Study Guide

The Count of Monte Cristo Quotes

By Alexandre Dumas

  • Ambition

    Chapter 1
    Danglars

    "Indeed," said Danglars, casting a sidelong glance at Dantès with a flash of hatred in his eyes. "Yes indeed, he is young and full of self-confidence. The captain was hardly dead before he had taken command without asking anyone, and made us lose a day and a half on the island of Elba, instead of returning directly to Marseille. (1.30)

    Here we see a conflict of ambitions. Danglars wants what Edmond has worked hard to earn. This small-scale conflict of interest leads to, well, everything.

    Chapter 7

    "Father! Will you always be an obstacle to my happiness in this world, and shall I always have to contend with your past?"

    Then, suddenly, it seemed as though a light had unexpectedly passed through his mind and lit up his face. A smile rose to his clenched lips, while his distraught look became a stare and his mind appeared to concentrate on a single idea.

    "That's it," he said. "This letter, which should have destroyed me, might perhaps make my fortune. Come, Villefort, to work!" (7.121-123)

    Ambition can turn even the most dire of situations into the greatest of boons.

    Chapter 17
    Abbé Faria

    "Misfortune is needed to plumb certain mysterious depths in the understanding of men; pressure is needed to explode the charge. My captivity concentrated all my faculties on a single point. They had previously been dispersed, now they clashed in a narrow space; and, as you know, the clash of clouds produces electricity, electricity produces lightning and lightning gives light." (17.45)

    Abbé Faria suggests that ambition can feed on adversity.

    Chapter 41
    Albert de Morcerf

    "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.

    Chapter 76

    "In any case, even the most corrupt of us finds it hard to believe in evil unless it is based on some interest. We reject the idea of harm done for no cause and without gain as anomalous." (76.6)

    Perhaps, because we cannot think of ourselves doing anything unreasonable, we have a hard time believing someone else would do wrong without expecting something in return.

    "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

    Chapter 83
    Gaspard Caderousse

    "You lapsed into poverty and you knew hunger. You had spent half a life in envy that you could have spent in profitable toil, and you were already thinking about crime when God offered you a miracle, when God, by my hands, sent you a fortune in the midst of your deprivation—a fortune that was splendid for you, who had never possessed anything. But this unexpected, unhoped-for, unheard-of fortune was not enough for you, as soon as you owned it. You wanted to double it. How? By murder. You did double it, and God took it away from you by bringing you to human justice." (83.54)

    In Caderousse's case, ambition only means one thing: trouble, and lots of it.

    Chapter 90
    Edmond Dantès, the Count of Monte Cristo

    "And all this, good Lord, because my heart, which I thought was dead, was only numbed; because it awoke, it beat; because I gave way to the pain of that beating which had been aroused in my breast by the voice of a woman!

    "And yet," the count went on, lapsing more and more into anticipation of the dreadful future that Mercédès had made him accept, "and yet it is impossible that that woman, with such a noble heart, could for purely selfish reasons have agreed to let me be killed when I am so full of life and strength. It is not possible that she should take her maternal love, or, rather, her maternal delirium, that far! Some virtues, when taken to the extreme, become crimes." (90.5-6, our emphasis)

    The last line says it all: unchecked ambition can be dangerous, and sometimes deadly.

    Chapter 106
    Danglars

    "I increased our wealth, which continued to grow for more than fifteen years, until the moment when these unknown catastrophes, which I am still unable to comprehend, arrived to seize it and cast it down—without my being to blame, I might say, for any of it." (106.38)

    Danglars takes credit for all the increase, but is unable to own up to his failures. That's how it seems to go when dreams are destroyed.

    Chapter 112
    Edmond Dantès, the Count of Monte Cristo

    "Like a benefactor in a novel, I should have left without seeing you again; but such conduct was beyond my feeble powers, because I am a weak and vain man, and because a joyful and tender look from one of my fellow-creatures does me good. Now I am leaving, and I shall take selfishness to the point of saying to you: Don't forget me, my friends, because you will probably never see me again." (112.41)

    Monte Cristo is ashamed that he should require recognition for his good deeds. He wants to believe that he can do something and not expect, not want anything in return.

    Edmond Dantès, the Count of Monte Cristo

    "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.

  • Fate vs. Free Will

    Chapter 5
    Eugénie Danglars

    "Come now, "he [Danglars] said. Have you anything to fear? It seems to me, on the contrary, that everything is working out as you would wish."

    "That is precisely what terrifies me," said Dantès. "I cannot think that man is meant to find happiness so easily! Happiness is like one of those palaces on an enchanted island, its gates guarded by dragons. One must fight to gain it; and, in truth, I do not know what I have done to deserve the good fortune of becoming Mercédès' husband." (5.22-23)

    Oddly enough, it's at the most extreme moments – whether they be extremely happy or extremely grim – that we wonder if Fate might be lurking, exerting a negative influence.

