The Count of Monte Cristo
"You fear nothing but death, I think you said?"
"I did not say that I feared it. I said that it alone could prevent me."
"And old age?"
"My mission will be accomplished before I am old."
"There are other things to fear, Monsieur," Villefort said, "apart from death, old age, and madness. For example, apoplexy, that lightning bolt which strikes you down without destroying you, yet after which all is finished. You are still yourself, but you are no longer yourself: from a near-angel like Ariel you have become a dull mass which, like Caliban, is close to the beasts. As I said, in human language, this is quite simply called an apoplexy or stroke. Count, I be you to come finish this conversation at my house one day when you feel like meeting an opponent able to understand you, and eager to refute what you say, and I shall show you my father, Monsieur Noirtier de Villefort…" (48.60-66)
Apoplexy, a stroke – no matter what you call it, it's a scary thing, a silent, remorseless killer. Villefort may be trying to frighten the Count, but he's not lying. We need only look at his father, Monsieur Noirtier, to see the havoc it can wreak. The crown prosecutor's little spiel hints at the philosophical implications of the affliction, but Dumas wants us to look a little deeper. That whole "lightning bolt" thing can't help but recall the image of God striking down a sinner on the spot.