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The Count of Monte Cristo | Study Guide

Alexandre Dumas

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The Count of Monte Cristo | Discussion Questions 41 - 50


In The Count of Monte Cristo, Chapter 53, how does Dumas use situational irony when he describes society's expectations of women when they attend the opera?

Dumas notes that Madame Danglars can't go to the opera with her daughter, Eugénie, because people consider it bad behavior for two women go to the opera alone. Then he points out that no one would object to Madame Danglars going to the opera with her lover. As the narrator of the story, he adds the comment "One must take the world as it is." Dumas uses the narrator's wry comment to highlight the irony in the situation. While it's considered unacceptable for two women—mother and daughter—to go out unaccompanied by a man, it's perfectly acceptable for a woman to go out in public with any man, even an adulterer. The point here doesn't seem to be morality so much as the perceived inferiority of women in the society.

In The Count of Monte Cristo, how is the transformation of the character of young Dantès into the character of the Count of Monte Cristo reflected in his physical appearance?

Young Edmond Dantès exudes intelligence, courage, and honesty. He's happy, hopeful, and somewhat naive. These qualities are reflected in the description of Dantès when he sails into the harbor at the beginning of the story as "a young man of between eighteen and twenty, tall, slim, with fine dark eyes and ebony-black hair." The 14 years Dantès spends in prison and the conscious effort he makes to transform himself into the Count of Monte Cristo are reflected in his appearance. He is no longer happy, hopeful, and naive; instead, his obsessive thoughts of vengeance are reflected in his appearance. When Franz meets the count in Rome, he notes his "furrowed brow that spoke of bitter, inescapable thoughts; ... burning eyes that penetrate to the depths of a soul; ... [and] haughty, contemptuous lips."

In Chapter 90 of The Count of Monte Cristo, what does the count mean when he says it was "senseless, not to have torn out my heart"?

When Monte Cristo says this, Mercédès has just persuaded him to agree not to kill her son, Albert, in a duel. To adhere to this promise but preserve his honor, Monte Cristo decides that he will have to be the one to die in the duel. In the quotation, he's expressing his frustration that he hadn't been able to harden his heart against Mercédès's request, and now he won't complete his vengeance plan because his moves against Fernand Mondego, Danglars, and Villefort are not yet complete. When he left Marseille after rewarding Monsieur Morrel, he had said a farewell to "goodness, humanity, gratitude" to prepare himself for his mission of retribution. He has been so successful at separating himself from emotion that some people feel a chill when meeting him. But Mercédès manages to reach out to his essential goodness and humanity. He can't refuse her plea to save her son and doesn't want to cause Mercédès to suffer even more than she has already.

In The Count of Monte Cristo, why do Albert and Valentine escape being killed as collateral damage in the count's plan, while Edouard loses his life?

The count acts to prevent the deaths of Albert and Valentine because they are important to people he holds dear. Albert's mother, Mercédès, begs him to spare the life of her son by not dueling with him. The count agrees because he cannot bear to cause her further unhappiness. He determines to save Valentine when he learns of Maximilien's love for the girl, whom he had earlier been content to allow to die as collateral damage in his overall plan. In the case of Edouard, it apparently never occurs to the count that the child's mother would be so cruel as to murder him. Because of Edouard's youth and innocence, if he had foreseen it, the count would have taken steps to protect him, as evidenced by the count's effort to revive the dead child. Edouard's death shakes Monte Cristo deeply, showing him the folly of thinking that he can control all events, and causing him to consider whether his planned revenges were misguided.

In Chapter 108 of The Count of Monte Cristo, why does Villefort order his wife to take poison before he returns?

Villefort's wife, hoping to gain an inheritance for her son, has poisoned the parents of her husband's first wife. Then she attempted to poison her father-in-law but poisoned his servant by mistake. Finally, she poisoned Valentine, her step-daughter. Although the doctor suspected poisoning from the beginning, Villefort resisted even investigating the possibility that the murderer might be a family member. With the apparent murder of Valentine, he can no longer ignore the evidence that points to his wife. As Crown Prosecutor, he's ambitious and known for being tough on crime. He doesn't want to have his wife arrested because that would tarnish his reputation and ruin his prospects for advancement. Instead, he orders her to poison herself, hoping that her suicide will absolve him of any blame.