    Chapter 61

    "Ah, but who can ever know what may happen, my dear fellow? Man proposes, God disposes…"

    Andrea sighed and said: "But as long as I remain in Paris and nothing forces me to leave, this money that you just mentioned is guaranteed?

    "Oh, yes, absolutely."(61.46-48)

    A variation on the old saying, "Don't count your chickens before they hatch." Except this one captures the way the stars can seem to align against even the most insignificant plans.

    Chapter 64

    "No, but I was brought up in Corsica. You are old and obstinate, I am young and stubborn. It's a bad idea for people like us to threaten one another. We should do business amicably. Is it my fault if luck is still hard on you and has been kind to me?"

    "So luck's good, is it? Which means it's not some borrowed groom or borrowed tilbury or borrowed clothes that we have here? Fine! So much the better!" Caderousse said, his eyes gleaming with greed." (64.54-55)

    Caderousse teaches Andrea/Benedetto a lesson in language. One man's luck might seem, to a more perceptive man, something stranger or more complex.

    Chapter 80

    "Oh, what is man!" d'Avrigny muttered. "The most egoistical of all animals, the most personal of all creatures, who cannot believe otherwise than that the earth revolves, the sun shines and death reaps for him alone—an ant, cursing God from the summit of a blade of grass." (80.19)

    D'Avrigny raises a good question: isn't it rather egotistical for man to assume that God has the time to cause their petty misfortunes?

    Chapter 83

    "God could have guided the murderer's dagger so that you would die immediately, yet He gave you a quarter of an hour to reconsider. So look in your heart, you wretch, and repent!"

    "No," said Caderousse. "No, I do not repent. There is no God, there is no Providence. There is only chance." (83.66-67)

    Caderousse rejects the idea of God and the idea of Fate (or Providence) with it; he's one of the few to do so. Still, he changes his mind just before he dies. So much for asserting man's free will.

    Chapter 87

    "Albert! Forgive me for saying it: shattered with regard to you, but enchanted by the nobility of that young woman seeking to avenge her father. Yes, Albert: wherever this revelation came from—and I grant that it may be from an enemy—I swear that that enemy was an agent of Providence." (87.1)

    It's important to recognize that Fate isn't always thought to exert itself directly, as with a stroke. Sometimes Fate enlists someone to complete its work.

    Chapter 90
    Edmond Dantès, the Count of Monte Cristo

    "No, it is not life that I regret, but the ruin of my plans, which were so long in devising and so laborious to construct. Providence, which I thought favoured them, was apparently against them. God did not want them to come to fruition!

    "This burden which I took on, almost as heavy as a world, and which I thought I could carry to the end, was measured according to my desire and not my strength. I shall have to put it down when my task is barely half completed. Ah, I shall have to become a fatalist, after fourteen years of despair and ten years of hope had made me a believe me a believer in Providence!" (90.2-3)

    In order to believe he is an agent of Providence, the Count must believe he knows what is meant to be. To see that certainty crumble is, potentially, just as damaging as that fateful bolt from the blue, the stroke.

    Chapter 95
    Eugénie Danglars

    [Eugénie Danglars:] "Well, my dear father, in the shipwreck of life—for life is an eternal shipwreck of our hopes—I throw all my useless baggage into the sea, that's all, and remain with my will, prepared to live entirely alone and consequently entirely free." (95.21)

    Eugénie suggests that life is some combination of chance (the shipwreck) and choice (the decision to throw away the baggage.)

    Chapter 103
    Noirtier de Villefort

    "Monsieur," Villefort replied, trying to struggle against these three wills and against his own feelings, "you are wrong. No crimes are committed in my house. Fate has struck. God is trying me, which is horrible to believe; but no one is being murdered!" (103.36)

    In this case, the deed has already been done; Fate is nothing more than a label meant to console the victim.

    Chapter 112
    Mercédès Mondego

    "See: misfortune has turned my hair grey and my eyes have shed so many tears that there are dark rings round them; and my forehead is furrowed. But you, Edmond, you are still young, still handsome and still proud. You did have faith, you had strength, you trusted in God, and God sustained you. I was a coward, I denied Him, so God abandoned me; and here I am!" (112.105)

    In invoking the concept of "faith," Mercédès suggests that there is an element of choice, of will. If she had had faith, things could have been different – she was not fated to end up the way she did.

  • Justice and Judgment

    Chapter 5
    Eugénie Danglars

    "Good!" Danglars exclaimed. "Everything is working out as I expected. I am now captain pro tem and, if only that idiot Caderousse can keep his mouth shut, captain for good. So, the only other eventuality is that the Law may release Dantès? Ah, well," he added, with a smile, "the Law is the Law, and I am happy to put myself in her hands." (5.147)

    Danglars puts himself in a strange position, here. Even as he subverts the law, he places he surrenders his future to some larger concept of the "Law." We guess he's one for instant gratification.

