The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

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The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas is one of the most famous French novels. It was first published in 1884. The book centers on betrayal, hatred, adventure, revenge, alienation, love, perseverance, and ambition. The setting of the story is France and Italy during the era of the Bourbon Restoration, through the reign of Louis Philippe around 1815 – 1839.

Introduction

The novel is about Dante, who suffers betrayal and alienates himself from society. He spends 14 years of his youth unjustly imprisoned due to betrayal and a corrupt judge.  However, his great ambition and sustains him during perilous times to achieve his goals.

The writing style of the author is exceptional, making The Count of Monte Cristo, a classic tale and an exciting novel that many readers would appreciate.

It has been adapted into numerous movies, plays, and musicals today. For instance, the 2002 film directed by Kevin Reynolds, starring actors like popular Jim Caviezel and Guy Pearce.

Overview

At the age of nineteen, Edmond Dantès seems to have a perfect life. He is about to become the captain of a ship, he is engaged to a beautiful and kind young woman, Mercédès, and he is well-liked by almost everyone who knows him. This perfect life, however, stirs up dangerous jealousy among some of Dantès’s so-called friends. Danglars, the treasurer of Dantès’s ship, envies Dantès’s early career success; Fernand Mondego is in love with Dantès’s fiancée, and so covets his amorous success; his neighbor Caderousse is simply envious that Dantès is so much luckier in life than he is.

Together, these three men draft a letter accusing Dantès of treason. There is some truth to their accusations: as a favor to his recently deceased captain, Dantès is carrying a letter from Napoleon to a group of Bonapartist sympathizers in Paris. Though Dantès himself has no political leanings, the undertaking is enough to implicate him for treason. On the day of his wedding, Dantès is arrested for his alleged crimes.

The deputy public prosecutor, Villefort, sees through the plot to frame Dantès and is prepared to set him free. At the last moment, though, Dantès jeopardizes his freedom by revealing the name of the man to whom he is supposed to deliver Napoleon’s letter. The man, Noirtier, is Villefort’s father. Terrified that any public knowledge of his father’s treasonous activities will thwart his ambitions, Villefort decides to send Dantès to prison for life. Despite the entreaties of Monsieur Morrel, Dantès’s kind and honest boss, Dantès is sent to the infamous Château d’If, where the most dangerous political prisoners are kept.

While in prison, Dantès meets Abbé Faria, an Italian priest and intellectual, who has been jailed for his political views. Faria teaches Dantès history, science, philosophy, and languages, turning him into a well-educated man. Faria also bequeaths to Dantès, a large treasure hidden on the island of Monte Cristo, and he tells him how to find it should he ever escape. When Faria dies, Dantès hides in the abbé’s shroud, thinking that he will be buried and then dig his way out. Instead, Dantès is thrown into the sea and can cut himself loose and swim to freedom.

Dantès travels to Monte Cristo and finds Faria’s enormous treasure. He considers his fortune a gift from God, given to him for the sole purpose of rewarding those who have tried to help him and, more important, punishing those who have hurt him. Disguising himself as an Italian priest who answers to the name of Abbé Busoni, he travels back to Marseilles and visits Caderousse, who is now struggling to make a living as an innkeeper. From Caderousse, he learns the details of the plot to frame him. In addition, Dantès learns that his father has died of grief in his absence and that Mercédès has married Fernand Mondego. Most frustrating, he learns that both Danglars and Mondego have become rich and powerful and are living happily in Paris. As a reward for this information, and for Caderousse’s apparent regret over the part he played in Dantès’s downfall, Dantès gives Caderousse a valuable diamond. Before leaving Marseilles, Dantès anonymously saves Morrel from financial ruin.

