The Count of Monte Cristo analysis

The Count of Monte-Cristo is the best-known novel of Alexandre Dumas, père, after The Three Musketeers (1844). Improbable as it seems, the novel might be based on a true story that occurred some thirty years before the writing of the book, a story concerning a man named François Picaud who had been betrayed by friends and falsely imprisoned. He had inherited a large fortune from a fellow prisoner and, upon his release, successfully sought revenge against those who had denounced him.

Besides appealing to Dumas’s instincts as a writer, the story also resonates with the author for other reasons: Dumas harbored many grievances against society in general and against individual enemies in particular. His father had been persecuted and he himself had been harassed by creditors and slandered. It is not unreasonable to believe that Dumas captured his own feelings of vengeance in this novel.

The twin themes of justice and revenge at the heart of The Count of Monte-Cristo will always be understandable: Revenge as a driving force has figured prominently throughout literature, from the Bible to the works of such writers as William Shakespeare, Edgar Allan Poe, and Mickey Spillane. Dumas took the idea of revenge even further: The sins of the fathers are visited upon their children, so the downfall of Edmond’s enemies is emphatic. Likewise, the idea of obtaining a vast fortune that makes anything possible is the stuff daydreams are made of. The resourcefulness and implacability of an Edmond Dantès, shaped by circumstances beyond his control into someone simultaneously capable of great charm and terrible cruelty, makes him a worthy protagonist; it is likely such scenes as that in which Edmond escapes from the forbidding Chateau d’If by sewing himself into a burial sack to be cast into the sea will long linger in the memory.

However, despite such inherent strengths, The Count of Monte-Cristo demands much from modern readers. Like most of Dumas’s major novels—and like the works of other popular nineteenth century writers, such as Charles Dickens—the part-adventure, part-melodrama novel was first serialized in a daily newspaper. The author kept his public in a constant state of suspense by detailing romantic love affairs, intrigues involving impersonation, dastardly murders and betrayals, suggestion of perversions, and multiple other complications and subplots that increased tension and delayed denouement as long as possible. This methodology served two purposes. First, it kept the income flowing for the writer, who shamelessly padded his prose with asides and other details to flesh out the story installments (117 in all) to necessary length; second, it provided inexpensive and regular entertainment for a relatively captive readership.

Contemporary readers, more familiar with the blunter, faster-paced literary efforts of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, may find The Count of Monte-Cristo slow reading. Because of nineteenth century conventions of writing, the prose of the novel is formal and convoluted, full of allusions, dense with layered meanings, and peppered with expressions and words now obsolete or obscure. Speeches in the mouths of characters will sound stilted to the ears of those attuned to modern colloquialisms, who live in a world where such strong concepts as justice and honor have been diluted since the time The Count of Monte-Cristo was written.

Another barrier to full enjoyment of the novel is the milieu in which the story is set. Students of history, aware of the conflicts between French royalty and Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte (often referred to in the book as “the usurper”) that provide both backdrop and impetus to the story, will have greater appreciation of events as they unfold. Similarly, in the present world climate—more egalitarian in theory if not in fact—understanding the relationships and hierarchy and class distinctions of Parisian upper-class society (crowded with counts and barons and marquises both of the old aristocracy and newly created nobility) may cause readers some difficulties.

Though Edmond is a fully rounded, complex, and memorable character, most of the others who appear in The Count of Monte-Cristo are one-dimensional and more stereotypes than portraits of actual individuals; women uniformly swoon and weep, while men perspire freely and flush or blanch, unable to hide their emotions. Dumas, of impoverished aristocratic heritage though capable of describing the luxurious appointments and clothing of the wealthy, had a greater facility and more sympathy in depicting members of the lower classes.

