1. In what sense is Abbé Faria Dantès’s second father? Do you think that by calling him a “second father” Dumas is referring to the poisonous knowledge that Faria gives Dantès in deducing the events behind his imprisonment?
2. How do Julie Morrel and Emmanuel Herbaut redeem humanity in Monte Cristo’s eyes?
3. Compare Valentine de Villefort and Eugénie Danglars. In what ways do these characters act as foils for one another?
4. Edmond Dantès assumes a number of aliases during the course of the novel, and many other characters have a variety of different names as well. What do you consider to be the significance of names in The Count of Monte Cristo? What do you think is the significance of each of Edmond Dantès’s assumed names?
5. Compare Madame Danglars and Mercédès. In what ways do these characters act as foils for each other?
6. What is the effect of Haydée’s love for Monte Cristo?
Why Is The Count of Monte Cristo So Compelling?
The Count of Monte Cristo is the story of vengeance that arguably started and defined the synonymous subgenre. After the novel had been released, it wasn’t too long before its narrative started to get imitated to varying degrees of similarity and the ensuing success, one example being Ben-Hur (Wallace, 1906). Consider how the horror genre only really started rolling after the arrival of Bram Stoker’s Dracula and you will notice the similarity.
Alexandre Dumas has created a timeless classic due to the nature of the story; it manages to stay actual even today. According to the author himself, the whole revenge plot sprung from a real-life story circa 1807. This is not surprising since just about anyone found himself wanting for revenge, and such a story deals with our basic instincts and the human nature as a whole. Not only does such plot transcend time, it also has something to offer to anyone.
The author cleverly centers our attention on the protagonist of exaggerated qualities that is performing feats that the reader is subconsciously projecting onto the ideal self of his own. The Count excels in everything, be it love, vengeance, tenacity, intelligence, wealth, and is armed with the power of anonymity – not unlike the modern superheroes (Modrzejewska, 2005). But he is facing a dilemma on its own: the vengeance that comes in aspects both positive and negative. As fulfilling it may be, at the same time it can leave one empty and desolated. The pendulum of his mind swings from the idea of himself being the “tool of God” to seeing revenge as an obsession that forces him to waste his time on bringing misfortune to the world. It would take certain willpower to stop at the right time and return to the normal life.
This novel first came out as regularly published series, and only once it was finished, as a full-fledged book. A smart move for its time, this contributed to the novel’s popularity. Essentially, an effect comparable to the modern TV series was generated, giving the readers the breathing room for discussing and speculating about the events to come while waiting for the future installments.
Wallace, L. (1906). Lew Wallace; an Autobiography, p. 936. Charleston, South Carolina: Nabu Press
Modrzejewska, K. (2005). La condition masculine dans la littérature française, p. 23-25. Opole, Poland: Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Opolskiego
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In 1844, Alexandre Dumas pere created a masterpiece of the world literature – The Count of Monte Cristo. Although the novel is considered to be an adventure one, the author managed to develop a decent psychological portrait of the main character with an increased focus on the theme of transformation. The novel remains topical even now because it’s always exciting to observe the evolution process of an individual. That essay deals with the analysis of Edmond Dantes’ transformation from a naive man to an aristocratic count which is aimed to trace all his changes figuring out possible causes and results.
To begin with, it would be appropriate to give the definition of transformation as it shows the relevance of the concept to the process under consideration. According to the Oxford English Dictionary (2010:1645) “transformation” makes reference to “the action of changing in form, shape, or appearance; metamorphosis.” In that essay, we define as transformation the development of the character.
At the beginning of the novel, Dantes appears as a young, naive and ingenuous man, head over heels in love, with rosy dreams and expectations. Actually, it is his artless mind that can be blamed for all his trials and tribulations. He can even be considered as a weak person because being in incarceration he loses hope and decides to commit suicide. But, by a fortunate accident, he meets another prisoner Abbé Faria and that is where Edmond’s way to Count of Monte Cristo begins. We define it as the first stage of transformation, where the truth is the trigger. As Faria helps Dantes to understand the reason behind his imprisonment, the realization of being betrayed by his friends and being a victim of fraudulence wakes his up to reality. It is obvious that under such circumstances changes are inevitable because we always learn a lesson from tough times of our lives. At that moment the soul of the character hardens – he decides to take vengeance. His hatred becomes an engine for the desire to live. Although being a destructive emotion it is good and helpful to survive in prison. Faria passes all the knowledge he possesses to Dantes. Communication with the old man affects not only his mind but also his character. Now a young boy becomes smarter, more flexible and develops attention to details.
After the Faria’s death, Edmond escapes the prison in the body-bag. That action may be considered as the allusion to Virgilian journey to another world. “At this moment, Dantès felt himself being thrown into a huge void, flying through the air like a wounded bird, then falling, falling, in a terrifying descent that froze his heart … it seemed to him that the fall lasted a century” (Dumas, 186). That citation is the evidence of his symbolic death. From that moment Edmond Dantes no longer exists. He becomes free and acquires the opportunity to be whoever he wants, there are no more walls around him, no restrictions, no boundaries. And he indulges in trying on different masks, which represent different features of his personality.
Naming himself Sinbad the Sailor, he reveals his courage, leadership skills and desire for adventures. He develops that image after the discovery of Monte Cristo treasures, so we can state that on this stage his transformations were influenced by money. As it provides a man with confidence and power, he feels more influential and manages to unite smugglers and gain the authority among Italian gangsters. Living in such conditions makes Dantes inventive and cunning as those traits are crucial while dealing with untrustworthy people. Also, traveling to different countries and dealing with a lot of new people broadens horizons, enhances communication skills and develops the ability to see things in people.
All these skills he successfully uses disguising as a priest and a bank agent to fulfill the plan for revenge. And all his masks, in the end, merges into one well-developed personality that hardly resembles a young and naive boy he used to be before all misfortunes he faced. Driven by the slakeless vengeance he follows the plan he elaborated paying no attention how high the price may be. The Count of Monte Cristo appears to be an unmerciful, provident man who would never discard his aims or alter his mind. Bringing his plan into action, he transforms not only himself but also the environment.
The count converts everything around him into a theatre: all his enemies are now only puppets in his hands and he is in control of all their actions, their lives belong to the master. Monte Cristo finds pleasure in playing with his offenders’ lives. Changing masks, playing different roles, setting up various situations he fulfills the role of trickster. Also, playing the master, he sees himself as the Divine Hand, the one whose mission is to bring justice to the world. And now we approach the last stage of Dantes transformation. The commitment of revenge, eventually, opens his eyes on a number of lives taken absolutely unnecessarily, and he understands the devastating and blinding power of hatred. The man that we see at the end is not the count of Monte Cristo, it is definitely someone else. That person realizes that he is standing at the beginning of his way to become the man of wisdom. He leaves all the past behind and embarks on the new journey to himself.
Drawing up the conclusion, we can state that the transformation of Edmond Dantes is the symbol of the evolution of every person as it shows all changes that happen throughout life. Taking look at this character, we see that the process of transformation has no end, because the more we live, the more we learn and evolve.
Dumas, Alexandre. Count Of Monte Cristo, The Gutenberg (E-Books), 2002.
“Home : Oxford English Dictionary.” Oed.com, 2017, http://www.oed.com/.