The Count of Monte Cristo | Study Guide

Alexandre Dumas

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The Count of Monte Cristo | Chapters 17–19 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 17

The abbé shows Dantès the tools he's made over the years, as well as his manuscript on the history of the Italian monarchy. Dantès tells the abbé the story of his life, ending with his puzzlement over the reason for his betrayal and arrest. The abbé relates the maxim: "If you wish to find the guilty party, first discover whose interests the crime serves." He then uses deduction to help Dantès see who would have benefitted from his arrest. When the evidence points to Danglars, Fernand, Caderousse, and Villefort, Dantès is stunned and swears an oath of revenge. The abbé, on his next visit, notices the change in Dantès and regrets that he had a part in it.

Dantès, impressed by the depth and breadth of the abbé's knowledge, persuades the old prisoner to teach him all he knows of mathematics, physics, history, and modern languages. Dantès soaks up all this knowledge. He also picks up his instructor's aristocratic bearing and polite manners. They begin to dig another tunnel. When they get to the outside wall, Dantès will tie up and gag the sentry and use the abbé's rope ladder to climb down the wall. But just as the tunnel is completed, Abbé Faría has a seizure. He tells Dantès that a red liquid, hidden in the leg of his bed, might revive him. The potion works, but the abbé's right arm and leg are paralyzed and he knows that a third attack will kill him, as it did his father and grandfather. He's not physically able to carry out their escape plan and urges Dantès to escape alone. But Dantès swears that he will not leave the abbé.

Chapter 18

The next morning, the abbé tells Dantès he wants to share his treasure with him. Dantès fears this is a sign the abbé really is mad, and he avoids talking about the treasure. But later in the evening, Faría drags himself into Dantès's cell. He tells Dantès he was once the secretary and friend of Cardinal Spada, an Italian prince, the last in the line of a very wealthy family. The cardinal left everything to the abbé when he died. Among the belongings, the abbé discovered an old will, giving the location of a fabulous family treasure hidden on the Isle of Monte Cristo. Before the abbé was able to search for the treasure he was arrested. Now the abbé wants to make Dantès his son and heir; if he dies before they escape, the treasure will belong to Dantès alone.

Chapter 19

Dantès is familiar with the deserted island of Monte Cristo, having sailed past it and even dropped anchor there. He makes a map of the island, and the abbé advises him on how to find the treasure. Dantès no longer thinks Faría is mad, but he can't quite believe that the treasure is still there. The prison officials have some repairs made to the outside gallery, closing off the escape the pair had been digging. Dantès tells Faría that now they'll never escape to recover the treasure. He says, "My true treasure, my friend, is not the one that awaits me under the dark rocks of Monte Cristo, but your presence, and the time we spend together for five or six hours a day." One night Faría has a third seizure, and, knowing he will die, he advises Dantès to find the treasure and enjoy it. Dantès attempts, without success, to use the medicine to revive his friend. He finally accepts that Faría is dead and goes back to his own cell before the jailer arrives with breakfast. Dantès listens as the prison officials place the body in a sack, lock it in the cell, and make plans to pick it up late in the evening. Then Dantès goes back through the tunnel into the abbé's cell.

Analysis

Abbé Faría is a key element in the transformation of Edmond Dantès, the simple sailor and helpless prisoner, into the Count of Monte Cristo, man of the world and powerful avenger. At the time of his imprisonment, Dantès was an intelligent, skilled sailor but lacked any formal education. His prison cell offered him no opportunity to use the only skills he'd acquired, and the resulting boredom fed his anger and frustration. When he sees what Abbé Faría has been able to create by using his knowledge and ingenuity, Dantès appreciates that, far from being mad, Abbé Faría has a more stable, practical outlook on his situation than he has. The abbé helps Dantès fill in the gaps in his education and develop an analytical way of thinking that will serve him well in the future. He represents the common figure of a young hero's mentor—the older, wiser individual who provides education, training, guidance, and support to an inexperienced, rough individual.

The loyalty and love that Dantès has for Abbé Faría seem to have a moderating influence on him, as the abbé gives him spiritual as well as intellectual guidance. Still, the abbé is troubled by the desire for revenge that he notices after he helps Dantès discover his enemies.

The discussion of the treasure reflects the theme of wealth and power. Dantès, humbly born, can gain status and power in French society if he has wealth. It is not necessary to be born into the higher ranks as long as one has a fortune. Dantès gains another benefit from the abbé—the polish and grace that will allow him to move in high society.

The abbé's effective adoption of Dantès foreshadows Dantès's adoption of Maximilien toward the end of the novel. In both cases, the younger man benefits from an older person's desire to see victims of injustice compensated for their suffering.

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