Ten years later, Dantès emerges in Rome, calling himself the Count of Monte Cristo. He seems to be all-knowing and unstoppable. In Rome, Dantès ingratiates himself to Albert de Morcerf, son of Fernand Mondego and Mercédès, by saving him from bandits. In return for the favor, Albert introduces Dantès to Parisian society. None of his old cohorts recognize the mysterious count as Edmond Dantès, though Mercédès does. Dantès is thus able to insinuate himself effortlessly into the lives of Danglars, Mondego, and Villefort. Armed with damning knowledge about each of them that he has gathered over the past decade, Dantès sets an elaborate scheme of revenge into motion.

Mondego, now known as the Count de Morcerf, is the first to be punished. Dantès exposes Morcerf’s darkest secret: Morcerf made his fortune by betraying his former patron, the Greek vizier Ali Pacha, and he then sold Ali Pacha’s wife and daughter into slavery. Ali Pacha’s daughter, Haydée, who has lived with Dantès ever since he bought her freedom seven years earlier, testifies against Morcerf in front of the senate, irreversibly ruining his good name. Ashamed by Morcerf’s treachery, Albert and Mercédès flee, leaving their tainted fortune behind. Morcerf commits suicide.

Villefort’s punishment comes slowly and in several stages. Dantès first takes advantage of Madame de Villefort’s murderous intent, subtly tutoring her in the uses of poison. As Madame de Villefort wreaks her havoc, killing off each member of the household in turn, Dantès plants the seeds for yet another public exposé. In court, it is revealed that Villefort is guilty of attempted infanticide, as he tried to bury his illegitimate baby while it was still alive. Believing that everyone he loves is dead and knowing that he will soon have to answer severe criminal charges, Villefort goes insane.

For his revenge on Danglars, Dantès simply plays upon his enemy’s greed. He opens various false credit accounts with Danglars that cost him vast amounts of money. He also manipulates Danglars’s unfaithful and dishonest wife, costing Danglars more money, and helps Danglars’s daughter, Eugénie, run away with her female companion. Finally, when Danglars is nearly broke and about to flee without paying any of his creditors, Dantès has the Italian bandit Luigi Vampa kidnap him and relieve him of his remaining money. Dantès spares Danglars’s life but leaves him penniless.

Meanwhile, as these acts of vengeance play out, Dantès also tries to complete one more act of goodness. Dantès wishes to help the brave and honorable Maximilian Morrel, the son of the kind shipowner, so he hatches an elaborate plot to save Maximilian’s fiancée, Valentine Villefort, from her murderous stepmother, to ensure that the couple will be truly happy forever. Dantès gives Valentine a pill that makes her appear dead and then carries her off to the island of Monte Cristo. For a month Dantès allows Maximilian to believe that Valentine is dead, which causes Maximilian to long for death himself. Dantès then reveals that Valentine is alive. Having known the depths of despair, Maximilian is now able to experience the heights of ecstasy. Dantès too ultimately finds happiness, when he allows himself to fall in love with the adoring and beautiful Haydée.

Betrayal and Vengeance

Betrayal is the act of being hurt by the intentional actions of someone you trust. The most common forms of betrayal are infidelity, disloyalty, dishonesty, harmful disclosures of confidential information, and lots more. These actions can be traumatic and cause considerable distress in people. The effects of betrayal include intense anger, damaged self-esteem, poor confidence, restlessness, illness, shock, grief. Different characters in the novel experienced it all as betrayal was very prominent.

There was a lot of disloyalty in the Count of Monte Cristo. Edmond Dante, Caderousse, and his wife betrayed the jeweler, and then Caderouse betrayed his wife. Fernand betrays Pasha while Danglars betrays his clients. The novel teaches that betrayal is one of the most devastating events that could occur in adult lives, yet it remains very common in society.  Betrayal has a lot of negative consequences, and most people feel the adverse effects of betrayal profoundly. So, this book is saying that some may never recover from betrayal, the reason why people should hesitate from betraying others.

In The Count of Monte Cristo, Edmond Dantes was wrongfully imprisoned for a crime he did not commit. A group of men that were jealous of him betrayed him. Danglars, Caderousse, Fernand, and a corrupt Gérard de Villefort all connived to falsely accuse him. The betrayal and imprisonment were so devastating that he went on a quest for vengeance.  But the novel teaches us that justice and revenge are synonymous, and a man who respects the justice system of society would not seek vengeance. Doing so would mean breaking the rule, which may land you in further trouble. Even though it may seem justified to take revenge when people betray you, try always to respect the law.

