The Count of Monte Cristo | Study Guide

Alexandre Dumas

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The Count of Monte Cristo | Chapters 57–59 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 57

Valentine and Maximilien meet again at the wall between the Villefort's home and Maximilien's garden patch. Maximilien has heard that Franz will soon be returning from Italy. Valentine says her stepmother opposes the marriage, but only because she wants Valentine to enter the convent instead. In that case, her son Edouard would inherit the substantial fortune that Valentine would give up. They talk briefly about Eugénie Danglars, who is also unhappy about marriage plans. Valentine says Eugénie objects, not necessarily because she dislikes Albert but because she simply does not ever want to marry. Eugénie wants to be independent and free, to live an artistic life like her friend Louise d'Armilly.

Maximilien tells Valentine that he'd like to tell his friend Monte Cristo about his love for her. He says he feels, in some vague way, that the count could help them be together. But Valentine expresses strong distrust for the count, partly because of his seeming friendship with her stepmother. Even her father and Edouard admire him. Maximilien praises the count's love of helping those in need. But Valentine replies that he has never shown the slightest interest in her, in spite of her lonely position in a household where she's ignored by her father and hated by her stepmother. Valentine says that the count seems intent only on currying favor with her father and stepmother. Maximilien reluctantly agrees to keep their love a secret.

Chapter 58

While Valentine and Maximilien talk in the garden, Villefort and his wife go to the room of old Noirtier, Villefort's paralyzed father. Noirtier cannot speak, but he can use his eyes to communicate. Valentine, Villefort, and his servant Barrois have worked out a system for understanding what the old man wants to communicate. Villefort tells Noirtier that they plan to have Valentine married in three months' time to Franz d'Epinay. Noirtier and Franz's father had been bitter political enemies, and it was suspected that General d'Epinay's murderers, who were never caught, had been allied with Noirtier. Villefort tells his father that he thought those who know they committed the crime should be happy that the marriage would "extinguish suspicion." This makes the old man furious. The Villeforts leave, telling Noirtier they'll send Valentine to his room. When she sees how upset he is, Valentine tells her grandfather that she's only just learned of the marriage plans. She says she doesn't love d'Epinay and would like nothing better than to stop the marriage. Noirtier indicates that he has a plan that might help. He communicates to Barrois that he wants to see a notary right away.

Chapter 59

Barrois arrives with the notary and, with Villefort and his wife present, Valentine proves to the notary that Noirtier really can communicate his wishes. Valentine asks questions, and Noirtier blinks once to signal "yes" and several times to signal "no." For key words, Valentine goes through the alphabet until Noirtier blinks "yes," and then they spell out the word in the same way. In his will, Noirtier specifies that Valentine will only inherit his fortune if she does not marry Franz d'Epinay. If she does marry him, Noirtier's fortune will be given to the poor. Villefort is furious, but he declares he will still require Valentine to marry Franz d'Epinay.

Analysis

Valentine's observation that the count seems interested only in cultivating the goodwill of her father and her stepmother is very perceptive. For all of the warmth and protective feelings Monte Cristo shows toward Maximilien and the Morrels, when it comes to targets of his vengeance, such as Villefort, the count is ruthless. He has no concern about collateral damage to his enemies' family members. Valentine is someone he simply has no interest in. While she's right to distrust him, if the count knew how much she meant to Maximilien he would do whatever he could to help her. Noirtier's decision to disinherit Valentine if she marries d'Epinay isn't enough to sway Villefort because Valentine will inherit a large fortune from her maternal grandparents.

The will-writing scene in the final chapter in this group reinforces earlier impressions about the Villeforts. Gérard de Villefort, the ambitious prosecutor, tries to block his father's effort to write his will; he does not want any changes to circumstances and hopes to deny his father's ability to dispose of his fortune as he wishes. Noirtier and Valentine—the only members of the household with real feeling for each other—have developed a means of communication so that the old man can express himself. It requires patience on the part of the other person, as words are spelled out one letter at a time, but this patience is easy for someone like Valentine, who loves him.

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