The Count ofMonte Cristo
by Alexander Dumas

-- An Analysis --

 

 

A.     General

1.       Captain Le Clerc develops brain fever while arranging to deliver the letter to Napoleon and dies soon after.It indicates the dangerous intensity connected with the mission which results in Danteís imprisonment.Dantes is overjoyed at the good fortune issuing from Le Clercís death Ė his joy is premature and unwise and later frustrated.

 

2.       Napoleon was a giant and an enemy of the state imprisoned on Elba. The moment Dantes lends himself to aid the Emperor he lands in prison, as Napoleon was. When he emerges, he too like the Emperor is a man whose power and stature are larger than life.

 

3.       On board Dantes quarrels with Danglers and proposes they stop at the isle of Monte Cristo to settle their differences, butDanglersrefuses.It forebodes the importance of this isle in their later life and the greater quarrel to ensue.

 

4.       Morrelís main concern on the arrival of his ship is for his cargo, only secondarily for the dead Le Clerc. Years later when the same ship is sunk, his concern is for the crew rather than the ship, though its loss means his certain ruin.His years of crises have brought out his goodness, while Caderousseís years of suffering brought out his evil.(A man who is more concernedwithhiscargo than with his crew is one who will lose cargo.Fourteen years later when Morrel comes to think of the crew first and cargo only after, immediately his fortune is restored to him.)

 

5.       Danglars, Caderousse and Fernand are overtly and explicitly jealous of Dantes and resentful of his happiness and prosperity.This atmosphere around him, unwilling to support his joy, brings him misery instead.Dantes clearly feels Caderousseís hostility behind his dissimulating friendship.

 

6.       Although Caderousse tries to dissuade Danglars and Fernand from their plot against Dantes, in fact he is the one who brings them together and feels an intense jealousy because Dantes is rising in life. His inner feeling is as evil as theirs, though his outer action is apparently positive. Caderousse loses his first wife and he ends up marrying a devil as Villefort does.

 

7.       Mercedes was a Catalan and an orphan.By custom the Catalans did not intermarry with the population of Marseille.Fernand calls it a sacred law.Being an orphan, Mercedesí need for physical companionship and security is far greater than normal.That need attracts Fernand despite her mental purity to Edmund.Fernand reminds Mercedes that his love of her had Mercedesí mothersí sanction.They are cousins. Mercedesí mother died a year ago when she was sixteen, leaving a small inheritance of a hut.

 

8.       Mercedes and Edmund disapproved of being called Madame and Captain Dantes by their evil wishers, since to be called by a title before it is attained is an evil omen.

 

9.       Villefort has not just sacrificed Dantes to protect his father, Noirtier. He could have simply burned the letter and cautioned Dantes to silence for that.He has sacrificed Dantes to his ambition for the kingís attention.

 

10.   The betrothal party for Edmund and Mercedes occurs the very same night as the betrothal party for Villefort and Renee. Edmund loses his bride to his enemy, Villefort loses his wife to an early death and ends up marrying a devil. Reneeís mother, the Marquise, urges Villefort to prosecute and punish without mercy any Bonapartist.Her instinctive response to Danteís arrest is negative, whereas her daughter regards the news as a bad omen for their marriage (which it is since she dies within ten years) and pleads for mercy.The marquise is poisoned by Madame Villefort; Reneeís daughter Valentine is spared.Because Rene pleads mercy for Dantes without even knowing him, 20 years later Dantes saves Reneeís daughter Valentine from poisoning by her stepmother.

 

11.   Caderousseís outer behaviour is one of goodwill and friendship for Dantes but conceals envy and ill-will.Therefore, though Dantes outwardly helps him by giving the jewel, the result is Caderousseís downfall.

 

12.   Dantes invites Caderousse, Danglars and Fernand to his betrothal despite their ill-will.He sits Danglers on his left.Mercedes sits Fernand on hers.Their ill will destroys the occasion.

 

13.   Edmund had smuggled a small chest of coffee and tobacco on the ship for his father.A small illegal act on his part is sanction for legal action against him.

