The Count of Monte Cristo was written by Alexandre Dumas. It was first published in 1844. More recently, it was published by Bantam Dell in 1956 in New York, New York. The book I read was translated by Lowell Bair. The story takes place in the 1800s in France, Italy and on the Island of Monte Cristo. The setting is during the period in France when Napoleon Bonaparte returns to power after being exiled to the Island of Elba, called the Hundred Days, and after, when King Louis XVIII returns to power for the second time. At that point, Napoleon is exiled to the island of Saint Helena. Major Characters
(Note: There is not much physical description of the characters in the book). The protagonist of the story is Edmond Dantes. Dantes takes on many aliases throughout the book, including: Count of Monte Cristo, Sinbad the Sailor, Abbe Busoni, Lord Wilmore, and a chief banking clerk at Thomson and French. When the story begins, Dantes is a young sailor who sales for Pierre Morrel on the ship called the Pharoan. He is liked by everybody, and is a well respected sailor, and intends to marry a beautiful girl named Mercedes. Later in the book, after he is betrayed by his friends, he becomes the Count of Monte Cristo and plays the various aliases, looking for retribution. As the Count, he is vengeful and calculating, and takes matters into his own hands, but he is also generous. He sees himself as an angel of God, deciding who will be rewarded and who will be destroyed.
He says to one of his former friends, “God gives me strength to subdue wild beasts like you. I act in the name of God.” (p.337) The book describes him as tall and thin with dark eyes and long dark hair. Gerard de Villefort is a prosecutor who sentences Dantes to prison at the Chateau d’If under the court of law. Villefort originally told Dantes that he would not be jailed, but later changed his mind for political reasons. Villefort thinks very highly of himself and his reputation. He turns against his father, Noitier, who is a Bonapartist and was in communication with Napoleon Bonaparte. Pierre Morrel is the owner of the Pharoan, the ship that Dantes sails. Pierre Morrel is very fond of Dantes and is kind and generous to Dantes and Dantes’ father. Pierre Morrel is considered a good gentleman, honest, honorable and fair. He is very close to his family. Maximilien Morrel, the son of Pierre, is also a very good man.
Dantes considers him a son. He is a captain in the army. The Count mentors Maximilien, taking him under his wing, and looks after him financially and helps with his love life. The reason for this is not only that Maximilien is an honest and reputable man, but that Dantes appreciated what the older Morrel had done for him when he was younger, and wanted to repay this. Fernand Mondego/Count of Morcerf was seen as a friendly rival to Dantes, but a more serious rival to the Count of Monte Cristo. Fernand was the cousin of Mercedes, who Dantes loved and was getting ready to marry. Fernand also loved Mercedes. After Dantes was sent to prison, Mercedes waited for Dantes, but when she thought he was dead, she married Fernand. Fernand became a military man and acquired much wealth. Fernand has a son, Albert. Fernand was greedy and unjust. He betrayed his benefactor, Ali Pasha, in the war.
Mercedes Mondego was a beautiful young woman who loved Dantes, and intended to marry him. Mercedes cared for Dantes’ father while Dantes was imprisoned. She is kind. While she was married to Fernand, she still loved Dantes and thought about him often. She was very close to her son, Albert. Albert de Morcerf at first seems like a spoiled, wealthy kid, getting in trouble in Italy. He is a good friend of the Count of Monte Cristo, and the Count thinks highly of him. However, he challenges the Count of Monte Cristo to a duel because he thinks the Count caused the downfall of his father, Fernand. He then cancels the duel and makes up with the Count. Later, he is shown to be noble, and renounces his wealth. He is protective of his mother, and ends up joining the army. Gaspard Caderousse is a tailor and friend of Dantes. He doesn’t plot to destroy Dantes, as Fernand and Danglars do, but because he fails to stop the plot, he hurts Dantes just the same. The Count later gives Caderousse a diamond from the treasure of Monte Cristo.
