The Count of Monte Cristo
The Count of Monte Cristo
by Alexandre Dumas
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The Count of Monte Cristo Theme of Fate vs. Free Will

The characters in The Count of Monte Cristo don't spend too much time worrying about the "free will" part of the equation. Usually they only stop to consider the repercussions of their decisions way after the fact. When things start going badly for certain characters, they feel that unknown forces have turned against them. Does that mean things really are fated to happen? The Count certainly seems to think that he's been tasked with carrying out God's will, but even he reconsiders his actions.

Questions About Fate vs. Free Will

  1. After Villefort is driven mad, Monte Cristo changes his plan and decides to pardon Danglars. This leads to a conundrum: If the Count is carrying out God's will, as he claims, are we to believe that his change of heart was always a part of the plan? Or is it, on the contrary, evidence of free will?
  2. Villefort acts as though his father's stroke and subsequent paralysis were an act of God, and portrays apoplexy as the hand of Fate. How do the Villefort poisonings, which mimic the effects of apoplexy, change our perception of the affliction, if at all? In other words, does the book encourage us to see suffering as a question of fate, or something brought on by free acting individuals?
  3. Which characters are most concerned with fate? When do they begin to contemplate it?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

In the end, Dumas shows fate to be a convenient excuse for human failings, and justifications for the unjustifiable.

Next Page: Perseverance
Previous Page: Revenge

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