie were left in a similar situation and had a great disdain for the government and the situation that they had to live in. Their form of taking revenge was by committing crimes and robbery. In this case the victim of their revenge was society. In the end however, their robbery attempt fails but they do not get caught and get to live in freedom.
I think that revenge, although it may help in the healing process, is more harmful than good. Examples of revenge in the poems “Liberty” and “Suburban” may have been harmless and with no victim, but the other two examples in “The Cask of Amontillado” and I Soliti Ignoti were more destructive and harmful than they needed to be. It is definitely way over the top to kill someone just for one insult and the crimes committed in I Soliti Ignoti only further contributed to the disarray in Italy. There is definitely a fine line of what is appropriate for revenge, and we see the two extremes in these four works.