 

14.   Like Othello, Edmund achieves a peak of joy, which becomes unbearable and unsustainable and calls into play the other side of his nature.In Othelloís case it is the impure vital depths that rise in jealousy.In Edmund the inner content is pure and good(Eg: he first seeks his father, only then Mercedes), but the outer nature is naÔve and unsuspecting.He lacks the wisdom and alertness to protect himself, his woman, his position from attack.The years in prison impart that mental capacity which he lacked as a youth.

 

15.   Mercedes is beautiful, but not capable of true loyalty while Edmund is essentially loyal; therefore their marriage was broken.Mercedes who betrayed her oath never to marry any man but Edmund, is married to Fernand who betrays his oath of loyalty to Napoleon (deserting to England during the 100 days) and Ali Pacha.

 

16.   Morrel and his son both undergo prolonged suffering before Dantes restores good fortune to them (Morrel 90 days till the pronotes expire and Maximillian 30 days during which he believes Valentine dead) Ė this indicates their goodness was not an inherent natural possession, but something acquired.Therefore lifeís response is not immediate.

 

17.   At the age of 20, Edmund who was good, honest and noble, lacked the knowledge of human nature, alertness, sagacity, and cunning necessary to marry abeautiful woman and assume a captaincy, both coveted by others with less scruples than himself.His arrest and imprisonment are a direct result of this weakness in his character.

 

18.   Dantes is charged with conspiring for Napoleonís return.In fact it is true that he did serve that purpose.The letter he delivered to the Emperor helped Napoleon gain freedom from his island prison for a hundred days.The price Dantes paid was years of imprisonment on an islandlike Napoleon.

 

19.   The death of Captain Le Clerc before he could deliver the letter to Napoleon reflected the weight of that mission.Le Clerc was not strong enough to accomplish it, Dantes was.Le Clerc paid with his life; Dantes retained his life but lost everything else Ė his job, his love, his name.

 

20.   Napoleonís letter to Noirtier never reached its destination.It foreshadowed the failure of Napoleonís return.For a few moments in his life a sailor named Dantes came face to face with Napoleon.Dantesís later life Ė the knowledge and wealth he attained Ė were reminiscent of a gift from the Emperor who possessed both in great measure.

 

21.   Dantes could not suppress his joy at Le Clercísdeath which made his promotion to Captain certain.His joy brought Le Clercís misfortune on Dantes in a different form. His premature joy evokes a hostile reaction that deprives him of even what he had.

 

22.   Dantes, like Othello, was overwhelmed by the ecstatic good fortune that greeted his return to France Ė captaincy at the age of twenty and marriage to a beautiful girl.He too could not support that peak of joy and swiftly turned into an equal intensity of despair.

 

23.   There was a close parallel between Dantes and Villefort.Both were at the beginning of a bright career.Both met on their betrothal days.What should have ended Villefortís career and marriage plans he used to fulfill his highest ambitions by simultaneously destroying Dantesí life and marriage.The letter Dantes received from the hands of the Emperor brought Villefort into the presence and graces of King Louis XVIII.One manís fortune was anotherís disaster.

 

24.   What brought about Dantesís fall?The negative atmosphere around his life, the jealousy of Danglarsfor his job and Fernand for his would-be wife (and perhaps Caderousse for his wealth).Dantesís father nearly starved for want of money during Dantes last voyage. It was an omen of things to come, for his father did starve to death. Edmund failed to see the danger.

 

25.   When Napoleon returns to power, Morrel tries to assert his power as a Bonapartist over Villefort in order to aid Dantes. But Villefort is more clever than Morrel and matches his social assertion with a social bluff.

 

26.  From the moment of his arrest until his decision to starve to death in prison several years after his arrival, Dantes life was in a steep decline.Suddenly when he was near his very last breath, virtually dead, the pendulum began its upward swing beginning with the sound of the Abbeís digging.From then on the climb was steady Ė the meeting with the Abbe, friendship, acquisition of knowledge, the hope of the treasure, his escape to the island, the wreck of the ship providing him wood to float on, the arrival of the smugglersí ship just before the discovery of his escape, his acceptance and survival with the smugglers, the smugglersí plan to land at Monte Cristo, the discovery of the treasure.