    Chapter 6

    "Ah, Monsieur de Villefort," said a pretty young thing, the daughter of the Comte de Salvieux and a friend of Mlle de Saint-Méran, "do please try to have a fine trial while we are in Marseille. I have never been to a court of assizes, and I am told it is most interesting."

    "Most interesting, indeed, Mademoiselle, since it is a veritable drama and not an invented tragedy, real sorrows in place of ones that are merely feigned. The man that you see there, instead of returning home, once the curtain is lowered […] is taken into a prison, there to meet his executioner." (6.36-37)

    Justice, and being a justice, isn't play acting – it's serious business, a matter of life and death.

    Chapter 35

    "But, with such an outlook," Franz told the count, "which makes you judge and executioner in your own case, it would be hard for you to confine yourself to actions that would leave you forever immune to the power of the law. Hatred is blind and anger deaf: the one who pours himself a cup of vengeance is likely to drink a bitter draught."

    "Yes, if he is clumsy and poor; no, if he is a millionaire and adroit." (35.44)

    As we shall see, Villefort makes a valid point, and Monte Cristo shows that even he can be blinded by confidence and ambition.

    Haydée

    Haydée let fall her arms, groaning and looking at the count as though to ask if he was satisfied with her obedience. He got up, came across to her, took her hand and said to her in Romaic: "Rest, my dear child, and console yourself with the thought that there is a God to punish traitors." (77.252)

    Monte Cristo portrays God as a justice, judging the actions of men directly.

    Chapter 67
    Gérard de Villefort

    Villefort gave a bitter smile and said, in response more to his own thoughts than to Mme Danglars' words: "So it is true that every one of our actions leaves some trace on our past, either dark or bright. So it is true that every step we take is more like a reptile's progress across the sand, leaving a track behind it. And often, alas, the track is the mark of our tears!" (67.9)

    Though he talks of all actions leaving a trace, it's the darker ones, the ones that stand out, like infractions written out on your permanent record.

    Chapter 85
    Edmond Dantès, the Count of Monte Cristo

    "Poor young man!" Monte Cristo muttered, so low that even he could not hear these words of compassion as he spoke them. "It is written that the sins of the father shall be visited on the sons, even to the third and fourth generation." (85.135)

    As far as Monte Cristo is concerned, Justice is a powerful and unrelenting force.

    Chapter 89
    Edmond Dantès, the Count of Monte Cristo

    "and Ali, lying in his tomb, left the traitor unpunished, but I, who have also been betrayed, assassinated and cast into a tomb, I have emerged from that tomb by the grace of God and I owe it to God to take my revenge. He sent me for that purpose. Here I am." (89.43)

    Here, though, Monte Cristo tells Mercédès that God requires someone to do his will, and that he is that man.

    Chapter 99
    Gérard de Villefort

    "If he is arrested […] listen, I hear the prisons are overflowing—well, leave him in prison."

    The crown prosecutor shook his head.

    "At least until my daughter is married," the baroness added.

    "Impossible, Madame. The law has its procedures."

    "Even for me?" the baroness asked, half joking, half serious.

    "For everyone," Villefort replied. "And for me as for everyone else." (99.80-85)

    Though he may be corrupt, Villefort upholds the basic tenets of the law. He is impartial – at least in this case.

    Villefort drew his chair up close to that of Mme Danglars and, resting both hands on his desk and adopting a more subdued tone than usual, he said: "there are crimes that go unpunished because the criminals are not known and one is afraid of striking an innocent head instead of a guilty one; but when these criminals are discovered—" here Villefort reached out his hand towards a crucifix hanging opposite his desk and repeated "—when these criminals are discovered, by the living God, Madame, whoever they are, they shall die! Now, after the oath I have just sworn, and which I shall keep, do you dare, Madame, to ask my pardon for that wretch?" (99.94)

    Villefort does advocate what you might call extrajudicial justice, out-of-court justice, in certain cases. Some decisions regarding innocence and guilt are not meant to be made at the assizes. You can put this one in the same category as a duel.

    Chapter 110
    Benedetto

    "Father, they are asking me for proof," said Benedetto. "Do you want me to provide it?"

    "No," M. de Villefort stammered in a strangled voice. "no, there is no need."

    "What do you mean, no need?" cried the judge.

    "I mean," said the crown prosecutor, "that I should struggle in vain against the fate that holds me in its grasp. Gentlemen, I realize I am in the hands of a vengeful God." (110.68-70)

    Villefort, sworn to uphold the law, is ready to surrender to it when the time finally comes. If anything, his knowledge of the law assures him of his guilt.