The primary antagonists, against whom Edmond seeks revenge, represent facets of humanity’s baser instincts. Fernand, who through subterfuge gains Edmond’s intended love, symbolizes lust—for flesh, for power, for wealth—and suffers death, the ultimate price, as a result of his fatal flaw. Danglars, the eventual banker, stands for jealousy and avarice and is accordingly ruined financially, an outcome that will hurt him most. Villefort, the rational prosecutor who has subverted the law for his own ends, is a metaphor for blind ambition; in condemning his own murderous wife to death (she poisons herself and her young son), he condemns himself to madness, the loss of his rationality, as the result of a series of increasingly profound misfortunes that befalls him. Even Mercédès, whom Edmond once loved, as the faithless woman (by the hero’s estimation), must be brought down. Though Edmond still has feelings for his former betrothed, and twice spares her son, she is made to give up everything she had gained by her desertion of Edmond and is returned to her common existence in the place where the story began, Marseilles.

While not as relevant now as when it was written, The Count of Monte-Cristo still has the capacity to thrill not only as a colorful, dramatic adventure story and a historical period piece, but also as a parable of the devastating effects of revenge, both on the victim and the perpetrator. The consequences of Edmond’s careful, subtle plans, enacted over a decade, are more far-reaching than even he can imagine, and in destroying his tormentors there is considerable collateral damage: Innocents and guilty alike must perish when ends justify the means. Edmond himself is greatly changed in the process of wreaking his vengeance. The unsophisticated young man he was at the beginning of the story has by the end been forever transformed by suffering into a learned, well-traveled cosmopolite, capable of convincingly playing any role to carry out his main task as an exterminating angel so consumed with his diabolical goals that he cannot relax and enjoy the fortune that has fallen into his lap. Though by the conclusion of the story Edmond is an empty shell distrustful of his own emotions, the reader is left with a ray of hope that Haidée’s love can change him into the kinder, gentler person he once was.

These qualities—an exciting adventure, supported by a strong sense of morality and bolstered by the “what-if” possibilities of unlimited wealth; and a story set in a visually historical period and place and told from the perspective of a sympathetic hero fighting truly despicable villains—have kept The Count of Monte-Cristo (a work long in the public domain) a filmmaker’s favorite. The best-known film version was released in 1934.
 Explain the role of Mercedes in “The Count of Monte Cristo.” What is her purpose in the story?

The story of “The Count of Monte Cristo” has often been interpreted as one that holds subtle parallels to the Biblical narrative. Underlying the story is a prevalent theme of redemption, sacrifice and relentless love. The purpose of Mercedes, the female protagonist, is to bring out this theme and elicit comparisons between the story of “The Count of Monte Cristo” and the Biblical narrative through her suffering, her persevering love for Edmond, and her liberation of Edmond from the emotional constraints of revenge.

Though Edmond is often the character that comes to mind when suffering in “The Count of Monte Cristo” is mentioned, closer analysis of the storyline shows that Mercedes also has her fair share of pain, and this suffering is in part analogous to that of Jesus Christ on the cross. Mercedes is a good and kind woman at heart, but an unexpected pregnancy and her meek, docile character leads her to marry a man she doesn’t love upon the supposed death of her fiancé, Edmond. Snippets of scenes showing interaction between Mercedes and Fernand, the man she marries, reveal that Fernand does not even love her as she deserves to be loved—he refuses to give a speech during his son’s birthday dinner even though Mercedes implores him to, and is often nonchalant about their relationship, caring more about riches and power than about her. Near the end of the movie, when Mercedes reveals that she does not intend to flee with him from his debt-ridden past, Fernand even breaks a mirror in anger and makes scathing remarks about how her son has always been a disappointment, and how he does not care if she chooses not to come with him. Mercedes’ suffering is also seen through how, for over thirteen years of her life, she is made to believe that the man she truly loves is dead, long executed for treason. Furthermore, when she finally meets Edmond as the Count of Monte Cristo and recognizes him for who he really is, the only man she loves, he feels hurt, betrayed and angry that she married Fernand and initially wants nothing to do with her, not grasping the full picture and reason why she had to marry. In the story, Mercedes’ suffering is actually painfully evident, and this suffering draws a Biblical allusion to the suffering that characterizes Jesus Christ in the Biblical story. The level of emotional pain that Mercedes endures also shows that she is willing to pay the price of love even though it is agonizingly high. Once again, this is similar to the suffering of Jesus Christ, who was willing to die on the cross because of his love for and wish to save the sinners of the world.

