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The Count of Monte Cristo | Study Guide

Alexandre Dumas

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The Count of Monte Cristo | Discussion Questions 31 - 40


In The Count of Monte Cristo, for what purposes does the count disguise himself as Lord Wilmore, and how does he tailor Wilmore's backstory to protect his real identity?

The count disguises himself as Lord Wilmore, a wealthy, eccentric Englishman, when he needs to arrange anonymous financial transactions, usually in connection with his vengeance plans. Monte Cristo creates the backstory that Wilmore is a world traveler who hates Monte Cristo. He almost never stays in his rented apartment, and gives generously to charity. Disguised as Lord Wilmore in Chapter 25, the count purchases the apartment house in Marseille where his father had lived. In Chapter 56 as Lord Wilmore, he arranges for Benedetto to impersonate Andrea Cavalcanti. In Chapter 69, posing as Lord Wilmore, the count feeds misinformation about the count to Villefort. The elaborate details of the backstory show just how cunning the count is. Creating the story that Lord Wilmore hates Monte Cristo is a clever way to give Wilmore more credibility when Villefort asks him for information about the count. Making it known that Wilmore is a world traveler who rarely stays in his apartment gives Monte Cristo time to assume the disguise when someone wants to see him.

In The Count of Monte Cristo, what does the red silk purse that the Morrels keep under glass in Chapter 50 symbolize to the count and to the Morrels?

When Old Dantès was sick, Monsieur Morrel left money for him on the mantelpiece in a red silk purse. The old man refused to use the money, but after he died it was used to pay his debts and his funeral expenses. To Monte Cristo, the red purse symbolizes the kindness and friendship he associates with Monsieur Morrel. The count obtains the purse from Caderousse and returns it to the Morrel family when, acting as an unknown benefactor, he saves Monsieur Morrel's firm from bankruptcy. The younger Morrels regard their mysterious benefactor as their guardian angel, and treat the red purse as a religious relic. For the Morrels, the red purse symbolizes salvation from ruin by what they think of as a miraculous event. When they later discover that Monte Cristo is their unknown benefactor, the red purse comes to symbolize their friendship with him.

In The Count of Monte Cristo, why does Edmond Dantès often go by the name Sinbad the Sailor, and what makes it an appropriate nickname?

Edmond Dantès, disguised as an Englishman, first uses the pseudonym Sinbad the Sailor in Chapter 31 when he tells Julie Morrel she'll one day receive a letter with important instructions. He has recently escaped from prison and hasn't yet transformed himself into the Count of Monte Cristo, so Dantès tells Julie that the letter "will be signed by ... Sinbad the Sailor." He hesitates before he gives her that name, which suggests that he comes up with it on the spur of the moment. It's an apt pseudonym for him because Sinbad the Sailor is a hero of adventure tales in The Thousand and One Nights who loses everything when he is shipwrecked and marooned, but manages to return home with a fortune.

In The Count of Monte Cristo, if Mercédès had been waiting for Dantès when he returned to Marseille after his escape, how might things have turned out differently?

The loss of Mercédès was one of the main reasons Dantès was so angry. If she had been waiting for him when he came back to Marseille after escaping prison and finding the treasure, it's likely he would still have been angry about the way his father died—grief-stricken and alone—as well as for all the years he had suffered in prison. For that reason, he might have decided to go ahead with his plan of vengeance. In that case, he would probably have lost Mercédès anyway because she wouldn't have approved, and it would have been difficult to love the cold, calculating "angel of vengeance." On the other hand, Mercédès might have been able to persuade Dantès to forgive his enemies so they could move on with their lives.

In Chapters 91 and 92 of The Count of Monte Cristo, why do Albert's friends react as they do to his calling off the duel and apologizing to Monte Cristo?

Albert's friends don't know about his father's betrayal of Edmond Dantès many years before, so they don't understand his actions. To them, not following through on a duel is considered a sign of cowardice. They base their judgment of Albert on appearances versus the reality of the situation, and it appears that Albert is a coward. Knowing that others will also consider him a coward and will tend to challenge him because of that, Albert's friend Beauchamp advises him to travel far from Paris and "get in plenty of target practice." Château-Renaud agrees, telling Albert, "Nothing attracts a serious duel like an inconclusive one." When Maximilien in Chapter 92 comments that it's a good thing Albert is not a soldier, Monte Cristo admonishes him not to "give way to these prejudices of ordinary people." He asserts that Albert is brave and must have had a good reason for his behavior, which actually makes him heroic.

