The Count of Monte Cristo | Study Guide

Alexandre Dumas

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The Count of Monte Cristo | Chapters 51–52 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 51

Valentine de Villefort, the prosecutor's daughter, and Maximilien Morrel have a secret meeting place at the wall that separates the garden of the de Villefort estate from a vegetable garden that Maximilien has rented in the next street. Through a gap in the wall they discuss their love for one another, and Valentine sometimes slips her fingers between the planks for Maximilien to kiss. Their conversation reveals that Valentine's father has decided she will marry Franz d'Epinay. Villefort has a low opinion of the Morrel family because he thinks the elder Morrel was a "Bonapartist fanatic." Because d'Epinay will be away for another year, Maximilien hopes that the situation will change so that he and Valentine can be together. Valentine's father ignores her, and her stepmother hates her, probably because she envies the wealth Valentine has inherited from her mother. Her stepmother has no wealth of her own, and her son Edouard doesn't stand to inherit nearly as much as Valentine will get. She'll inherit even more wealth from her maternal grandparents. Valentine's only solace in that house is the warm relationship she has with her grandfather, old Noirtier. Although a stroke has paralyzed him and he can't speak, the two have devised a way to communicate, and they're very close. Valentine and Maximilien's meeting is interrupted when Valentine is called into the house to meet a visitor—the Count of Monte Cristo.

Chapter 52

When Madame de Villefort introduces Valentine to the count, he reminds them that he had briefly encountered them two years ago in Italy. Madame de Villefort remembers him as a doctor because he had just cured two people of illness, but he assures her he's just an amateur scientist. After Valentine goes to tend to her grandfather, Madame de Villefort engages the count in a long conversation about poisons. She is particularly interested in a method that involves building up immunity to a poison by taking a slightly larger amount of it every day. The count says he has used this method himself, so a dose of the poison that would kill most people would have little effect on him. She says he must be a great chemist because the elixir that he used to revive her son had been so effective. The count explains that although one drop of the elixir can revive a person, ten drops would be lethal. Madame de Villefort says the elixir seems to be much more effective as an antispasmodic than the medication that her doctor has given her, and the count offers to give her some. He leaves, congratulating himself for planting a seed that will bear some fruit. The next day, he sends a vial of the elixir to Madame de Villefort.

Analysis

The title of Chapter 51, "Pyramus and Thisbe," refers to a story from Greek myth that is similar to the story of Romeo and Juliet. Two lovers are forbidden to be together and can talk only through a hole in the wall between their homes. Pyramus and Thisbe's story, like Romeo and Juliet's, ends tragically, with the deaths of both lovers. That ominous outcome hangs over Maximilien and Valentine.

This chapter provides some exposition, explaining the tensions, motivations, and relationships of members of the Villefort household. Valentine and Noirtier, her grandfather, are the only ones who are close.

The fact that the count met Madame de Villefort in Italy two years ago suggests that the meeting didn't happen by chance. He's encouraging Madame de Villefort's interest in poisons, perhaps hoping that she'll use the elixir to poison her husband.

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