“I . . . have been taken by Satan into the highest mountain in the earth, and when there he . . . said he to me, ‘Child of earth, what wouldst thou have to make thee adore me?’ . . . I replied, ‘Listen . . . I wish to be Providence myself, for I feel that the most beautiful, noblest, most sublime thing in the world, is to recompense and punish.’”
Monte Cristo makes this surprisingly frank admission to Villefort in Chapter 49, during their initial reunion. Monte Cristo’s obsession with reward and punishment, which he here confesses, is the driving force of the last two-thirds of the novel, and this statement provides excellent insight into Monte Cristo’s own concept of his mission. What is particularly striking about this passage is its demonstration that Monte Cristo associates his mission of vengeance not only with God but also with the devil. His characterization of his mission as both godlike and satanic is likely an attempt to frighten and unnerve Villefort. Yet this characterization foreshadows Monte Cristo’s later realization that there is in fact something slightly evil to his mission as well as something holy. Ultimately, Monte Cristo acknowledges that only God has the right to act in the name of Providence, and that, like the devil, he himself has overstepped his bounds by trying to act in God’s domain.