He was a man of twenty-five or twenty-six years of age, of unprepossessing countenance, obsequious to his superiors, insolent to his inferiors; and then, besides his position as responsible agent on board, which is always obnoxious to the sailors, he was as much disliked by the crew as Edmond Dantès was beloved by them.
The narrator describes Danglars by comparing him to Dantès when they served on the same ship. Danglars treats his superiors one way and those below him in status a very different way. Dantès as first mate assumes command of the ship upon the death of the captain. Danglars must rankle under the turnabout of Dantès—his inferior in age and social status—becoming his superior by being made captain. Danglars wants to prevent Dantès’s promotion at all costs. Danglars’s attitude towards his inferiors probably also explains his unpopularity.
Danglars alone was happy and contented, he had got rid of an enemy and preserved his situation on board the Pharaon; Danglars was one of those men born with a pen behind the ear, and an inkstand in place of a heart. Everything with him was multiplication or subtraction, and he estimated the life of a man as less precious than a figure, when that figure could increase and that life diminish the total of the amount.
The narrator reveals that after Dantès’s imprisonment, the two other men involved feel some pangs of conscience, but Danglars does not. He only worries about his financial gain. He has no conscience and sees Dantès only as a financial liability. Thus, when Dantès seeks revenge against Danglars, he will have to get revenge via the only thing Danglars cares about: his money.
What has become of him? Why, he left Marseilles, and was taken on the recommendation of M. Morrel, who did not know his crime, as cashier in a Spanish bank. During the war with Spain, he was employed in the commissariat of the French army, and made a fortune; then with this money he speculated in stocks and trebled or quadrupled his fortune . . . He is a millionaire, and they have made him a count, and now he is Le Comte Danglars, with . . . ten horses in his stables, six footmen in his antechamber, and I don’t know how many hundreds of thousands in his strong box.
Caderousse explains to the Abbé Busoni, Dantès in disguise, what happened to Danglars since Dantès’s arrest: Danglars has become extremely successful financially, even being rewarded with a title for his financial assistance to the nation. Caderousse asserts that Danglars’s good fortune proves that justice doesn’t exist, because his own honest living has not been rewarded. Busoni assures Caderousse that justice will eventually be served.
Danglars, then, without taking a crown from his pocket, could save Morrel; he had but to pass his word for a loan, and Morrel was saved. Morrel had long thought of Danglars, but there are those instinctive revoltings impossible to control, and Morrel had delayed as long as possible before he had recourse to this last resource. And Morrel was right, for he returned home borne down by all the humiliation of a refusal.
Morrel was Danglars’s early employer and helped him get the job which eventually led to Danglars’s fortune and elevated position. Here, the narrator explains that when Morrel goes to Danglars for a loan, Danglars refuses him. From Danglars’s point of view, only the solidity of the investment matters, and given Morrel’s run of bad luck, Danglars’s refusal seems understandable. However, most other people would have made the loan anyway, out of human kindness.
‘A million! Excuse my smiling when you speak of a sum I am in the habit of carrying in my pocket-book or dressing-case.’ And with those words Monte Cristo took from his pocket a small case containing his visiting-cards, and drew forth two orders on the treasury for 500,000 francs each, payable at sight to the bearer. A man like Danglars was wholly inaccessible to any gentler method of correction. His upstart arrogance and ostentatious vulgarity were only assailable by blows dealt with the force and vigour of the present coup.
The narrator describes the strategy of Dantès as Monte Cristo in his dealings with Danglars as Dantès’s revenge plot unfolds. Danglars received a document from another bank granting Monte Cristo unlimited credit with Danglars’s bank. He questions the validity of the document and by extension the repute of Monte Cristo, even refusing to refer to him as “count.” In response, Monte Cristo pulls a million francs out of his pocket, and Danglars seems both convinced and highly impressed. Since Danglars only cares for money, he now admires and wants to cultivate a relationship with Monte Cristo—just as Monte Cristo intended.
‘Baroness,’ said Danglars, ‘give me leave to present you to the Count of Monte Cristo, who has been most warmly recommended to me by my correspondents at Rome. I need only mention one fact to make all the ladies in Paris court his notice, and that is, that the honourable gentleman before you has come to take up his abode in our fine capital for one year, during which brief period he proposes to spend six million francs,—think of that!’
Danglars introduces Monte Cristo, whom he doesn’t recognize as Dantès. Completely impressed by Monte Cristo’s immense wealth, Danglars wants to show him off—and ingratiate himself with Monte Cristo—by introducing him to his wife, a woman of “ancient family.” But Danglars’s blatant mention of Monte Cristo’s money represents a glaring faux pas that reveals his own coarseness, which his wife would abhor. Danglars never learned the manners of the upper classes, despite now being a baron.
I see, and always have seen, for the last sixteen years; you may, perhaps, have hidden a thought, but not a step, not an action, not a fault, has escaped me, while you flattered yourself upon your cleverness, and firmly believed you had deceived me. What has been the result? — that, thanks to my supposed ignorance, there are none of your friends, from M. de Villefort to M. Debray, who have not trembled before me. There is not one who has not treated me as the master of the house, the only title I desire with respect to you[.]
Danglars explains to his wife that he has always known about her affairs and exploited the knowledge to his advantage. But now Danglars asks her to get her lover, Debray, to pay back money Danglars has lost due to inaccurate inside information Debray provided. If Danglars has to deal with Debray directly, he admits knowledge of the affair and loses face. The primacy of money prompts this change to the marriage’s status quo.
Then, enclosing Monte Cristo’s receipt in a little pocket-book, he added: ‘Yes, come at twelve o’clock; I shall then be far away.’ Then he double-locked his door, emptied all his drawers, collected about fifty thousand francs in bank notes, burned several documents, left others exposed to view, and then commenced writing a letter . . . Then taking a passport from his drawer, he said: ‘Good! it is valid for another two months.’
Danglars owes the hospitals five million francs. Rather than admit that he no longer has that money, Danglars plans to flee France. He can exchange a receipt from the creditworthy Monte Cristo for five million francs in Rome. He does not intend to pay that money back to the hospitals, but instead, settle down with this fortune in Vienna.