How and why does the Count of Monte Cristo use his wealth to transform the lives of people in a positive way in The Count of Monte Cristo?

Monte Cristo uses his wealth to help several people whom he judges to be virtuous or who had faith in Edmond Dantès or tried to help him. The most obvious example is Julie Morrel and her husband, Emmanuel Herbault. The count saved the firm of Morrel and Son from bankruptcy, which allowed the firm to once again become successful. Julie and Emmanuel were then able to retire early and buy a modest but comfortable home in Paris. Monte Cristo saves Haydée from a life of slavery and takes her in as his ward. He provides her with her own apartment in his home, and she's free to live as she chooses. The count gives Valentine and Maximilien the grotto on the island of Monte Cristo, his house in Paris, and his house at the seaside. The count tells Mercédès and Albert where they can find the small sum of savings that he had hidden away as the young Edmond Dantès, which gives them enough to live on.

In Chapter 35 of The Count of Monte Cristo, who is more prophetic—Franz, who says that "a cup of vengeance is ... bitter," or the count, who disagrees?

Monte Cristo responds to Franz's comment by saying, "Yes, if he is poor and clumsy; no, if he is a millionaire and adroit." He's thinking of his vengeance plan and feels confident that, with the wealth he has at his disposal, he can carefully manage his vengeance to achieve just the right amount of reparation. He can't imagine that he'll regret the course of action that he's following. In the end, though, Franz's statement turns out to be correct, because the death of Edouard is an unforeseen event that certainly is a "bitter draught" for Monte Cristo. He acknowledges this in Chapter 102 when he says he is leaving Paris "not without regret."

In The Count of Monte Cristo, in what way might Bertuccio's attempted murder of Villefort at Auteuil be considered the keystone of Monte Cristo's vengeance plan against Danglars and Villefort?

Bertuccio's attempted murder of Villefort is the key element of Monte Cristo's plans for vengeance against both Danglars and Villefort. Before Bertuccio told his story, Monte Cristo already knew that something shady involving Villefort had happened at the Auteuil house, but Bertuccio was the only person who witnessed Villefort burying the baby in the garden. By telling Monte Cristo how he saved the life of that baby, named him Benedetto, and took him in, Bertuccio led Monte Cristo to Benedetto, the grown-up criminal unknown son of Villefort. Monte Cristo paid Benedetto to pose as a wealthy Italian nobleman, Andrea Cavalcanti. Monte Cristo introduced Cavalcanti to Danglars and Villefort at his dinner party at Auteuil. Using details Bertuccio provided, Monte Cristo planned the after-dinner visit to the burial plot in the garden that so unnerved Villefort and Madame Danglars.

In The Count of Monte Cristo, why does Haydée seem to live an isolated life within the count's household?

Rescued by the count from a slave market as a teenager, Haydée is now about 20 years old. She lives a somewhat isolated life by her own choice. Monte Cristo has urged her to go out and enjoy Paris, but she prefers staying in her rooms, playing music, and going to the theater with the count. He comes to visit her regularly, and she sees in him someone more than a father figure. She seems to hope their relationship will evolve into more of a romantic connection and may prefer to stay at home so that she won't miss seeing the count if he should decide to visit. In addition, because of the restricted role of women in 19th-century French society, in many ways Haydée's isolated life in her rooms gives her more freedom than she would have out in society.

In Chapter 85 of The Count of Monte Cristo, what is the real reason the count decides so suddenly to go to his house in Normandy near the sea?

Monte Cristo says he wants to go to the sea because he's a sailor: "I love the sea as one may love a mistress, and when I have not seen her for a long time I pine for her." While it's true that Monte Cristo loves the sea, he makes his decision rather quickly, inviting Albert to go with him and telling Bertuccio that they'll leave sooner than planned. His real purpose is to get Albert away from Paris. As Albert later figures out, Monte Cristo is behind the newspaper articles about treachery at Janina; and an article naming Albert's father is about to be published. The count takes Albert to Normandy to prevent him from being immediately hurt by the revelation. With Albert away, Fernand will be the one to deal with his own dishonor.

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