The Count of Monte Cristo | Study Guide

Alexandre Dumas

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The Count of Monte Cristo | Chapters 5–7 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 5

At noon the next day, Dantès and Mercédès hold their betrothal celebration at La Réserve, where Danglars had set in motion the plot against Dantès. The arrival of Morrel, owner of the Pharaon, confirms that Dantès will be made captain and is greeted with applause. The guests are neighbors and friends, sailors, and soldiers. During the meal, Danglars notices that Fernand seems nervous. Dantès announces that the marriage will take place at the Town Hall in an hour and a half. As the party prepares to leave for the Town Hall, soldiers arrive at the door with a warrant for Dantès's arrest. Remembering the note Danglars wrote, Caderousse questions him about it, but Danglars claims he tore it up. Dantès goes with the soldiers, sure that the whole thing is a mistake he can clear up. Monsieur Morrel follows and returns later to report that Edmond is accused of being an agent of Napoleon Bonaparte. Caderousse's first impulse is to expose the letter Danglars wrote, but Danglars convinces him that he'll be suspected of being an accomplice if it turns out that Dantès has done something wrong. Caderousse agrees to say nothing, but he fears they will suffer misfortune for their part in the affair. Danglars loses no time in telling Morrel he'll be happy to serve as temporary captain of the Pharaon until Dantès is released. Morrel accepts and decides to speak with Monsieur de Villefort, a magistrate, or judge, on behalf of Dantès.

Chapter 6

At the same time as the betrothal feast for Dantès and Mercédès, Monsieur Gérard de Villefort, deputy to the Crown Prosecutor, is attending his own betrothal feast. At this feast the guests are "the cream of Marseillais society." They are Royalists who celebrate the defeat of Bonaparte and the return of the monarchy. The bride-to-be's mother, the Marquise de Saint-Méran, reminds Villefort that although his father, Comte Noirtier, is now a senator, he was once a strong supporter of Bonaparte. Villefort replies that he doesn't share his father's Bonapartist leanings. He's a Royalist and has separated himself from his father by changing his name to Villefort. The conversation turns to the importance of punishing political dissent harshly. Villefort is proud of his reputation as a fair judge who is tough on political dissent. Villefort's fiancée, Renée, seems to have a softer heart and urges him to not be too harsh with political prisoners. She hopes his cases will be only petty criminals. Villefort tells her that this wouldn't do at all for someone who wants to become Crown Prosecutor; to advance, he needs to show he is tough on conspirators. The party is interrupted when Villefort is called away to attend to the arrest of Dantès. The Crown Prosecutor is away, so Villefort must act as his deputy.

Chapter 7

Villefort leaves his engagement party feeling satisfied with his life. His upcoming marriage to a very beautiful woman will bring him prestige and wealth, and at age 26, his career is going well. As he walks to his office, Villefort is approached by Morrel, who strongly vouches for the good character of Dantès. Because Morrel is a merchant, not a nobleman, Villefort suspects him of having Bonapartist sympathies, and he wonders if the charges might have some merit. When he questions Dantès, Villefort learns that the young man was arrested at his betrothal feast and that he has no political opinions at all. Villefort feels sympathetic to Dantès, and suggests that an envious person may have accused him. Dantès explains that he delivered a letter to Elba to fulfill a promise to his dying captain. After delivering the letter to Elba, he was given another letter that he was to take to Paris. Villefort believes Dantès is innocent and is about to release him when he discovers that the letter Dantès was given on Elba is addressed to his own father, Monsieur Noirtier. Fearing that any publicity about his father's conspiracy could ruin his political future, Villefort destroys the letter. He makes Dantès promise not to mention the letter and tells him his release will have to be delayed. After Dantès is led away, Villefort realizes that he can use what he learned from the letter to further his own career.

Analysis

These chapters finish introducing the central conflict that shapes Dantès's life: his arrest based on a false accusation.

Another main character, Villefort, is introduced in Chapter 6, and further insight into his character and motivation is provided in Chapter 7. Villefort believes Dantès to be innocent, and as a judge, he should let him go. But he fears that Dantès will let it slip that the letter he picked up from Elba was addressed to Noirtier. Clearly his father is still working with the Bonapartists, and if this information gets out, it will threaten Villefort's chances of becoming Crown Prosecutor. Villefort, like Danglars (the mastermind of the plot against Dantès), is motivated by ambition. As a judge who takes great pride in his ability to carry out justice, he knows he's thwarting justice when he decides to delay Dantès's release.

The betrothal party scene in Chapter 6 contrasts with the more humble one in the preceding chapter. Villefort's party is attended by the upper crust of Marseille's society, reflecting Villefort's lofty social position. The party for Dantès and Mercédès, by contrast, is attended by ordinary people—workers, sailors—as the guests. Dantès is a humble commoner; Villefort moves among nobles. Of course, they both will eventually be found in high society, but for now their lives move in different social circles. This portrayal of different social classes also reflects Dumas's artistic goal of creating a fictional universe that depicts the vast complexity of French society. His art is equally at home in the common tavern and in the great salons of the wealthy.

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