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The Count of Monte Cristo

Alexandre Dumas

Study Questions & Essay Topics

Key Facts

Quiz

Study Questions

1.

Dumas often writes of Edmond Dantès’s time in prison as if it were a death. What do you think is the significance of this choice of language?

Though Dantès does not physically die in prison, he does lose nearly all of his previous character traits. He enters prison innocent, honest, kind, and loving, but leaves it bitter, vengeful, and full of hate. What really seems to die within Dantès is his basic humanity. He is left without compassion and without the capacity to experience normal human emotions, such as sadness, joy, and remorse. It is not Dantès’s experience of prison itself that causes this transformation but rather his knowledge that he is suffering this miserable fate because of evil done to him by other human beings. Dantès’s desire for vengeance acts as a poison, killing the pleasant side of him and leaving only spite.

2.

Describe how The Count of Monte Cristo reflects the nineteenth-century Romantics’ obsession with the exotic.

Dumas was well known as a travel writer long before he began writing fiction, and we can see this talent for painting exciting portraits of exotic locales in The Count of Monte Cristo. The novel begins in Marseilles, a provincial town in the south of France, a place in itself somewhat exotic to most of Dumas’s readers. The story then moves to Italy, a favorite exotic spot for French writers to depict. Dumas’s portrait of Italy expertly combines the shocking and foreign—the bandits, the execution, and the carnival—with expected stereotypes such as the hotel owner. Though the bulk of the rest of the novel takes place in Paris, there are fantastical interludes set in both Greece and Constantinople.

It is not only the novel’s locales but also the people represented that make The Count of Monte Cristo so satisfyingly exotic. Haydée, with all her foreign beauty and mystery, is a model of the Oriental ideal the Romantics upheld. Likewise, Monte Cristo’s own associations with the East augment his mystique. On several occasions he professes to consider himself more Eastern than Western, and many of his intriguing customs, such as his refusal to eat or drink in the home of an enemy, are Eastern in origin. Even Fernand and Mercédès can be considered exotic because, as Catalans, they are actually of Spanish rather French descent.

3.

Monte Cristo’s last words to Maximilian are “Wait and hope.” What is the significance of this statement? How does it connect to the larger narrative of the novel?

From the time that Edward de Villefort dies, Monte Cristo grapples with doubt about the justice of his mission. The death of an innocent boy is clearly not a just outcome; it casts a shadow on Monte Cristo’s entire project. Monte Cristo’s parting statement to Maximilian, then, can be seen as a final renunciation of his project, an acknowledgment that God is the only one who can act as Providence and decide people’s fates. Rather than try to carry out justice themselves, human beings should simply “[w]ait and hope” that God really does ultimately reward the evil and punish the good. Monte Cristo is not abandoning his strong belief in a person’s right to try to shape his or her own destiny, but he is giving up the belief that a person has a right to step in for God and shape the destiny of others.

Suggested Essay Topics

1. In what sense is Abbé Faria Dantès’s second father? Do you think that by calling him a “second father” Dumas is referring to the poisonous knowledge that Faria gives Dantès in deducing the events behind his imprisonment?

2. How do Julie Morrel and Emmanuel Herbaut redeem humanity in Monte Cristo’s eyes?

3. Compare Valentine de Villefort and Eugénie Danglars. In what ways do these characters act as foils for one another?

4. Edmond Dantès assumes a number of aliases during the course of the novel, and many other characters have a variety of different names as well. What do you consider to be the significance of names in The Count of Monte Cristo? What do you think is the significance of each of Edmond Dantès’s assumed names?

5. Compare Madame Danglars and Mercédès. In what ways do these characters act as foils for each other?

6. What is the effect of Haydée’s love for Monte Cristo?

More Help

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Sultan of Monte Cristo-The Sequel

by keitht7, July 15, 2012

The Sultan of Monte Cristo is a return to the great classic writing of

the late 19th century.Written as a sequel to the long time loved and

treasured adventure novel The Count of Monte Cristo,Sultan of

Monte Cristo pays great tribute to the original by remaining full of

intrigue and adding more seductive romance with the harem of the

Sultan.
The many exploites of the Sultan leaves you wondering how could

this astonishing work of literary art be so captivating while keeping

to the ... Read more

0 Comments

21 out of 71 people found this helpful

WARNING!!!!!

by KingSize4, May 02, 2013

This for the full version if your not reading the full version this will get you even more confused than the book does. The Count of Monte Christo is a good book but not when your confused about the Plot i'm in the middle of reading it and think the spark notes really help.

0 Comments

5 out of 8 people found this helpful

Not done yet- Many Characters

by thereader77, October 16, 2013

Keep track of the many characters in this novel - the notes so far are far off from the chapter notes. Chapters listed here are incorrect. wait for further notes.

See all 4 readers' notes   →

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