Love vs. Alienation

Alienation is a concept that describes the dehumanizing, isolation, and disenchanting effects of a corrupt society. Sometimes, we can describe it as the experience of groups or individuals that are disconnected from the rest of society. Alienation or estrangement comes with some symptoms, which include refusing to obey rules, feeling unsafe, separating from everyone, feeling helpless, inability to communicate with others, etc. The Count of Monte Cristo has a lot of useful lessons for readers about social alienation and love. When someone feels unloved, it can lead to isolation, then depression, and, in some cases, suicide.

Dante was arrested on the day of his wedding and is falsely accused of treason by Fernand Mondego and cohorts. He was imprisoned without trial on an Island of Monte Cristo. After Edmond Dantès managed to escape from prison, he had to alienate himself in other to carry out his scheme of revenge. He completely cut off from individuals and society at large, and he experienced no joy, excitement, or sorrow. The only emotion he felt was that of hatred, revenge, and a little gratitude towards himself. However, Dante’s alienation from society is not down to revenge alone but also because he had no real love for people.

In today’s society, alienation can come as a result of job-related issues, social causes, educational causes, health-related causes, and lots more. It is very important to show love and compassion to those suffering alienation so that they do not cause further damage to themselves or others around them. Many people may think that such individuals are hard to find. It may surprise you that even in your family, many alienate themselves out of unhappiness or lack of love.

Identity

The theme of identity in The Count of Monte Cristo teaches that it is linked with integrity. People need to have an identity, not just an identity but a positive identity. Without it, individuals and organizations would not grow. In The Count of Monte Cristo, different characters change their identities. Each time an identity changes, there is always a reversal in their fortune as well. We can apply the lesson to the theme of identity in modern society. Those who progress in their business and personal life always have a positive identity, and those without a proper identity suffer one form of misfortune. Dante’s identity is the most fluctuating in The Count on Monte Cristo. He would often depict different identities for different missions. He disguised as the Count, the Sinbad, the sailor, Abbe Busoni, and Lord Wilmore. His fluctuating identity caused him to suffer a series of fortune reversal.

The author used Dante’s changing identity to demonstrate two ideas in the book. First, it is possible to reinvent oneself through a combination of hard work, perseverance, intellectual application, and luck. Second, that despite changes in identity, people retain a core set of values, a sense of what is right or bad, morally acceptable, and unacceptable. However, the probability of attaining stability in life is minimal with such fluctuating identity. Dante’s lost 14 years of his life in jail, but his quest to find the treasure of Monte Cristo made him exceedingly wealthy.

Ambition and Perseverance

Perseverance, even in the face of major adversity, is the key to success in life. Everyone wants to be successful, but most people forget that in your quest to become successful, you have to overcome many obstacles through perseverance. The theme of perseverance and ambition in The Count of Monte Cristo teaches readers to set their target but should not have a mindset of achieving them right away. It shows that those who have a short term expectation of achieving their goals are mostly bound to fail. Failure itself can lead to a lack of self-confidence and frustration, and once those two things set in, you will find it difficult to push on.

Perseverance and Ambition are perfectly depicted in the life of Dante. Even though he wasted 14 years of his young age in jail, he still persevered and eventually found the treasures which Abbe Faria gave him. He became very wealthy, and all his dreams where fulfilled after a long time of sorrow and wait.

Despite popular belief, success in life is not a one-way path. Instead, it is a muddled road with different obstacles, and challenges. So you should not be discouraged when you face adversities in your quest to succeed. You might fall or get lost along the way, but you should keep going with a burning desire, and eventually, you would reach your target just like Dante. The novel also teaches that there is nothing wrong in been ambitious in life. Without ambition, you would not get many things done.

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