Based on Chapters 17 and 113 of The Count of Monte Cristo, what would Abbé Faría have thought of Monte Cristo's plan of vengeance?

Monte Cristo in Chapter 113 goes to Château d'If filled with doubt about the path he'd chosen. His anger against his betrayers is rekindled when he visits his old cell, and he asks the spirit of Abbé Faría to send him a sign of approval for his actions. Monte Cristo thinks that he finds that sign when he reads the epigraph on the abbé's manuscript: "You will pull the dragon's teeth and trample the lions underfoot, said the Lord." But the count may be deluding himself. The abbé didn't approve of anger, violence, or hate. In Chapter 17, after helping Dantès use deductive reasoning to identify his betrayers, the abbé says that he regrets having helped him because now Dantès's heart is filled with the desire for revenge. Still, the abbé was a generous, kind man; it's possible that he gives the count the message he needs so that he won't have to live with remorse for the rest of his life.

In The Count of Monte Cristo, how does Monte Cristo use Danglars's character flaws against him and tailor his vengeance to fit the man's actions against him?

Danglars's wealth is what matters to him most, so Monte Cristo targets that and causes him to go bankrupt. When Danglars absconds to Italy with a small fortune belonging to his creditors, Monte Cristo arranges for Luigi Vampa to kidnap him. At Monte Cristo's orders, Vampa forces Danglars to choose between starving or paying exorbitant prices for his meals. In doing this, Monte Cristo targets Danglars's greed and also achieves revenge for his father's death by starvation. In addition, being locked in an underground cave for what he fears will be the rest of his life gives Danglars a taste of what he did to Dantès.

In The Count of Monte Cristo, in what ways do Monsieur Morrel and Abbé Faría represent father figures for Dantès?

Even before Dantès loses his own father, Monsieur Morrel serves as a second father to him. Morrel is protective of Dantès, making sure that he has enough money before he goes onshore. He's also proud of the young man's skills and accomplishments and is ready to promote him to captain, helping him along his career path. When Dantès is imprisoned, Morrel goes to great lengths to try to have him freed, and he also assists Dantès's father. In Château d'If, Abbé Faría also serves as a father figure. Dantès has genuine love and respect for Faría. In passing along his vast store of knowledge, Faría is almost literally the creator of the Count of Monte Cristo, except for the desire for vengeance, which belongs to Dantès alone.

What details and events in The Count of Monte Cristo help to explain why Monte Cristo comes to believe that God has empowered him to pursue his vengeance?

Monte Cristo had been renewing his vow of vengeance every day for 14 years while he was in prison. So he takes his near-miraculous escape from Château d'If as a message from God that he is meant to pursue his vengeance. He believes his emergence from the sea after his escape was a kind of rebirth in which he was transfigured into an agent of Providence endowed with special powers. The red elixir from Abbé Faría holds power over life and death, giving the person who administers it godlike qualities. Monte Cristo believes that God guided him to the abbé's treasure in order to help him in his mission of seeking retribution from those who have wronged him. The human justice system may be flawed and corrupt, but Monte Cristo believes himself to be exercising the power of Divine justice.

How do the stories of Albert and Valentine lay the groundwork for the Count of Monte Cristo's reaction to the death of Edouard in The Count of Monte Cristo?

Initially, the Count of Monte Cristo shows a callous attitude toward the death of anyone in the families of his conspirators. Mercédès's pleas on behalf of Albert weaken that coldness. His realization that Maximilien loves Valentine causes him to intervene to save her, moving him further from his single-minded focus on vengeance at all costs. The death of the innocent Edouard is the final straw. Horrified that the boy would be killed by his own mother and wracked with guilt over putting in motion the events that led to that innocent death, Monte Cristo fears that he has gone too far. He rushes from Villefort's house and says "Enough! ... Let that be enough, and we will save the last one," calling a halt to his vengeance and resolving to spare Danglars. He does spare Danglars, after revealing his identity to the man and making certain that Danglars knows he is being spared.

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