The Count of Monte Cristo | Study Guide

Alexandre Dumas

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The Count of Monte Cristo | Chapters 8–9 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 8

Dantès is taken to a prison cell at four o'clock in the afternoon. He isn't too worried because Villefort told him he'd be released soon. At around 10 o'clock, four gendarmes (armed police) take him to a carriage with barred windows, and then he is put into a boat and rowed across the harbor toward Château d'If, the fearsome fortress prison in Marseille's harbor. Astounded that he will not at least have a trial, Dantès tries to leap overboard but is restrained. Inside the prison, Dantès is taken to a cell and given bread and water. He is completely alone—neither his father nor Mercédès knows where he is. He tries, without success, to bribe his jailer to at least take a letter from him to Mercédès. After a few days of despair and fury, Dantès threatens his jailer, is declared mad, and is moved to the dungeons, where the only other prisoner is an abbé (abbot or cleric) who has been declared mad.

Chapter 9

Villefort returns to his engagement party and tells his future father-in-law, the marquis, that he must leave for Paris. He asks the marquis to give him a letter that will allow him to speak to the king. He believes that warning the king about the Bonapartists' plans he'd read in the letter from Elba can assure his future advancement. Mercédès approaches him outside his house and asks about Dantès. Villefort tells her that Dantès is "a major criminal." Pushing Mercédès aside, he claims he doesn't know where Dantès is being held. Once he's alone, he's filled with remorse and a feeling of dread; he has sacrificed Dantès, an innocent man, to further his own ambition. He's so shaken by what he's done, the slightest encouragement could induce him to set Dantès free. But he shakes off his pangs of conscience and sets off for Paris. Meanwhile, Mercédès, numb with grief, has returned home, where she barely notices Fernand's attempts to console her. Morrel unsuccessfully tries to find help for Dantès. Caderousse feels troubled and takes refuge in drink, while Danglars is happy about the turn of events. Old Dantès is filled with grief and worry.

Analysis

Dumas uses the third-person omniscient narrator, which gives the reader a window in the thoughts and feelings of different characters. The narrator sometimes addresses the reader directly, as in the last line of Chapter 9: "As for Edmond, we know what had become of him." Throughout the story, the narrator uses phrases such as as we said, as you recall, or as we have seen. These phrases can have various purposes. They serve as transitions, they emphasize important details, and they form connections to readers.

Dantès has now been betrayed by Villefort, as well as by the three conspirators who are still unknown to him. He's in a state of shock over the sudden change that has disrupted his life. By lashing out at the jailer, in his grief and anger he seems to have made his situation even worse. Now he'll be even more isolated in the dungeons.

Villefort, unlike Danglars, struggles with his conscience over his treachery against Dantès. His feeling of dread may be the fear that he will eventually pay for his evil deed. His plan to benefit by warning the king about the Bonapartist plot only compounds his offense against Dantès. Caderousse also has some pangs of guilt; Fernand is untroubled, like Danglars.

The efforts of Mercédès to help Dantès reinforce her placement firmly in the camp of good as opposed to evil characters. The contrast in her approach to that of Morrel in Chapter 7 highlights gender differences in early 19th-century French society. Morrel calls on Villefort and tries to vouch for Dantès's good character; he meets Villefort on relatively equal grounds and appeals to reason. Mercédès must see Villefort on the street, as he is unlikely to accept her visit if she calls on him and begs for mercy. As a woman she is portrayed as more emotional and having fewer resources.

Dumas is less than a tenth of the way into his novel, and he already has Dantès thrown into prison. He has wasted little time in initiating conflict. The Count of Monte Cristo, for all its length, is a fast-paced story.

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