Caderousse turns greedy and kills his wife and the jeweler who gave him cash for the diamond, so he ends up with the cash and diamond. He continues on as a burglar/thief. He breaks into the Count’s house to steal, but is then killed by his accomplice. Caderousse is not seen as particularly bad or moral, but his actions and greed lead to his destruction. Baron Danglars was the rival of Dantes to head the Pharaon as captain. He was very jealous of Dantes. Later, he becomes a wealthy financier. The Count, in different aliases and by using other characters, takes out many lines of credit from Danglars, which eventually drains him.
Danglars is greedy and powerful. He does not have a good family life, as his wife has an affair and his daughter runs away. Abbe Faria is the wise Italian priest that is in prison in the cell next to Dantes. Dantes and Faria become close, and Faria educates Dantes about various subjects, like alchemy, and world wisdom. They plot to escape together. Faria tells Dantes about the treasure of Monte Cristo and how to find it. People think Faria is a “mad priest,” but he is sane and very wise. He dies in prison, and Dantes pretends he is Faria’s dead body to escape from the prison. Plot
Dantes is framed for treason by his friends Fernand and Danglers. He is accused of being a Bonapartist and committing treason. He is framed because Danglers is jealous of Dantes’ relationship with Morrel. Danglars overhears a conversation between Morrel and Dantes about Dantes’ future job as ship captain. Fernand is jealous of Dantes’ engagement to Mercedes. Caderousse, while not framing Dantes, was intoxicated when Danglars and Fernand were plotting Dantes’ downfall, and went along with the scheme.
Villefort imprisons Dantes in the Chateau d’If. Dantes is a captive in the dungeon. His cell is next to a prisoner who is an Italian priest, Abbe Faria. Faria and Dantes are able to remove a brick in the wall between their cells, and begin communicating. Later, they build a tunnel and can meet with each other. Faria teaches Dantes academics and the ways of the world. Faria mentions the fortune of an extinct family on the Island of Monte Cristo. Dantes and Faria plot to escape and get to this treasure. Then, Faria becomes ill and is paralyzed in part of his body. Dantes makes a promise to not escape the prison until Faria dies.
When Faria dies, Dantes escapes the prison in Faria’s body bag. Dantes expects that he will be buried as a poor prisoner, without a coffin. Then, he expects to dig himself out of his grave. Little does he know that the guards attach a cannonball to the body bag and throw it over the cliff into the water. Dantes manages to escape with a knife which he uses to cut himself free. Then, he is rescued by a smugglers’ ship. He eventually makes his way to the Island of Monte Cristo, and obtains the treasure. He is now a rich man, and uses the title, Count of Monte Cristo.
The Count arrives in Paris, and works his way into society there, where he becomes friends again with those who hurt him. He has aged and changed much since they saw him last, and they don’t recognize the Count as Dantes. The Count is bitter and seeks retribution over those who betrayed him, but he also wants to help certain characters who were good to him. He sees himself as dolling out punishments and rewards – the former to those who hurt him and the latter to those who helped him and his father. He seeks slow and devious destruction to Fernand, Danglars and Villefort. To Caderousse, Albert and Maximilien, he offers wealth and assistance. He helps both Albert and Maximilien because of their mother and father, respectively, and because they are good men. The Count views himself as acting on behalf of God. At one point, Mercedes says to him, “But why do you substitute yourself for Providence?” (p. 375).
The Count of Monte Cristo takes on different personas when acting in different capacities. When he wants to plot financial downfall, he is a bank representative. He is sometimes Sinbad the Sailor when he is delivering rewards, and also Lord Wilmore. As the Abbe Busoni, the Count is acting as a judge from God. The Count helps to reveal the greedy past of Fernand, who betrayed his benefactor Ali Pasha in a war, and killed him and sold his daughter and the mother of his daughter into slavery. Fernand ends up killing himself, and Mercedes and Albert are devastated. The Count feels bad about Mercedes and Albert and later helps them with some finances, but they refuse to be fully rescued by the Count and made rich again.