 

27.   Jacobo is the one who pulls the drowning Dantes out of the water, saving his life, and lends him some clothes. When Dantes is wounded by a customs officerís bullet while trading smuggled goods, Jacobo leaps to attend on him with greatest concern. Dantes tests him by offering to give half his prize money from the raid, but Jacobo refuses it. He is attracted to Dantes as a superior man and natural leader. When Dantes is apparently injured on Monte Cristo, Jacobo offers to relinquish his share in the smuggling venture to remain and care for him. Dantes is struck by the loyalty and affection of the smugglers for him. Later Jacobo becomes captain of Dantes boat.

 

28.   When Dantes is wounded, he feels the joy of strength and says ďPain, thou art not evil.Ē Pain has been the teacher that gave him knowledge, strength and wealth. Therefore, in trying to help othersóMorrel and Maximillian, Dantes resorts to the only teacher he knowsópain.

 

29.   The treasure belonged to Cardinal Spada who dies of poisoning. It serves Dantes and Haydee primarily as an instrument for vengeance.

 

30.   After escaping from prison, Dantes in disguise as the Abbe Busoni meets Caderousse and tries to reward the outer action by presenting Caderousse with the diamond. It brings out the evil in Caderousse and his wife and he responds directly by murdering the jeweler. Caderousse ends up in prison and lives the rest of his life as a criminal. For trying to give Caderousse what he did not deserve, Caderousse tries to take his life when he stabs Abbe Busoni during his attempted robbery of the Countís house in Paris.

 

31.   When Dantes escapes and returns 20 years later, Morrel loses the Pharaon which Dantes had sailed on and becomes bankrupt. This time he is able to express genuine concern for his crew rather than his cargo and his wealth comes back to him. He has acquired real goodness.

 

32.   Mercedesís son Albert had an aristocratic Parisian friend, Franz, who stumbled on Monte Cristoís island while in search of adventure and was entertained by the Count in his grotto paradise.Later one night in the Coliseum, Franz overheard the Count arranging with the outlaw Vampa for the release of a peasant who was sentenced for execution in Rome.A day later Franz recognized the Count in a box at the opera and learnedthat the Count was living on the same floor of the same hotel as he and Albert in Rome. Still later, Albert is kidnapped by Vampa. By what mechanism of life was Albert, Fernandís son, put in intimate contact with his fatherís bitter enemy? The link was always a smuggler or outlaw.Franzís adventure on the Isle of Monte Cristo was after warnings that it was a smugglerís haven and with the intention of dining with the smugglers on the shore to share their roast goat.He dined with the Count instead, who befriended smugglers and thieves.The night he overhead the Count and Vampa at the Coliseum, it was after he and Albert had been expressly warned of the danger of Vampa by their hotel patron and they chose to ignore it.Franz had been further warned of the Countís links by the patronís story of the Countís initial encounter with Vampa within hours befire Vampa became chief of the bandits. Meeting the Count and exchanging gifts with him propelled Vampa from mere shepherd to the top of the criminal profession!

 

33.   The Countess Gís prescient fear of the Count and warning to Franzand Franzís own anxiety and discomfort with the Count did not prevent he and Albert from availing of the Countís hospitality.Albert was finally committed to return the Countís kindness after the Count saved him from Vampa and got him released.The Count had innumerable links with the underworld including his rescue by the smugglers after his escape from prison and the smuggler who employed as a steward. As an outcaste and escaped criminal, Dantes felt a natural affinity with criminals. The young menís thirst for adventure brought them into touch with that world and through it with the Count.

 

34.   From Edmundís side his very deep and intense craving to avenge the evil done to him by Albertís father and the others was an all-powerful force that attracted the proper circumstances for their fulfillment.

 

35.   Albertís search for an illicit secret love affair led him into Vampaís trap Ė sex and crime are so closely linked.

 

36.   The Countessí instinctive repulsion to the Count who she feels is a Vampire is actually an unconscious attraction.In Paris she unknowingly supports the Countís entry in the horse race which wins the cup and is intrigued when she finds the cup waiting for her at her home.

 

B.     Edmund & Mercedes

1.       Mercedes is a good girl socially. She acts out with a sense of honesty, propriety and goodwill. She seeks to be honest and fair with her cousin Fernand, she is caring and concerned about Edmundís father, she is affectionate with Edmund and longs and suffers for him as well as herself when he is imprisoned. After hearing the report of his fall into the sea, she dreams of his death every night for years and later has herself painted as the Catalan girl in front of a dark hillside.

