The Count of Monte Cristo
How we cite our quotes:
"Oh, father," said Albert, smiling, "you clearly do not know the Count of Monte Cristo. He finds satisfaction elsewhere than in the things of this world and does not aspire to any honours, taking only those that can fit on his passport."
"That is the most accurate description of myself that I have ever heard," the stranger said. (41.34-35)
By neglecting the expected honors, the Count distinguishes himself from the crowd. His lack of ambition – normal ambition, anyway – is worth just as much as a more conventional man's hard work.
"What is truly desirable? A possession that we cannot have. So, my life is devoted to seeing things that I cannot understand and obtaining things that are impossible to have. I succeed by two means: money and will. I am as persevering in the pursuit of my whims as, for example, you are, Monsieur Danglars, in building a railway; or you, Monsieur de Villefort, in condemning a man to death; or you, Monsieur Debray, pacifying a kingdom; you, Monsieur de Château-Renaud, in finding favour with a woman; or you, Monsieur Morrel, in breaking a horse that no one else can ride." (63.7)
By seeking the impossible, the Count provides himself with limitless fodder for his plans. They may be a pretext to cover up his larger goal, but they're still stunning.
"On his departure, M. Andrea had inherited all the papers affirming that he had the honour to be the son of the Marquis Bartolomeo and the Marchioness Leonora Corsinari. He was thus more or less established in Parisian society, which is so open to receiving strangers and treating them, not as what they are, but as what they wish to be." (76.2)
Paris seems to be the perfect place for strivers and social climbers, like a big fancy party that anyone can crash