Study Guide

The Count of Monte Cristo Perseverance

By Alexandre Dumas

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.

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