The Count of Monte Cristo | Study Guide

Alexandre Dumas

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The Count of Monte Cristo | Chapters 39–41 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 39

Three months later, on May 21, Albert de Morcerf is preparing to receive the Count of Monte Cristo in his rooms in his parents' home. He has invited a few guests to share breakfast and meet the count—Lucien Debray, private secretary to the minister of the interior; Beauchamp, a journalist; Baron Château-Renaud, an aristocrat; and Maximilien Morrel, a military officer. Château-Renaud tells the story of how Morrel saved his life in Africa. Morrel explains that every year on September 5, he tries to help a stranger in honor of the fact that a stranger had saved his father's life on that date. While they await the count's arrival, Albert tells how the count saved him from bandits in Rome. The count arrives precisely on time and Albert introduces him to his guests, who are quite impressed with the count's noble manners.

Chapter 40

Monte Cristo mentions that he hasn't eaten in 24 hours, having slept in his carriage all the way to Paris. He says he is able to sleep any time he likes because he has concocted a formula for sleeping pills. He always carries these pills with him in a hollowed-out emerald, which he shows to the guests. He says he used two similar emeralds to obtain favors. One favor was from the pope for the life of Peppino, and the other was from the sultan for a woman's freedom. Albert tells his guests how Monte Cristo saved him from bandits in Rome. Monte Cristo explains that he had captured Vampa more than 10 years earlier and had let him go on the condition that Vampa would always respect Monte Cristo and his friends. Albert mentions that he will soon become engaged to Mademoiselle Eugénie Danglars. The guests offer to find Monte Cristo a place to live, but he already has a house that his servants have set up for him. They tease him that all he needs now is a mistress, and he says he has something better—a slave that he bought in Constantinople who only speaks Romaic. Morrel urges the count to visit him and his sister. Among themselves, the young men agree that Monte Cristo is very eccentric and very interesting.

Chapter 41

Morcerf gives Monte Cristo a tour of his house, and Monte Cristo is transfixed by a portrait of Albert's mother, dressed in Catalan costume, looking out to sea. His father, he tells the count, dislikes the portrait, and it seems to make his mother sad, although she is drawn to it. Albert takes the count to the main house, where he introduces him to his parents. They both thank the count for saving their son's life in Rome. After Monte Cristo leaves, Albert finds his mother in her room looking ill and using smelling salts. She spends some time questioning Albert about the count's background and age. When Albert insists the count is 35, she exclaims that it's impossible. She drifts off into her own thoughts and Albert leaves, thinking she is asleep.

Analysis

When Maximilien Morrel tells the breakfast guests about the stranger who saved his father's life on September 5, he has no idea that Monte Cristo (Edmond Dantès) is that stranger. This piece of situational irony is but one of many in a novel in which the count uses many disguises and has many secrets.

The portrait of Mercédès, described in Chapter 41, which she commissioned, reveals her longing for the time she lived by the sea and was in love with Dantès. It isn't surprising that Fernand dislikes the portrait in which she's looking out to sea, as if waiting for Edmond's return. After Mercédès meets the count, her shaken reaction and the questions she asks Albert suggest that she recognizes him, or at least has a strong suspicion as to his identity. That raises the possibility that she will say something to expose him—or that she will run to him due to a still-harbored love. This possibility hangs over the chapters that follow until Mercédès's fate is finally settled.

The count's abilities to function without having eaten in 24 hours and to sleep whenever he needs adds to the air of mystery and command about him. While it is a room full of relatively young men that the count is impressing here—young men who may not be too experienced in the world—Dumas is also making an impression on readers.

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