  • Hatred

    Chapter 6
    Gérard de Villefort

    "As for me, when I see a bright spark of hatred shining in the eye of an accused man, I feel encouraged, I rejoice: it is no longer a trial, but a duel. I go for him, he ripostes, I press harder, and the fight ends, like all fights, in victory or defeat. That is what advocacy means." (6.43)

    It seems strange that something as irrational as hatred should enter into the justice system.

    Chapter 15

    He decided it was human hatred and not divine vengeance that had plunged him into this abyss. He doomed these unknown men to every torment that his inflamed imagination could devise, while still considering that the most frightful were too mild and, above all, too brief for them: torture was followed by death, and death brought, if not repose, at least an insensibility that resembled it. (15.8)

    There's something deeply unsettling about that phrase "human hatred." You can really feel for Edmond, feel his pain and his thirst for revenge just reading it.

    Chapter 17
    Abbé Faria

    "If you wish to find the guilty party, first discover whose interests the crime serves! Whose interests might be served by your disappearance?" (17.57)

    Abbé Faria succinctly explains the origins of much envy and discord.

    Chapter 35

    "But, with such an outlook," Franz told the count, "which makes you judge and executioner in your own case, it would be hard for you to confine yourself to actions that would leave you forever immune to the power of the law. Hatred is blind and anger deaf: the one who pours himself a cup of vengeance is likely to drink a bitter draught."

    "Yes, if he is clumsy and poor; no, if he is a millionaire and adroit." (35.44)

    Hatred is blind, but then again, so is justice.

    Chapter 76

    "But man, man whom God made in His image, man to whom God gave this first, this sole, this supreme law, that he should love his neighbour, man to whom God gave a voice to express his thoughts—what is man's first cry when he learns his neighbor is saved? A curse." (35.131)

    "In any case, even the most corrupt of us finds it hard to believe in evil unless it is based on some interest. We reject the idea of harm done for no cause and without gain as anomalous." (76.6)

    Some people like to say that everything happens for a reason. This applies not simply to twists of fate and shocking revelations, but to every kind of human action, including the worst and pettiest.

    Chapter 77
    Haydée

    "I could not understand. Why was my father fleeing—my father, the all-powerful, before whom others normally would flee, my father whose motto was: "They hate me, and that is why they fear me"? (77.176)

    In her recounting, Haydée evokes the power hate can have – and the resistance which it can provoke.

    Chapter 78
    Albert de Morcerf

    "Oh, you know what I think about duels. I explained my ideas to you in Rome, don't you remember?"

    "Despite which, my dear Count, I found you just now, this very morning, engaged in a pastime that seems to accord ill with those ideas."

    "Because, you must understand, my dear friend, one should never be exclusive. When one lives among madmen, one should train as a maniac. From one minute to the next, some hothead, with no greater reason to seek a quarrel with me than you have to seek one with Beauchamp, will come and hunt me out on the first flimsy pretext he can find, or send me his seconds, or insult me in a public place. Well, I shall be obliged to kill him." (78.166-8)

    Monte Cristo would no doubt be more responsive if he felt Albert had a reason to quarrel. His reaction is a variation on the "harm done for no cause" argument.

    Chapter 83

    "If only someone would come so that I could denounce the wretch!"

    "Would you like me to write out your statement?"

    "Yes, yes," said Caderousse, his eyes shining at the idea of posthumous revenge. (83.128-130)

    Not only can hatred make a man work and wait for ten years, it can make a man lust for vengeance from beyond the grave.

  • Manipulation

    Chapter 7

    Father! Will you always be an obstacle to my happiness in this world, and shall I always have to contend with your past?

    Then, suddenly, it seemed as though a light had unexpectedly passed through his mind and lit up his face. A smile rose to his clenched lips, while his distraught look became a stare and his mind appeared to concentrate on a single idea.

    "That's it," he said. "This letter, which should have destroyed me, might perhaps make my fortune. Come, Villefort, to work!" (7.121-123)

    Thanks to a skillful manipulation of the situation, Villefort is able to turn a disaster into a career-making move.

    Chapter 34
    Edmond Dantès, the Count of Monte Cristo

    "What I mean, my dear fellow," the Count says, "is that I shall do more by myself with my gold than you and all your people with their daggers, their pistols, their carbines and their blunderbusses. So let me do it." (34.39)

    The Count lets Luigi Vampa know that, sometimes, the coin is mightier than the sword. This kind of passive influence is Monte Cristo's stock in trade, and Peppino's rescue seems to prove its effectiveness.

    Chapter 35

    "But, with such an outlook," Franz told the count, "which makes you judge and executioner in your own case, it would be hard for you to confine yourself to actions that would leave you forever immune to the power of the law. Hatred is blind and anger deaf: the one who pours himself a cup of vengeance is likely to drink a bitter draught."

