The Count of Monte Cristo | Study Guide

Alexandre Dumas

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The Count of Monte Cristo | Chapters 86–92 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 86

In Paris the next morning, Beauchamp tells Albert that a rival newspaper had received documents from Janina incriminating the Comte de Morcerf. If they didn't publish the information, it would be given to another newspaper. After the article is published, the Upper House opens an inquiry because the Comte de Morcerf is a member of that body. Morcerf asserts that Janina fell in spite of his efforts to defend it. He says that Ali Pasha, before he died, had entrusted his wife and daughter to him but that he was unable to save them. Morcerf's explanation seems credible until Haydée comes forward as a witness. She presents documents that prove her identity and prove that Morcerf sold her and her mother to a slave trader. Referring to a scar on Morcerf's hand as proof, she identifies Morcerf as the man who killed her father and sold her into slavery. Morcerf, unable to refute these charges, flees the House chamber "like a disconsolate madman." The members of the inquiry commission unanimously convict Morcerf of felony, treason, and conduct unworthy of a member of the Upper House.

Chapter 87

Albert tells Beauchamp that he intends to find and kill the enemy who brought this suffering and shame on him and his family. Beauchamp agrees to help and mentions that when he went to Janina to make inquiries, he learned that Danglars had already made the same inquiries. The two friends go to Danglars, and Albert accuses him of plotting against his father. Danglars admits to requesting information from Janina, but he says his inquiry was related to the match between Eugénie and Albert. He had mentioned to Monte Cristo that it was unclear how Morcerf had acquired his wealth in Greece, and the count suggested that he write to Janina. Then Albert recalls how the count had introduced him to Haydée and allowed her to tell her story. He realizes that the count must have told her, in Romaic, not to mention his father's name. He also remembers that the count asked Albert not to mention that his father had worked for Ali Pasha. In addition, the count had taken Albert away from Paris when he knew the story was about to come out. Albert tells Beauchamp he suspects that Monte Cristo is working with his father's enemies, and they decide to confront the count.

Chapter 88

Monte Cristo's servant tells Albert and Beauchamp that he isn't available to receive visitors, but he will be at the opera that evening. They decide to confront him there, and Albert goes to see his mother, who is distraught. He reminds her that the count is "almost a man of the East and an Oriental; in order not to interfere with his freedom to take revenge, he never eats or drinks in his enemy's house." Mercédès refuses to believe that the count is an enemy, and urges Albert to remain friends with him. Albert can't understand why she wants them to be friends.

That evening, during an intermission at the opera, Albert, accompanied by Beauchamp and Château-Renaud, challenges Monte Cristo to a duel the following morning. Monte Cristo asks Maximilien Morrel, who has accompanied him to the opera, to serve as his second at the duel. Maximilien asks about the reason for the duel, but the count replies that it is known only to him, but he assures Maximilien that God is on their side. He asks Maximilien if his brother-in-law Emmanuel might also serve as a second and Maximilien assures him that Emmanuel will do so.

Chapter 89

Monte Cristo returns home from the opera and is checking his dueling pistols when Mercédès, disguised under a veil, is shown into the room. Addressing the count as Edmond, she begs him not to kill her son. She tells him she recognized him from the first and knew that it was he who struck down Fernand. Monte Cristo replies that Providence, not he, is punishing her husband. Then he tells her about Fernand's role in his arrest and imprisonment. As proof, he shows her the letter that he had pocketed in Boville's office—the letter in which Fernand had accused him of being a conspirator. The letter shocks Mercédès. She says that she'd thought he was dead, while still always hoping he'd return. She tells him how much she, too, suffered, and that happiness had always eluded her. He's moved when, after acknowledging how much he has suffered, she says, "But I have seen the man I loved preparing to become the murderer of my son." Monte Cristo tells her that he will spare Albert's life—instead, he will be the one to die. Mercédès protests the need to have a duel at all, but he won't be moved. Mercédès leaves him pondering his "lost vengeance."

Chapter 90

After Mercédès leaves, Monte Cristo reflects that "the structure that was so long in building, which demanded so much anxious toil, has been demolished at a single blow, a single word, a breath of air." More than his own death, he regrets the ruin of his plan of vengeance. He wonders if perhaps God, after all, didn't want him to complete his plans. He regrets that Danglars and Villefort have escaped "the punishment that awaited them in this world," but he accepts that they'll be punished in the next world.

