Guest blog: The Count of Monte Cristo

The Count of Monte Cristo, written by Alexandre Dumas in the 1800s and over one thousand pages long, may not seem very appealing at first. But as young Edmond Dantès reaches the top of his ambition and falls, it is impossible to put down the intricate novel that traces Dantès’ plot for revenge.

The book is set during the middle 1800s in France, beginning at Marseilles as Napoleon Bonaparte attempts to regain power among the French, and the book ends in Paris, the capital. Along the way, the book visits the Château d’If, a prison fortress of France, and the Isle of Monte Cristo, an island off the western coast of Italy, southeast of France.

 
The island fortress Château d’If in the distance viewed from the Parc National des Calanques east of Marseilles

 

The Count of Monte Cristo begins as Edmond Dantès is appointed captain of the vessel Pharaon. He arrives home at Marseilles after a journey and immediately seeks Mercédès, his betrothed. He is not the only man who loves Mercédès, however, and Fernand the Catalan wishes for both Mercédès’ hand in marriage and ill luck upon Edmond. Fernand is not alone in his hatred for Dantès, and Danglars, the supercargo of the Pharaon, desperately wishes for the rank of captain that Edmond just recently filled. So, united by malice against Edmond Dantès, Fernand and Danglars form a plot that accuses Edmond of aiding Bonaparte in his return. By handing Dantès over to the gendarmes, Fernand can gain the hand of Mercédès and Danglars the title of captain. So, after a letter is sent convicting Edmond Dantès of high treason, Edmond is taken to the Procureur du Roi, Villefort, for his trial. Initially, Villefort believes Edmond innocent, but upon hearing the details he realizes the potential danger of Edmond’s knowledge and unjustly sentences him to the prison fortress, Château d’If without explanation to Edmond or his family.

 

The Mediterranean coastline west of Marseilles is craggy and austere 

During his imprisonment at the Château d’If, Dantès meets the Abbé Faria, a prisoner there for eleven years who agrees to reveal to Edmond his almost limitless knowledge. Eventually, the Abbé grows to love Edmond as a son, and before dying, gives him a map showing the location of his family’s vast treasure. Edmond, fixed on revenge, and no longer limited by wealth, forms a plan to escape the torturous castle that was his prison for fourteen years. Deceiving the guards who come to take the dead Abbé away, Edmond replaces himself with the Abbé Faria in the canvas sack that the guards believe contains the Abbé’s dead body. When the guards toss Edmond into the sea, he immediately swims to the Isle of Monte Cristo, where he discovers the Abbé’s fortune.

With revenge fueling his every action, the wealthy, mysterious count of the island Monte Cristo arrives in Paris with the downfall of Fernand, Danglars, and Villefort as his sole intention.

The Panthéon was still a relatively new landmark in Paris in the 1830s, when this book was written.

After spending years meticulously planning his vengeance and observing carefully the actions and positions of his three enemies, the count reveals to the public records of a massacre that Fernand, in his years of warfare, secretly committed in return for a sum of money. Without hope, Fernand attends his trial, where he is sentenced to prison for his ruthless acts. Infuriated but helpless, Fernand flees and attempts to track down his betrayer. Finding the Count of Monte Cristo, he rashly challenges the mysterious man to a duel, but Edmond reveals himself and Fernand, overcome, shoots himself.

Next, the count locates Danglars, and, previously having established with the well-known banker an unlimited credit on him, requires 5,000,000 francs of the helpless Danglars just as he is ordered to repay a local hospital. Unable to procure 10,000,000 francs, Danglars flees Paris, bankrupt and defeated.

With just one more act of justice before he reaches his life’s purpose, Edmond Dantès reminds the old Procureur du Roi of his evil sentence more than fourteen years ago that caused the destruction of the count. Villefort, hardly able to believe that the prisoner of the Chateau D’If had returned, flees, ashamed of his unjust sentence.

Thus, Edmond Dantès took revenge on his enemies. He accomplished what he sought to do since his imprisonment. But the author seems to focus on the fact that Edmond was merely an implement of God’s divine will, illustrating the verse from Deuteronomy 32:35: “Vengeance is mine, and recompense, for the time when their foot shall slip; for the day of their calamity is at hand, and their doom comes swiftly.”

Our guest for this blog is Aiden Hathaway (14) of Bel Air, Maryland.  Aiden is a voracious reader with French-Canadian ancestry.  Once he picked up The Count of Monte Cristo, he couldn't put it down.  He hopes to visit France one day and would like to see all of the places featured in the book, especially the Château d’If.



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