    "Yes, if he is clumsy and poor; no, if he is a millionaire and adroit." (35.44)

    Monte Cristo, clearly referring to himself, has total faith in his ability to manage the situation. He has plenty of reason to be confident, but he's wrong to think he's perfect.

    Chapter 61

    "Ah, but who can ever know what may happen, my dear fellow? Man proposes, God disposes…"

    Andrea sighed and said: "But as long as I remain in Paris and nothing forces me to leave, this money that you just mentioned is guaranteed?"

    "Oh, yes, absolutely." (61.46-48)

    It's almost like a jinx. The moment Andrea says, "As long as […] nothing forces me to leave," you get the feeling he'll be leaving sooner than he thinks.

    Chapter 67

    "My life has been worn away by the pursuit of difficult things and in breaking down those who, voluntarily or otherwise, of their own free will or as a result of chance, stood in my way and raised such obstacles. It is rare to feel an ardent desire for something and not find that it is ardently defended by those from whom one would like to take it or seize it." (67.14)

    Villefort describes his life as one long exercise in coercion. His philosophy – anything worth wanting has to be taken from someone else – implies that manipulation, specifically the manipulation of another person, is totally necessary if one wants to get ahead in life.

    Chapter 68

    "The next day you could read in Le Moniteur: "Yesterday's article in Les Messager announcing Don Carlos' escape and a rebellion in Barcelona was without foundation. King Don Carlos is still in Burgos and the peninsula is entirely tranquil. A telegraphic signal, misread because of the fog, gave rise to this false report." (68.164)

    A butterfly flaps its wings in Pittsburgh and sets off a tornado in Tokyo. That's sort of what we have here: a very little thing has some very big consequences. In this case, though, the Count is flapping the wings and making darn sure that there's going to be a tornado.

    Chapter 69

    The abbé lowered the green shade and said: "Now, Monsieur, I am listening. Speak."

    "I am coming to the point. Do you know the Count of Monte Cristo?"

    "I suppose you are speaking of Monsieur Zaccone?"

    "Zaccone! So he is not called Monte Cristo!"

    "Monte Cristo is the name of an island, or rather of a rock, not of a family."

    "Very well. Let's not argue about the words. So, since Monsieur de Monte Cristo and Monsieur Zaccone are the same man…"

    "Absolutely the same." (69.34-39)

    Edmond, who has taken on the role of Monte Cristo but is in disguise, talks about one of his other aliases, and fabricates a new identity for his fictional count, all in order to throw off one investigator. It's a thing of beauty, really.

    Chapter 85
    Edmond Dantès, the Count of Monte Cristo

    "To me, a good servant is one over whom I have the power of life and death."

    "And do you have the power of life and death over Bertuccio?" Albert asked.

    "Yes," the count said curtly. Some words end a conversation like a steel door falling. The count's "Yes" was one of those words. (85.119-120)

    The power over life and death is definitely the ultimate form of control. That Edmond should need to have it over every servant speaks to his exacting (and ruthless) nature.

    Chapter 89
    Edmond Dantès, the Count of Monte Cristo

    "Suppose that the Lord God, after creating the world, after fertilizing the void, had stopped one-third of the way through His creation to spare an angel the tears that our crimes would one day bring to His immortal eyes. Suppose that, having prepared everything, kneaded everything, seeded everything, at the moment when He was about to admire his work, God had extinguished the sun and with His foot dashed the world into eternal night, then you will have some idea…Or, rather, no…No, even then you cannot have any idea of what I am losing by losing my life at this moment." (89.71)

    Edmond goes beyond describing himself as a controller or a manipulator and casts himself as a creator. And not just any creator, mind you, but God.

    Chapter 117
    Edmond Dantès, the Count of Monte Cristo

    "As for you, Morrel, this is the whole secret of my behaviour towards you: there is neither happiness nor misfortune in this world, there is merely the comparison between one state and another, nothing more. Only someone who has suffered the deepest misfortune is capable of experiencing the heights of felicity. Maximilian, you must needs have wished to die, to know how good it is to live." (117.149)

    The Count tricks Morrel into thinking his lover is dead in order to teach him a lesson. He sinks him into the depths of depression in order that he might raise him up. Maximilian is the puppet, and Monte Cristo his master. Not in the end, though. In the end, Max is his pupil, and Monte Cristo shows that his methods, however harsh, are effective.

  • Revenge

    Chapter 12

    "Have I ever told you, when you have done your job as a Royalist and had the head cut off one of our people: 'My son, you have committed murder'? No, I have said: 'Very well, Monsieur, you have fought and won, but tomorrow we shall have our revenge.'"

    "Father, beware, our revenge will be terrible when we take it." (12.39-40)

    As we see here, larger political rivalries can play out on a much smaller scale. Revenge isn't simply personal: it can split families, and even countries in two.

