The Count of Monte Cristo | Study Guide

Alexandre Dumas

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Chapters 20–25

Course Hero Literature Instructor Russell Jaffe provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Chapters 20–25 of Alexandre Dumas's novel The Count of Monte Cristo.

The Count of Monte Cristo | Chapters 20–25 | Summary



Chapter 20

Devastated by Faría's death, Dantès briefly contemplates suicide as he sits by his friend's body, wrapped in its winding sheet. But the desire for life and freedom soon overtakes him; he thinks of the enemies he wants to punish and the friends he would like to reward. Suddenly he thinks of an escape plan. He removes Faría's body from the sack, takes it into his own cell, and positions it in his bed so the jailer will think he's asleep. He goes back to the abbé's cell; slips into the burial sack; and, using Faría's needle and thread, sews himself into the sack. As soon as the gravediggers finish burying him, he'll tunnel out of the grave. The gravediggers come to the cell and carry him outside; instead of burying him, they tie a cannonball around his feet. Dantès cries out in surprise as he is thrown over the wall into the sea.

Chapter 21

The cannonball drags Dantès toward the bottom of the sea, but he uses his knife to slit open the sack and cut the rope attached to the cannonball. He swims underwater until he's well away from the prison. The night is black and a storm is rising. A strong swimmer, he reaches the rocky shores of an island where he falls asleep as the rain begins to pound down. When he awakens, a small fishing boat on the water is being torn apart by the storm, and the five men aboard disappear into the sea. The next morning, worried that his escape has been detected and people are searching for him, Dantès dons a red seaman's cap that he finds on a rock, climbs onto one of beams of the destroyed ship, and sets out to intercept a ship that's leaving from the port of Marseille. He'll pass himself off as a survivor of the wreck. But his strength gives out and Dantès nearly drowns before the sailors from the ship rescue him. Once aboard, he tells them he's a Maltese seaman and offers to work for his food and clothing. He learns from Jacopo, a sailor who befriends him, that the date is February 28, 1829—exactly 14 years from the day he was arrested. Thinking of Mercédès, Dantès remembers his vow of vengeance against Danglars, Fernand, and Villefort.

Chapter 22

Dantès soon realizes that his rescuers are smugglers. Their ship puts in at Leghorn, where he visits a barber and has his first haircut and shave in 14 years. He's pleased to see that his face would not be recognizable to anyone who knew him before his arrest. Dantès agrees to stay with the smugglers for three months. They set sail for Corsica, passing the island of Monte Cristo along the way. In a skirmish with customs officers, Dantès is shot in the shoulder. Jacopo nurses him back to health, and Dantès instructs Jacopo in seamanship and navigation. In the next few months, Dantès gets to know all the smugglers of the Mediterranean. One evening a large smuggling operation is planned: the exchange of goods is to take place the following evening on the deserted island of Monte Cristo.

Chapter 23

Dantès spends the night before the trip to Monte Cristo dreaming of the treasure and planning how to get to it. Because of his superior navigational skills and leadership abilities, the ship's owner has made Dantès second in command. They drop anchor and go ashore at 10 o'clock at night. The second ship arrives and the goods are transferred. The next morning, Dantès goes hunting and kills a wild goat for dinner. While the smugglers prepare the meal, Dantès searches for the treasure, having memorized Abbé Faría's directions. He thinks he has found the general location. When his companions signal to him that dinner is ready, Dantès fakes a fall from a rock. Jacopo and the others find him covered in blood and in too much pain to be moved. The smugglers must leave to make a delivery, and Dantès persuades them to leave him supplies and come back for him in a few days when he should be recovered enough to be moved. When the ship is out of sight, Dantès sets to work on dislodging the rock that he believes is hiding the treasure.

Chapter 24

To dislodge the huge rock, Dantès rigs an explosive device, using gunpowder and strips of his handkerchief as a fuse. After the explosion he is able to roll the rock away, revealing a square paving stone with a ring attached to it. Bracing himself for disappointment, Dantès lifts the stone and descends into a cavern. He must dig through a false wall to a second cave, where he digs in the corner that Faría had specified. There he uncovers a locked wooden chest. He breaks open the lid and sees a treasure of gold coins, ingots, and jewels. After exclaiming and leaping with joy, Dantès falls on his knees and says a prayer. He spends the night sleeping on the stone at the entrance to the cave, still overcome with strong emotions.

Chapter 25

The next day, Dantès fills his pockets with jewels, replaces the treasure chest, and hides the cave entrance. He plans to use his wealth to take a place of rank and influence in society. Six days later, the smugglers pick him up and take him to Leghorn, where he sells some of his diamonds. The next day, Dantès buys a small boat and hires Jacopo to take it to Marseille to find out what has happened to his father and to Mercédès. Dantès tells Jacopo that he had been estranged from his wealthy family but had just received an inheritance from an uncle. Dantès goes to Genoa, where he buys a fine yacht that he sails to Monte Cristo. He transfers the treasure to the yacht. He spends a week on the island before Jacopo arrives with the news that Old Dantès is dead and Mercédès has disappeared.

Dantès sails for Marseille in his yacht, and Jacopo's ship follows along. He's using an English passport that he bought in Leghorn. He sheds tears at the apartment where his father had lived and died, which is now being rented by a newly married couple. He learns that Caderousse's tailoring business failed and he now runs an inn in Beaucaire. Using the name on his passport, Lord Wilmore, Dantès buys the house where his father had lived and offers the young couple another apartment in the house. Then he visits a poor fisherman in the village where Mercédès had lived, where he asks for news of her and Fernand. He leaves Marseilles on horseback.


Dumas again moves the action along at a brisk pace. Dantès's long years in prison are over, and his new life begins. These chapters also include several examples of excellent suspense writing, beginning with the end of the first chapter in the group when Dantès is tossed into the sea, his body weighted down by a cannonball, rather than being buried. Relieved by his escape, the reader is immediately plunged into an intense scene as Dantès faces a life-or-death struggle. Dumas's cliffhanger ending compels readers to begin the next chapter to see what will happen. He maintains suspense within chapters also, as when Dantès, on the island of Monte Cristo, manages to lift the stone and enter the cavern only to be blocked by another door.

Dantès's plunge into the sea from the Château d'If and his emergence from it as a free man can be seen as a kind of rebirth into his new life, the transformation motif. He is altered in appearance, unrecognizable from the cheerful young man he had been before. He is also changed in character. Before his imprisonment, he wouldn't have been very comfortable about being in the company of smugglers. Now, though, as a former prisoner he identifies with those who work outside the law. The law certainly hasn't done him any favors. Of course, he also owes these smugglers his life. As Abbé Faría mentored him, he mentors Jacopo, teaching him the finer points of seamanship. He also repays the smuggler's friendship by hiring him. Dantès shows fierce loyalty to those who are good to him, just as he shows fierce commitment to his revenge mission.

The fact that his father is dead and Mercédès gone from Marseille reinforces the message that his old life is over. The transformation of Dantès is completed when he secures the treasure on Monte Cristo. Once he has the treasure in hand, the speed with which he begins to implement his plans is impressive. Clearly he has done a lot of planning while in prison. At the same time, he is flexible and adapts to circumstances. The injury that he feigns so that he can spend time on the island alone looking for the treasure is one example. Training Jacopo and then hiring him as captain of his yacht is another example of his ability to improvise and take advantage of opportunities as they arise.

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