He writes a letter to let the world know that he is consciously making the decision to die in the duel with Albert. Then he makes some changes to his will, adding an inheritance for Maximilien. Haydée will inherit the bulk of his fortune, including property and houses. Haydée sees the will and pleads with him not to leave her. He realizes that if he were to live, he and Haydée might have a chance at happiness together.

Monte Cristo and his seconds, Maximilien and Emmanuel, arrive at the site arranged for the duel. Alberto's seconds, Beauchamp and Château-Renaud, are there, along with Franz and Debray. Albert arrives late, and instead of beginning the duel he apologizes to Monte Cristo. Last night, he explains, he learned that the count had strong reasons to take revenge on his father, and he respects those reasons. Monte Cristo realizes that Mercédès has spoken to Albert. The two men are reconciled, and the duel is canceled.

Chapter 91

After the count and his seconds depart, Beauchamp congratulates Albert on taking such a generous and chivalrous decision. Château-Renaud is less approving of the departure from convention and expectations. Albert returns home and puts his belongings in order, preparing to move out of the house. His mother is preparing to leave as well. They decide to leave together immediately, before Morcerf returns home. Albert intends to take his mother's name and make a new start. As they leave the house to take a cab to a boarding house, Bertuccio approaches and gives Albert a letter from Monte Cristo. In the letter, the count says that as a young seaman, in anticipation of his intended marriage to Mercédès, he had buried his savings in the yard of the house where his father was living in Marseille. He knows that it is still there, and advises Albert to retrieve it to help them in their new situation. The count writes that the money rightfully belongs to Mercédès because it was originally intended for her. She accepts, saying that she will use it to pay her dowry into a convent.

Chapter 92

Monte Cristo returns home from the duel and is greeted joyfully by Haydée. He realizes Haydée means as much to him now as Mercédès did long ago. The Comte de Morcerf arrives, intent on upholding his honor after learning that the duel didn't take place. The count tells Morcerf that Albert is not a coward: he probably didn't fight because he decided that his father was more guilty than Monte Cristo. Morcerf insists he will fight Monte Cristo to the death, even though he doesn't know why Monte Cristo is his enemy. At that, Monte Cristo rushes out of the room and returns wearing a sailor's jacket and hat. Stunned, Morcerf cries out, "Edmond Dantès!" He flees the house, climbs into his carriage, and directs his driver to take him home. The carriage arrives at the mansion just as his wife and son are leaving the house. He hides from them and watches their cab drive away. Then he goes to his room and shoots himself.

Analysis

Chapter 86 completes the humiliation and destruction of Fernand. In Chapter 87, Albert believes that it is Monte Cristo who is the enemy he needs to confront. Mercédès's plea that he remain friends with the count in Chapter 88 may be as puzzling to readers as it is to Albert. Is her essential goodness blinding her to the dark impulses in the man she knew as Edmond Dantès? Or does her faith and intuition tell her that, as much as suffering has changed him, he is still essentially decent and honest?

The Count of Monte Cristo, contrary to expectations, doesn't have one huge dramatic climax, as might be expected. The story was first published in serial installments in the newspaper, so the suspense and the plot twists had to keep going over a long period of time. But the encounter between Mercédès and Monte Cristo in Chapter 89 might be considered a major turning point of the story. Mercédès succeeds in getting Monte Cristo to stop and question the path of vengeance that he has so carefully plotted out and has been following so single-mindedly.

Monte Cristo's reflections in Chapter 90 confirm that he has given up his plans to punish Danglars and Villefort. He's determined to die in the duel with Albert, but losing a duel will tarnish the heroic, almost superhuman image he's created for himself. He can't have people thinking that the Count of Monte Cristo failed in a duel, so he writes a letter explaining his decision.

Dumas wrote many popular plays before turning to novels, and his dramatic flair is evident in the scene in Chapter 92 in which the count appears before Morcerf in sailor's clothing. The passage has a strong visual appeal because it reads like a scene in a somewhat melodramatic play, complete with stage directions. The impact of that scene is then eclipsed by an even more memorable one in which the carriage carrying Mercédès and Albert pulls away from the Morcerf mansion, followed immediately by the gunshot with which Morcerf ends his life.

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