Though portrayed as shy and quiet, Mercedes does display impressive courage and love as she insists on making the Count of Monte Cristo reveal himself as Edmond Dantes, and this perseverance is similar to God’s everlasting and unrelenting love for his people. When she finally meets Edmond as the Count of Monte Cristo after countless years of believing him to be dead, Mercedes recognizes him instantly although he has gone through a remarkable physical transformation since seeing her for the last time. When Edmond initially refuses to admit his true character, Mercedes is unfazed, and she convinces Edmond’s butler, Jagapo, to let her wait for him in his carriage so that she may speak to Edmond in private once again in the hopes of finding out the truth. Although a furious Edmond sends her out of the carriage immediately, she still does not give up, and near the end of the story, she shows Edmond the string around her finger—the string that symbolizes the love she and Edmond shares, as he tied it around her finger for an engagement ring before he got captured and sent to the Chateau D’if. In the many years that followed, Mercedes never took this string off even though, as a Countess, she had countless beautiful, pricy and exquisite rings to choose from. This string is representative of her undying love for Edmond, which triumphed even over death, as it had stayed strong and passionate even when she believed Edmond to be dead. This is, of course, similar to God’s love, as God’s love for his people is also everlasting, persevering and victorious over death. In Chateau D’if, Edmond angrily states that he doesn’t believe in God. The Priest that he is imprisoned with patiently replies that it’s alright, because God still believes in him. Similarity can be drawn between the Priest’s statement and Mercedes’ belief in Edmond. When Edmond arrives in Paris as the Count of Monte Cristo, nobody recognizes him because they were all either fed by lies of his execution or by the belief that he had long since perished in the Chateau D’if. Even though Mercedes was told that Edmond was executed for treason, she was the sole person who recognized him for who he truly was, and in this way, she continued to believe in Edmond even when logical sense told her that this was impossible and that he was dead.

Another important role that Mercedes plays in the story is the source of redemption, truth and ultimate liberation from the bonds of wrongful desires, and this, of course, relates to God and his identity as the Way, the Truth and the Light. When Edmond angrily confronts her and informs her that Fernand had betrayed him and sent him into thirteen excruciating years of torture in the Chateau D’if, Mercedes, seeing Edmond’s almost palpable anger, hurt and vengeance, beseeches him to “let it go,” telling him that he must learn to forgive. After she gives this little speech of truth, Edmond realizes that she is right and, in the morning that follows, invites her and her son to join him as he leaves the country and his want for revenge behind. In this way, Mercedes transforms Edmond from a man bent on revenge to a man who sees the virtue of forgiveness. At the close of the movie, Edmond returns to Chateau D’if no longer as a prisoner but as a free man, not only from physical jail but also from the bars of emotional suffering that he has previously been shut behind. He finally realizes that all he does should not be for revenge but for altruistic good, and he also mentions that all the material wealth he has acquired is unnecessary, and that all he needs is his son and Mercedes. The Biblical messages that can be drawn here are that God is capable of redemption, God is the source of truth, and God fulfills all necessary wants. The placement of Mercedes in this story portrays this message, and when Edmond is transformed back into a man of righteous intentions, the full importance of Mercedes’ character is finally recognized.

In conclusion, Mercedes contribution to Edmond’s transformation is integral to the plot as it brings out Biblical themes of suffering, love and redemption. It is most probable that this was intentional on the writer’s part, who incorporated Mercedes into the story in order to significantly appeal to both believers and nonbelievers alike in the hope that they would be able to identify God’s greatness, sacrificial love and righteousness through her 

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