2.       Why then does such a good, loyal girl end marrying a traitor like Fernand who is capable of any betrayal? The principle is that when we live on the surface we attract to ourselves that which is similar to our own nature. Thus, a socially good Mercedes is attracted to Edmund who is psychologically good. But her social goodness cannot fulfill his psychological need. Both he and she need to evolve beyond their present attainments and neither can be the source of that evolution for the other. Mercedes must outgrow the social goodness of being a beautiful, happy loyal girl to become a psychological person. That requires separation from that which would fulfill her socially. A deeper principle is that when we are making a progress beyond the level of our present endowment we attract that which is necessary to complete that progress, which is very often the opposite of that which we are or possess. Mercedes marries a treacherous, unscrupulous man incapable of the psychological feelings she is trying to evolve. She develops and expresses them in her relationship with her son. Her progress is from social goodness to psychological depth through a process of estrangement, a marriage of form that lacks inner substance, the discovery of Fernandís betrayal and her renunciation of the title, wealth, property and security he had given her in favor of real psychological right or goodness. The strength she confesses to Edmund that she lacked at the time of his imprisonment she acquired through her life and is now able to exercise to leave Fernand. Had she possessed that inner goodness and strength at the outset, she would not have needed to undergo that separation from Edmund.

3.       On his part, Edmund also needed to make a psychological progress from surface attachment to deeper emotions. He is separated from all that he loves and cherishes, but later forges a relationship with a real psychological personality, Heidi, a woman capable of mature, deep emotions of loyalty and devotion. Edmund is forced to give up the social forms of recognition, wife, career and become a true psychological individual. When he makes that progress, he meets and is loved by another psychological individual.

C.     Vampa

 

1.       Cucumetto , the bandit chief, had raped Rita, the lover of his gang member, Carlina. Carlina then killed Rita to save her the humiliation of further molestation by the gang.Ritaís father came and learning the facts killed himself.A few days later Cucumetto shot Carlina in the back anticipating Carlinaís plan for revenge.Once when Cucumetto was escaping from the soldiers he was hidden by the shepherd boy Luigi Vampa and his girlfriend Teresa.Luigi refused to turn him in despite the offer of a big reward.

 

2.       Luigi and Teresa are invited to their masterís, Comte de San Felice, masquerade ball.For want of a fourth appropriate lady dancing partner, Teresa is invited to fill in and a noblemen extends an amorous proposition to her.Overcome with jealousy, that night Luigi steals the Countessí precious gown and jewels for Teresa.When he gives the dress to Teresa, the Count happens to arrive asking for directions.Luigi walks off to show him the way and they exchange gifts of friendship.On his return Luigi sees Teresa being carried off by Cucumetto and he kills Cucumetto with a bullet in the back just as Cucumetto had killed Carlina.Luigi decides to become an outlaw and is chosen as chief.

 

3.       Carlina had learned that resorting to force as a way of life also exposes what is dear to him to the same force.He and his love die for it, since he is not strong enough for revenge.His revenge is fulfilled by Vampa when Cucumetto tries to repeat the act against Teresa.Vampaís initial encounter with the Count has two immediate results. He loses Teresa only to recover her by homicide and he becomes chief of the bandits.Again the Count is linked to bandits.Sometime later Vampa and ten of his gang try to capture the Count not recognizing him, but the Count captures Luigi and his men, then lets them go in a show of friendship.The Count is the only one who has defeated the outlaw Vampa. Where does his power come from?It comes from being an outlaw himself of greater energy and purpose; though like Luigi essentially not evil in nature.

 

4.       The Count cements their relationship when he arranges for the release of Pepino, an innocent shepherd boy who helped feed Vampaís gang and was sentenced to death for complicity with the bandits.

 

5.       In return Vampa becomes an unconscious aid to the Countís scheme for revenge when Vampa kidnaps Albert and gives the Count the opportunity to save Albertís life by asking Vampa to release him, which he does.The Countís life is in harmony with those of other underworld characters.

