The Count of Monte Cristo Study Guide

The Count of Monte Cristo By Alexandre Dumas

Edmond Dantès is about to marry his fiancée Mercédès, but before he arrives home to do so, a man named Leclère delivers his dying wish to Dantès: he is to deliver two objects. One is a package headed to Maréchal Bertrand, an exile on Elba Island alongside Napoleon. The other is a letter from Elba to an unknown man in Paris. After the deliveries are made but before he can marry, a letter turns up accusing Dantès of being a Bonapartist traitor. Gérard de Villefort, the deputy crown prosecutor of Marseille, whose father was the recipient of the second delivery, decides to protect his father by condemning Dantès to life in prison with no trial.

After fourteen years in prison, Edmond meets Abbé Faria, a priest and fellow prisoner trying to tunnel to freedom. Faria educates Dantès on almost every subject imaginable, including polite society, languages, and history as they dig together. Eventually, Faria, realizing he is going to die before he escapes, tells Dantès of a massive treasure hoard on the Italian island of Monte Cristo. Faria dies a year later, but Dantès is able to escape and is rescued by a smuggler whom he tricks into leaving him on Monte Cristo temporarily and then returning for him. He takes a bit of the treasure with him, buys a yacht, and comes back for the rest. He then buys the island of Monte Cristo and the title of Count from the Italian government. Dantès goes to Marseille to get vengeance, but not before going to his old employer, paying off all of his debts and helping him get on top of his business.

Nine years later, Dantès has become the mysterious and incredibly rich Count of Monte Cristo, and is debuting himself in public for the first time. He acquaints himself with his former fiancée Mercédès and her new family, the Morcefs. Everyone finds him charming and, if for no other reason because of his status, they desire his friendship.

He wreaks vengeance one of the men who wrote the letter from Elba, Danglars, a wealthy banker whom he destroys the reputation of by manipulating the bond market. He then learns that Villefort had an affair with Danglars' wife, and threatens Villefort with the knowledge. He then rescues Haydée, a princess from a distant land who was sold into slavery by the other author of that letter, Fernand (who also happens to be Mercédès' cousin). Haydée testifies against Fernand, and disgraces him.

Monte Cristo finally meets Mercédès, who has married her cousin Fernand. She recognizes him as Edmond Dantès. When Fernand's son (by her) confronts Dantès and challenges him to a duel, Mercédès begs him to spare his life. In response, he tells her the entire story of his arrest and imprisonment, and she tells Albert. Mother and son then disown Fernand, who commits suicide.

Valentine, Villefort's daughter by his first wife, stands to inherit a massive fortune, but his current wife, Héloïse, wants the money for her son, édouard. Monte Cristo shows Héloïse how to use poison, and she does so to maximize the fortune of her son, first killing elders to ensure that Valentine's inheritance is as large as can be, then planning to poison Valentine to ensure that the money goes to édouard. Monte Cristo intervenes, preventing Valentine from dying but making it appear as though she has died. Villefort learns of his wife's actions and asks her to kill herself with her own poison. When Monte Cristo reveals that the affair Villefort had with Danglars' wife produced a son, and that son is grown and alive, Villefort admits his guilt in front of the court. He then rushes home to keep his wife from killing herself, but is too late: she has killed édouard as well. Dantès reveals his indentity to Villefort, driving him insane.

Moving back to Danglars, Monte Cristo calls upon a contract previously written to demand all of his remaining wealth. Danglars embezzles the necessary money and more from local hospitals, but tries to escape to Italy without paying the Count. The Count's agents catch him, and imprison him as Dantés was once imprisoned, forcing him to pay obscene amounts for his food. Danglars eventually gives Monte Cristo the money (which is promptly returned to the hospitals), and repents for his crimes. Dantès accepts his repentance, forgives him, and leaves him be.

One last task demands his attention: the son of his former employer, Maximelien, was in love with Valentine, and still believes her to be dead. Dantès takes him to the island of Monte Cristo, reveals Valentine, and explains the entire story to both. In the meantime, Haydée has declared her love for Dantès, and with everything neatly completed, he leaves for an unknown distant place with her to live in comfort and hopefully, finally, love.

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