Study Guide

The Count of Monte Cristo Chapter 17

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Chapter 17

The Abbé's Cell

  • You can think of this chapter as a sort of twisted, nineteenth-century take on MTV Cribs; this is Abbé Faria's chance to shine, to show off all the cool stuff he's made since he got thrown in prison. Such cool stuff includes:
  • An extremely accurate sundial drawn on the wall.
  • In one secret compartment:
  • His masterwork (Treatise on the Prospects…)
  • The pens he used to write his work.
  • His penknife. (Yes, penknives were actually once used to sharpen the ends of pens.)
  • His ink.
  • His lamp, which is fueled by the fat from the meat he is given to eat every day.
  • His flint, which he uses to light the lamp.
  • Once Edmond has seen all this, the abbé opens up another secret compartment containing:
  • 25-30 feet of rope ladder, made from bedsheets.
  • A sewing needle.
  • Edmond is amazed by all of this; he becomes aware of the depths of his ignorance.
  • Before he learns anything, however, he wants to tell Faria his life story.
  • He gets right to the point and starts discussing the circumstances of his arrest almost immediately.
  • Faria, like Villefort before him, quickly concludes that there is only one explanation for his imprisonment: someone was jealous of Edmond and sought to ruin him. "If you wish to find the guilty party," he says, "first discover whose interests the crime serves! Whose interests might be served by your disappearance?" (17.57).
  • Edmond can come up with no answers, and so Faria interrogates him. After much questioning, Dantès finally sees the light: Danglars and Fernand were behind it! One wanted his job, the other his lover.
  • Still, Edmond can't understand why the crown prosecutor, who seemed so kind, didn't help him. As it happens, Faria remembers the name Noirtier and, despite knowing little more than Edmond, can make the connection: Noirtier, the former revolutionary, was Villefort's father; Villefort destroyed the letter to protect himself.
  • We already know all this, but it's news to Edmond. He runs back to his cell and laments his terrible fate.
  • After the jailer makes his dinner rounds, Faria comes back and invites Edmond to dinner. Being mad – and entertainingly mad at that – Faria receives some special treatment, including wine for Sunday dinner, so he and Edmond make a good time of their meal.
  • Faria apologizes to Edmond: he realizes that he's probably planted the desire for revenge in his heart. Edmond only smiles ominously in return and asks him to change the subject.
  • And so Faria talks on and on about all sorts of interesting stuff.
  • When Edmond asks him if he could teach him some of what he knows, the abbé tells him he could learn it all in only two years' time.
  • Faria draws up a syllabus that night. Edmond's education begins the next day, and he proves to be a quick study. He no longer talks of escape, and in a year he finds himself greatly changed.
  • The abbé, however, is plagued with bouts of depression.
  • At one point, the abbé admits that he has become obsessed with the thought of escaping. Edmond proposes, again, that they could kill the guard and escape, but he'll have nothing of it.
  • A few months pass.
  • The abbé asks Edmond if he's ready to go forward with the escape plan, provided that they only kill the sentry as a last resort. Edmond says yes.
  • The abbé takes out a detailed drawing of his escape plans; Edmond is overjoyed.
  • They spend more than a year working tirelessly on their plan; in fifteen months it's completed. In that time, Edmond learns to adopt the abbé's aristocratic bearing and manners.
  • One night, he hears the abbé cry out. He finds him standing in the middle of his – Edmond's – cell, pale and scared.
  • Faria tells Edmond that he is about have a seizure, and that, in order to save him, he must run and get a bottle of red liquid from one of the secret compartments. When Edmonds comes back with the bottle, Faria tells him that, once he goes into a fit and then seems to relax, he – Edmond – must pour eight to ten drops in his mouth.
  • Edmond does as he's told, and over an hour later the abbé shows signs of life.
  • Once he recovers, Faria tells Edmond that he must undertake the escape alone, as he will have another, much stronger fit soon, a fit that will almost certainly kill him. He has been told as much by the doctor who originally treated him and concocted the potion.
  • Edmond tells him that he simply will not try to escape without the abbé. As such, Faria tells him he must cover up the passage they've carved as best he can. Edmond sets to work immediately.

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