    Chapter 15

    He decided it was human hatred and not divine vengeance that had plunged him into this abyss. He doomed these unknown men to every torment that his inflamed imagination could devise, while still considering that the most frightful were too mild and, above all, too brief for them: torture was followed by death, and death brought, if not repose, at least an insensibility that resembled it. (15.8)

    When it comes to revenge, the most expedient method is not necessarily the most satisfying.

    Chapter 17
    Abbé Faria

    [Abbé Faria:] "I regret having helped you in your investigation and said what I did to you," he remarked.

    "Why is that?" Dantès asked.

    "Because I have insinuated a feeling into your heart that was not previously there: the desire for revenge." (17.193-195)

    Though knowledge is usually thought to lead to understanding, sometimes it has darker consequences. Do you think the abbé is responsible for what Edmond becomes? Would Edmond have gone to such lengths to seek revenge if he had never met Abbé Faria?

    Chapter 35
    Edmond Dantès, the Count of Monte Cristo

    "Make no mistake: I should fight a duel for a trifle, an insult, a contradiction, a slap—and all the more merrily for knowing that, thanks to the skill I have acquired in all physical exercises and long experience of danger, I should be more or less certain of killing my opponent. Oh, yes, indeed, I should fight a duel for any of these things; but in return for a slow, deep, infinite, eternal pain, I should return as nearly as possible a pain equivalent to the one inflicted on me. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, as they say in the East, those men who are the elect of creation, and who have learnt to make a life of dreams and paradise a reality." (35.42)

    The Count's notions regarding revenge seem to be taken solely from the Old Testament. He doesn't acknowledge Jesus' commandment to "turn the other cheek."

    Chapter 83
    Edmond Dantès, the Count of Monte Cristo

    "Oh, God," said Monte Cristo, "your vengeance may sometimes be slow in coming, but I think that then it is all the more complete." (83.7)

    As the saying goes, "Revenge is a dish best served cold." Here, Monte Cristo seems to agree with the conventional wisdom.

    Chapter 84
    Beauchamp

    "I hastened round to see you," Beauchamp continued, "to say this to you: Albert, the sins of our fathers, in these times of action and reaction, cannot be visited on their children. Albert, few men have gone through the revolutions in which we were born, without some spot of mire or of blood staining their soldier's uniform or their judge's robe." (84.54)

    Beauchamp suggests that the turbulent nature of recent history is something of a mitigating factor; when all men have been corrupted, he seems to think, no one man should be singled out.

    Chapter 85
    Edmond Dantès, the Count of Monte Cristo

    "Poor young man!" Monte Cristo muttered, so low that even he could not hear these words of compassion as he spoke them. "It is written that the sins of the father shall be visited on the sons, even to the third and forth generation." (85.135)

    Monte Cristo, on the other hand, clearly doesn't believe that there are any extenuating circumstances. Revenge is revenge, and nothing should interfere with it, even across generations.

    Chapter 86
    Haydée

    "This was directed to me by my respect and my sorrow, Monsieur," Haydée replied. "God forgive me: though I am a Christian, I have always thought to avenge my illustrious father." (86.120)

    Although it's hard to grasp, Christianity and revenge are able to exist side by side, at least as far as Monte Cristo and Haydée are concerned.

    Chapter 88

    "You know, mother, Monsieur de Monte Cristo is almost a man of the East and an Oriental; in order not to interfere with his freedom to take revenge, he never eats or drinks in his enemy's house." (88.39)

    Monte Cristo is constantly focused on revenge; his daily life revolves around it.

    Chapter 103
    Julie Herbault (née Morrel)

    "You are wrong, Monsieur," Morrel exclaimed, rising on one knee, his heart smitten by a pain sharper than any he had yet felt. "You are wrong. Valentine, having died as she has, needs not only a priest, but an avenger. You send for a priest, Monsieur de Villefort; I shall be her avenger." (103.26)

    Here, once again, we see two very different kinds of salvation brought together. The priest will, one assumes, ensure that Valentine's soul is safe in heaven, while Maximilian will secure her honor and memory on Earth.

  • Perseverance

    Chapter 17
    Abbé Faria

    "Misfortune is needed to plumb certain mysterious depths in the understanding of men; pressure is needed to explode the charge. My captivity concentrated all my faculties on a single point. They had previously been dispersed, now they clashed in a narrow space; and, as you know, the clash of clouds produces electricity, electricity produces lightning and lightning gives light." (Abbé Faria) (17.45)

    As far as Abbé Faria sees it, a man can only truly exert himself – or, rather, he can put his energy to better use – when given something to work against.

    Chapter 63
    Edmond Dantès, the Count of Monte Cristo

    "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)

    Unlike the others, who seem to do things because they love them or what they lead to – for instance, railroads lead to money – Monte Cristo claims to do things for the sake of, well, doing things, like a climber who scales a mountain because it's there.