 

D.     Caderousse:

 

1.       He felt and expressed strong jealousy of Dantes when he returns to port and is likely to be made Captain.

2.       He was not a conscious participant in Danglarís plot against Edmund.He was drunk while the scheming took place, but protested against the very suggestion of implementing it.When he realized Danglars has acted, he is restrained by Danglarís warning that he too may be arrested along withDantes.

 

3.       While Dantes was at sea, Caderousse demanded the return of his loan to Edmund from Edmundís father who by complying deprived himself of sufficient money and nearly starved to death.

 

4.       After Dantesís imprisonment, his father did die of voluntary starvation of which Caderousse was an innocent by-stander.Later Caderousseís business failed, he bought the Port de Gard tavern and became bankrupt.After the death of his first wife, he remarried and his second wife got marsh fever which made her a half crippled, constantly suffering termagant.

 

5.       At this moment when Caderousse had fallen to the very depths and had nothing more to lose, Edmund returned disguised as the Abbe Busoni and gave him the 50,000 franc jewel in return for the information about the others which Caderousse rendered with honesty.

 

6.       Instead of becoming a turning point in Caderousseís life leading to recovery and happiness as it did for Morrelís family, the jewel evoked their greed, and led to the jewelerís murder, his wifeís death and Caderousseís conviction for life imprisonment.Later he meets Benedetto and escapes.

7.       Why did Dantesí gift have such a different affect on Caderousse and Morrel? Because Morrel was essentially positive, Caderousse essentially negative.

 

E.     Morrel:††

 

1.       Like Caderousse, M. Morrel suffered a long downward spiral of fortune after Edmundís imprisonment.He made innumerable attempts to discover Edmundís fate and get him released, but to no avail.When Edmundís father was short of funds, Morrel left a purse of gold on his mantle.

 

2.       Edmund returned fourteen years later when Morrel was on the verge of bankruptcy.By purchasing Morrelís pro-notes from his creditors, Edmund saved him from the humiliation of dishonouring his debts.The very moment that they met, news came that Morrelís last ship, the Pharaon†† - Edmundís own Ė had sunk, and that Morrel was broke.Edmund gave him three monthís extension, then canceled the notes, gave a 100,000 franc diamond to Morrelís daughter as dowry and replaced the lost Pharaon with its cargo.

 

3.       Morrelís goodness is amply demonstrated not only by his concern for Edmundí father, but at his great joy on learning the crew of the Pharaon had been save at the very momenthebelieve he was totally ruined.

 

4.       Until his death Morrel constantly sought to discover the identity of his benefactor and came to suspect it was none other than Edmund.So great was his desire to discover and offer gratitude, that sure knowledge of that it was Edmund came as an inspiration the moment before his death.

 

F.     Bertuccio:†††††††††††††

 

1.       He was a Corsican smuggler whose brother, an officer in Bonaparteís army, was murdered by Royalists after the second restoration.When Bertuccio applied to Villefort for legal action against the murders, he was roughly rebuffed. Bertuccio swore revenge against Villefort. Three months later Bertuccio tracked Villefort to his countryhouse at Auteuil where Villefort had gone for a rendezvous with Hermione de Nargonne (now Madame Danglars after her first husband had died a few months earlier) who was about to give birth to their illegitimate child.When the child was born, Villefort thought it still-born or smothered it (?) and buried it in the garden.Bertuccio stabbed him, dug up the box and escaped only to discover he was carrying a nearly dead infant.

 

2.       Bertuccioís sister-in-law (brotherís widow) raised the child, Benedetto, with deep affection, but when the evil boy was in his late teens he and a few friends attacked the woman who burned to death and they stole all Bertuccioís money and disappeared.Unknowingly she was raising the means of avenging her husbandís death.

 

3.       Bertuccio, a lucky smuggler, was one day nearly caught and narrowly escaped to the Pont De Gard tavern run by Caderousse and concealed himself in a closet under the stairway just in time to witness to arrival of Caderousse and the jeweler who offered to buy the F50,000 diamond given Caderousse by the Abbe (Edmund).Bertuccio overheard Caderousseís story and the theft which resulted in the death of Caderousseís wife and the jeweler while Caderousse escaped.Bertuccio was arrested by the customs officers who overheard the shot nearby, was imprisoned for murder and released when the Abbe came to confirm his story, then on the Abbeís recommendation joined up with the Count.

