The Count of Monte Cristo | Study Guide

Alexandre Dumas

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The Count of Monte Cristo | Chapters 53–56 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 53

That evening at the opera Robert le Diable, the audience, as usual, spends the first act conversing and watching the other spectators arrive. Albert de Morcerf spots the Countess G–, whom he'd met in Rome. The countess tells Albert and Château-Renaud that the big race that afternoon had been won by a horse named Vampa, entered by an unknown. She says that when she returned home, the winner's cup was in her drawing room with a note: "To Countess G–, Lord Ruthven." Albert reminds her that in Rome she'd compared the Count of Monte Cristo to the vampire, Lord Ruthven. Château-Renaud tells the countess that Monte Cristo's extravagant and eccentric behavior is the talk of Paris. As the second act begins, Monte Cristo and Haydée arrive, and everyone's attention turns to the beautiful young woman wearing oriental dress and spectacular diamonds.

Later in the evening, Monte Cristo visits the box occupied by Baroness Danglars. The Comte de Morcerf, who is with her, thanks him for saving his son from the bandits in Rome. Haydée, seeing Monte Cristo with Morcerf, nearly faints. When Monte Cristo rejoins her, Haydée tells him that Morcerf is the man who sold her father to the Turks, and that is how he made his fortune. He asks her to tell him the details, and they leave as the final act of the opera begins.

Chapter 54

A few days later, Albert de Morcerf and Lucien Debray visit the count. They discuss Albert's upcoming betrothal to Eugénie Danglars. Albert is unhappy about the match, and he knows that his mother is, too. He asks the count to advise him in the matter. The subject of Danglars's great wealth is touched on, and Debray, who is having an affair with Baroness Danglars, says that she gambles recklessly on the stock market. Albert suggests that Debray could teach her a lesson: in his position with the government, he could pass along false information that would cause her to lose money. Debray seems uncomfortable and cuts his visit short. Albert says that Franz d'Epinay, who is still in Italy and is to marry Villefort's daughter Valentine, has as little enthusiasm for the marriage as Albert does for his.

The count tells Albert that he's planning to invite the Danglars and the Villeforts to his house at Auteuil. Given Mercédès's dislike of the Danglars and the discomfort Albert would feel if Eugénie Danglars came, the count suggests that Albert might want to come up with an excuse for not attending. Albert agrees and says he'll plan a trip to the seaside with his mother. After Albert leaves, the count instructs Bertuccio to redecorate the country house for the occasion, except for the red damask bedroom and the garden.

Chapter 55

At seven o'clock that evening, the Marquis Bartolomeo Cavalcanti arrives at the count's door. He is a simple, unsophisticated, tastelessly dressed, retired military man. It becomes clear, as he and the count converse, that Cavalcanti has met Abbé Busoni, one of the count's aliases. The abbé has told Cavalcanti that he stands to reap financial rewards from the count by posing as a retired major who wants to reunite with his son, Andrea, who was kidnapped at the age of five. The count fills in the backstory of Cavalcanti's relationship with Andrea's now-deceased mother. He advises Cavalcanti that, in society, he should avoid telling the story of the boy's kidnapping. To explain why they have seen so little of each other, he should simply say that Andrea has been away at boarding school, and now Cavalcanti wants his son to be introduced to Parisian society. The count keeps up the charade by informing Cavalcanti that he has found the long-lost son. He tells Cavalcanti that the luggage delivered to his hotel has been packed with clothes in the latest fashion. After giving some fashion advice to the marquis, the count takes his leave and says he will send Andrea into the room momentarily.

Chapter 56

In the next room, the count meets with the young man who introduces himself as Andrea Cavalcanti. He has received a letter signed by Sinbad the Sailor informing him that his wealthy father has been looking for him and is in Paris. He repeats the same family history that the count gave to the major. Andrea says he was told that Monte Cristo would have information about his father. The count explains that Sinbad is a name often used by Lord Wilmore, the eccentric philanthropist. The count tells Andrea he will receive an income as long as he stays in Paris; his father, however, will soon return to Italy. After making sure that Andrea has had enough education and social skills to get by in Parisian society, he ushers him in to meet the elder Cavalcanti. As the count observes the meeting through a peephole in the wall, Andrea and the major exchange stories about how they were contacted to play their parts. They don't understand the goal of the charade, but the money they are being paid is really all they care about, and they agree to cooperate with each other. The count joins them and invites them to a dinner at his country house in Auteuil. Their banker, Monsieur Danglars, he tells them, will be among the guests.

Analysis

Dumas's description of Parisian society at the opera at the beginning of Chapter 53 adds to the narrative the kind of social commentary and a flavor of real-life experience that was very popular with his contemporary readers. Readers were interested in how the upper classes interacted, what they considered proper, and how they spent their time.

The Countess G–'s story about the note she'd received, signed "Lord Ruthven," adds to Monte Cristo's reputation as someone who seems to know everything about everyone. Surely no one had told him Madame G– had joked about him being a vampire.

Monte Cristo seems to be planning something dramatic for his upcoming dinner party at the house at Auteuil. The Morcerfs, who seem to have no connection with the house, won't be invited. The Villeforts are invited, and Monsieur Villefort's connection with the house and to the red damask bedroom is already known. But why are the Danglars invited? What is their connection to the house?

The count has orchestrated a complicated ruse to hire the two impostors who will pose as Major Cavalcanti and his long-lost son, Andrea. By posing as Abbé Busoni and Lord Wilmore, and contacting each man separately, the count can maintain the fiction that he believes he's doing a favor for the abbé by helping to introduce Andrea to Parisian society.

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