    Chapter 85
    Edmond Dantès, the Count of Monte Cristo

    "Poor young man!" Monte Cristo muttered, so low that even he could not hear these words of compassion as he spoke them. "It is written that the sins of the father shall be visited on the sons, even to the third and forth generation." (85.135)

    Because sin itself is able to persist, according to Monte Cristo, and corrupt even the sons of those who sinned, the Count himself must persist in his pursuit of those sinners-by-proxy if he hopes to complete his job.

    Chapter 89
    Edmond Dantès, the Count of Monte Cristo

    "Suppose that the Lord God, after creating the world, after fertilizing the void, had stopped one-third of the way through His creation to spare an angel the tears that our crimes would one day bring to His immortal eyes. Suppose that, having prepared everything, kneaded everything, seeded everything, at the moment when He was about to admire his work, God had extinguished the sun and with His foot dashed the world into eternal night, then you will have some idea…Or, rather, no…No, even then you cannot have any idea of what I am losing by losing my life at this moment." (89.71)

    There's no better way to emphasize the scale of your task than comparing it to the creation of the world. Grandiose or not, Monte Cristo manages to communicate just how much energy he's put into his work.

    Chapter 90

    "What, the structure that so long in building, which demanded so much anxious toil, has been demolished at a single blow, a single word, a breath of air! What, this 'I' that I thought was something; this 'I', of which I was so proud; this 'I' that I saw so small in the dungeons of the Château d'If and managed to make so great, will be, tomorrow, a speck of dust!" (90.2)

    The most disheartening thing about any great endeavor is that, more often than not, what took ages to build up can take seconds to tear down.

    Edmond Dantès, the Count of Monte Cristo

    "And all this, good Lord, because my heart, which I thought was dead, was only numbed; because it awoke, it beat; because I gave way to the pain of that beating which had been aroused in my breast by the voice of a woman!

    "And yet," the count went on, lapsing more and more into anticipation of the dreadful future that Mercédès had made him accept, "and yet it is impossible that that woman, with such a noble heart, could for purely selfish reasons have agreed to let me be killed when I am so full of life and strength. It is not possible that she should take her maternal love, or, rather, her maternal delirium, that far! Some virtues, when taken to the extreme, become crimes." (90.5-6)

    In short, it is possible to be too concerned, to care too much.

    Chapter 105
    Edmond Dantès, the Count of Monte Cristo

    "You see," said the count. "You do want to kill yourself: here it is in black and white!"

    "Very well," Morrel exclaimed, instantaneously switching from an appearance of calm to one of extreme violence. "Very well, suppose that is so, suppose I have decided to turn the barrel of this pistol against myself, who will stop me? Who will have the courage to stop me? Suppose I should say: all my hopes are dashed, my heart is broken, my life is extinguished, there is nothing about me except mourning and horror, the earth has turned to ashes and every human voice is tearing me apart…Suppose I should say: it is only humane to let me die because, if you do not, I shall lose my reason, I shall become mad…Tell me, Monsieur, if I should say that, and when it is seen that it is voiced with the anguish and the tears of my heart, will anyone answer me: "You are wrong?" Will anyone prevent me from being the most unhappy of creatures? Tell me, Count, would you have the courage to do so?" (105. 73-74)

    The short answer to Morrel's final question is "Yes," and the Count tells him so. No predicament is insurmountable and no battle unwinnable.

    Chapter 113
    Edmond Dantès, the Count of Monte Cristo

    "I think ill of the past," he said, "and cannot have been mistaken in that way. What! Could the goal that I set myself have been wrong? What, have I been on the wrong road for the past ten years? What, can it be that in a single hour the architect can become convinced that the work into which he has put all his hopes was, if not impossible, sacrilegious?

    "I cannot accept that idea, because it would drive me mad." (113.5-6)

    If you've ever spent a long time working on anything you know the feeling: that gnawing fear that maybe, somewhere you got off track, that you didn't follow directions and are now doing exactly what you were trying to avoid.

    Chapter 117
    Edmond Dantès, the Count of Monte Cristo

    "So, do live and be happy, children dear to my heart, and never forget that, until the day when God deigns to unveil the future to mankind, all human wisdom is contained in these two words: 'wait' and 'hope'!" (117.150)

    The Count strips away all the dirt and the grit and the blood and gets down to the wholesome core. The Count of Monte Cristo isn't just about revenge – it's about patience and optimism.

    Maximilian Morrel

    "I have waited a month, which means I have suffered a month. I hoped—man is such a poor and miserable creature—I hoped, for what? I don't know: something unimaginable, absurd, senseless, a miracle…but what? God alone knows, for it was He who diluted our reason with that madness called hope. Yes, I waited; yes, Count, I hoped; and in the past quarter of an hour, while we have been speaking, you have unwittingly broken and tortured my heart a hundred times, for each of your words proved to me that I have no hope left." (117.44)

    By the time we hear Maximilian say this, we can't really feel for him, not knowing that the Count has suffered for much longer. Soon, though, young Max will learn the importance of hope.