The Count understands that Albert must find his own way in the world, and he knows that Albert will care for Mercedes. Villefort goes mad when his family is slowly poisoned and the son he thought he buried as a newborn and wanted him to die returns as an evil man and embarrasses Villefort. Danglars loses all his riches and is now poor and without family. On the other hand, Maximilien becomes rich with the Count’s money and is reunited with his true love, Valentine. While the Count tries to help Caderousse at first, Caderousse becomes greedy and murders and steals. Eventually, he is killed by his accomplice in a burglary. The Count, who has finished his retribution, leaves Paris for Marseilles, and sails away with his slave/girlfriend. He has fallen in love with her, and she is in love with him. Conflict
The main struggle in this story is within Dantes himself and whether man should be a judge of other men or if that should be left to God. When Dantes escapes from prison, his first instinct is to get retribution on those who betrayed him. Dantes believes he is acting on behalf of God. When Dantes becomes the Count of Monte Cristo he almost seems to act like he is God himself. When the Count interacts with others he seems to hold himself on an other-worldly level as though he is greater and wiser than anybody else around him. He believes that he can control everyone’s destiny. When the Count acts out his vengeance on others he doesn’t think about the evil he is bringing upon others to be something that God would punish him for.
He seems to believe that the ends justify the means, and that he is in the right. As the Count is justifying all of his foes’ destinies, he realizes the great damage he has caused his enemies has affected those he cared about also. He starts to question when “enough is enough.” The narrator in the story states, “Truly generous men are always ready to become sympathetic when their enemy’s misfortune surpasses the limits of their hatred.” (p. 353) The Count doesn’t realize this until he sees the collateral damage of his retribution. For example, Danglers’ son dies as an indirect result of the Count’s schemes. At that point, the Count doubts himself. “Monte Cristo paled at the horrible sight. He realized that he had gone beyond the limits of rightful vengeance and that he could no longer say, ‘God is for me and with me.’” (p. 485) Climax and Resolution
There are many climaxes is this story, nevertheless there is one that really stands out. The Count starts doubting himself whether all of the vengeance he has acted out upon others is morally right. “Since the death of little Edouard, a great change had taken place in Monte Cristo. Having arrived at the summit of his vengeance after his slow and tortuous climb, he had looked down into the abyss of doubt.” (p. 497) However, then the Count begins to reason that there is a slip in his calculations and he misread his situation, and that what he first intentionally set out to do is the right thing. He no longer doubts. Nonetheless, he makes sure that those he cares about will be well taken care of, including, Mercedes, Albert, and Maximilien. He then leaves Paris for Marseilles, and then sails away with his slave/girlfriend, intending not to return.
Opinion and Recommendation
This book is like no other, and is full of excitement, adventure, murder o;Mand romance. It is fast-paced, and the story of vengeance is carefully crafted and woven with details. There are many characters, and sometimes it is difficult to keep track of them all. It is a romantic story with dramatic events, some of which seem unbelievable, and wouldn’t be considered realism. For example, it is surprising that Dantes would have survived the drop from the prison cliffs into the water with a cannonball tied to his feet, and then survived long enough to be picked up by a passing boat. But, the story is so well-written and interesting that the reader goes along with these events. The book is philosophical also and has religious themes. It explores the role of God and the idea of retribution.
It questions whether a person who has done wrong deserves to suffer in extreme ways, or whether compassion should be shown at some point. The book doesn’t really answer these questions directly, but leaves it to the reader to think about. Also, the book seems to show that the children of those who do evil also suffer for the sins of their father, which is a theme from the Bible. The story is also political, as it describes characters who are Bonapartists or loyal to the king. I would highly recommend this book because of its many climaxes and interesting characters. It’s interesting to see how all of the characters change throughout the book, especially Dantes. The author does a great job of revealing things slowly over time and surprising the reader.