 

4.       Benedetto became a criminal, joined the same prison as Caderousse and later escaped.Caderousse too later escaped and found Benedetto at Auteuil playing the role of Andrea Cavalcantiwhich the Count has established for him.

 

5.       Interpretation:

a)       Villefort punished Edmund as a Bonapartist.He is nearly assassinated and his affair with Hermione and infanticide are discovered when he allows the murder of another Bonapartist to go free, thus evoking Bertuccioís revenge.

 

b)       Bertuccio, suffering from a similar offense by Villefort, is a willing and suitable instrument for Edmundís revenge.Villefortís vulnerability arises from his own violation of law and morals by his affair and attempted infanticide.

 

G.     Life Events

 

1.       Napoleonís letter which Dantes was carrying was for Villefortís father, Noirtier, making it imperative for Villefort to somehow conceal the fact and resulting in Edmundís imprisonment.

 

2.       Just as Edmund is about to die of self-imposed starvation, he hears the sound of Abbe Fariaís excavations and therefore decides to live.Knowledge, freedom and wealth follow.

 

3.       Dantes is rescued from the sea after his escape from prison by the sudden wreck of a fishing boat and the passing of a smugglersí ship.

 

4.       Disguised as a representative of a Roman banker, Dantes meets Morrel on the very day Morrelís last ship, Pharaon, is lost and Morrel is ruined. (Dantesís desire to repay Morrelís help, brings him just at the most opportune moment.)

 

5.       Bertuccio swears revenge against Villefort, the same man Dantes seeks, and discovers Villefortís secret affair and infanticide

 

6.       Bertuccio, trying to escape the customs agent, witnesses the murder of the jeweler and Caderousseís wifeís death.The storm outside conspires to aid Caderousse in his plot.

 

7.       The Count meets Bertuccio and learns Villefortís secret through Bertuccioís chance encounter with Caderousse and Bertuccio,s arrest.

 

8.       The child Bertuccio saved, Benedetto, killed Bertuccioís sister-in-law as Benedettoís father, Villefort, had condoned the murder of Bertuccioís brother.

 

9.       Bertuccio meets Caderousse in prison.

10.   Benedetto also meets Caderousse in prison and later again in Paris.

11.   Franz arrives by chance at Monte Cristo isle and meets the Count Ė or is it by the Countís contrivance?

 

12.   Albert and Franz reside on the same floor of the same hotel in Rome as the Count - againperhaps the Countís contrivance?

 

13.   Franz overhears the Countís discussion with Vampa in the coliseum.

 

14.   Vampaís meeting with the Count the first time coincides with Cuccumettoís kidnapping of Teresa and Vampaís turning bandit.

 

15.   Vampaís kidnapping of Albert and Albertís release by the Count may have been contrived by the Count, but if so it is Albert who responds to the lure.

 

16.   The flight ofMadame Danglarís carriage with Madame Villefort and Edmund inside which Ali halted Ė the Countís contrivance surely since he returned the same horses to Madame Danglars just hours before and he had Ali waiting for them to pass by.

 

17.   In the early part of his life, Edmund is subject to the whims of life Ė his captainís death, Danglarís plot, Villefortís betrayal, Abbeís excavation.††† As the Count he learns to drive life and make it respond to his wishes Ė Bertuccio,Albert, Franz, Benedetto all aid his plots.

 

18.   Maximillian overhears the doctor inform Villefort that his mother-in-law died of poisoning,(a poison given to Villefortís wife by the Count).

 

19.   Madame Villefort, Villefortís second wife, poisoned Marquis Madame de Saint Meran, the parents of Villefortís first wife, with poison that Madame Villefort obtained from the Count.The St. Meranís were present at Villefortís betrothal to Renee St Meran at the time when Edmund was arrested.The parents instinctively urged a severe punishment for the unknown suspect, while the daughter who died after bearing Valentine, pleaded for mercy.Even at her death, Madam St. Meran sided with Villefort, urged Valentineís immediate marriage to Franz which opposes Valentineís and Maximillianís hopes.

 

20.   The news of Marquis de St. Meranís death came at the Mercerfís ball at the moment that Edmund and Mercedes are talking privately for the first time.Their meeting signals the beginning of calamity in Villefortís house.