  • Transformation

    Chapter 22

    Dantès was now thirty-three years old, as we have said, and his fourteen years in prison had brought what might be described as a great spiritual change to his features. He had entered the Château d'If with the round, full, radiant face of a contented young man whose first steps in life have been easy and who looks to the future as a natural extension of the past All that had changed utterly. […]

    Edmond smiled when he saw himself. It would have been impossible for his best friend—if he had any friends left—to recognize him; he didn't recognize himself. (22.9, 11)

    Here we see a "spiritual change" made manifest via a physical transformation.

    Chapter 51

    "The time when there were two nations in France has passed. The leading families of the monarchy have melted into the families of the empire and the aristocracy of the lance has married the nobility of the cannon." (51.36)

    It needs to be remembered that, even as Edmond's life is being transformed, so too is the entire country of France.

    Chapter 62

    "Like the Sleeping Beauty's castle, the whole house had been awakened from its long sleep and come to life; it sang and blossomed like one of those houses that we have long cherished and in which, when we are unfortunate enough to leave them, we involuntarily relinquish a part of our souls." (62.5)

    Some of the Count's transformations are entirely superficial and, it seems, totally positive. In this case, the pleasant new exterior masks a dark secret.

    With a black satin collar fresh from the tailor's hands, a newly trimmed beard, grey moustaches, a confident eye and a major's uniform with three medals and five ribbons—in short, an impeccable veteran's costume: enter Major Bartolomeo Cavalcanti, the loving father we met a short while ago.

    Beside him, in a brand-new outfit and with a smile on his face, walked Andrea Cavalcanti, that obedient son whom we also know. (62.56-57)

    Apparently, all it takes to turn a lout and a criminal into a respectable family is a couple of new outfits.

    Chapter 66
    Edmond Dantès, the Count of Monte Cristo

    A moment later, the door through which the priest had entered opened and Monte Cristo appeared. "Forgive me, dear Baron," he said, "but one of my good friends, Abbé Busoni, whom you saw enter, has just arrived in Paris. It is a long time since we last met and I could not tear myself away from him immediately. I hope that this reason will be sufficient to persuade you to excuse me for keeping you waiting." (66.6)

    The facility with which the Count can change his appearance and behavior is amazing, at times comically so.

    Chapter 76

    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)

    Making a change and starting afresh is easy – when everyone around you has probably already been through the process, and expects you to do the same.

    Chapter 91
    Mercédès Mondego

    "I know you, Albert. Whatever path you follow, you will soon make this name illustrious in it. So, my friend, come back in the world, made still more brilliant by your past misfortunes; and if that is not to be, despite all my expectations, at least leave me that hope." (91.45)

    Having already weathered a huge change in circumstances – two if you count her rise to wealth – Mercédès is certain that her son can adapt to his new reality, and there's nothing to suggest that he can't. If there's anything we, as readers, can expect, it's instability, the chance for change.

    Chapter 92
    Edmond Dantès, the Count of Monte Cristo

    "For in spite of all my woes, in spite of all my tortures, I can now show you a face rejuvenated by the joy of revenge, a face that you must have seen often in your dreams since your marriage…your marriage to my fiancée, Mercédès!" (92.105)

    Here, the most powerful transformation is actually a return to the original state, a regression.

    Chapter 94
    Maximilian Morrel

    "My God!" said Morrel. "You terrify me, Count, with your lack of emotion. Have you some remedy for death? Are you more than a man? Are you an angel? A god?" And the young man, who had never flinched from any danger, shrank away from Monte Cristo, seized with unspeakable terror. (94.87)

    Monte Cristo's ability to change makes him seem something more than human. If he can be more than one thing, it follows that he can be anything at all.

    Chapter 95
    Danglars

    Danglars nodded to show he was satisfied. In the eyes of the world, and even in those of his servants, Danglars played the indulgent father and good-natured fellow; this was one side of the part he had chosen for himself in the popular comedy he was playing: an appearance he had taken on, which seemed to suit him as it suited the right profile of one of those masks worn by the fathers of the theatre in Antiquity to have the lips turned upwards and smiling, while on the left side the lips were turned down and sorrowful. We might add that, in his family circle, the smiling, up-turned lips dropped and become down-turned and dismal ones, so that most of the time the good-natured fellow vanished, giving way to a brutal husband and tyrannical father. (95.9)

    Here's a more common kind of transformation. In the same way as you might have an indoor voice and an outdoor voice, Danglars essentially has an indoor personality and an outdoor personality.