Chapter 54: Robert Le Diable

Monte Cristo and Haydée cause quite a stir when they appear in their box at the opera. Monte Cristo visits Madame Danglars’s box, in which Eugénie, Albert, and Fernand are all sitting. While Monte Cristo leans over the balcony with Fernand, Haydée catches sight of the box and nearly faints. Monte Cristo takes leave of the Danglars and Morcerf families and returns to Haydée, who is beside herself with emotion. She tells Monte Cristo that Morcerf is the man who betrayed her father, Ali Pacha, to the Turks and then sold her into slavery.

Chapter 55: A Talk about Stocks

Albert de Morcerf and Lucien Debray visit Monte Cristo. They discuss Albert’s engagement to Eugénie Danglars. Albert is reluctant to marry Eugénie, despite her extreme beauty and wealth, as she seems “too erudite and masculine.” In addition, Mercédès is very upset at the prospect of having Eugénie as a daughter-in-law, and Albert cannot imagine doing anything to cause his mother pain.

Debray then reveals that Madame Danglars, his lover, gambles large sums of her husband’s money in stocks. Albert jokingly suggests teaching Madame Danglars a lesson by manipulating her stocks with a false news report. Monte Cristo notices that Debray appears unsettled by this line of conversation. It is clear that Debray does, in fact, regularly abuse his government position by giving privileged information to Madame Danglars.

Chapter 56: Major Cavalcanti

Monte Cristo plans to meet with two men and instructs them to play the roles he has outlined for them in return for significant monetary compensation. The older man must pretend to be Marquis Bartolomeo Cavalcanti, a retired Italian major and nobleman who has been searching in vain for his kidnapped son for fifteen years.

Chapter 57: Andrea Cavalcanti

Monte Cristo continues that the younger man must play the part of Bartolomeo Cavalcanti’s son, Andrea Cavalcanti, reunited with his father by Monte Cristo. After giving the two men false identity documents, new wardrobes, and other necessities for their disguise, Monte Cristo invites them to a dinner party he is throwing the following Saturday.

Chapter 58: At the Gate

Maximilian and Valentine meet again in the garden of the Villefort home. Maximilian reveals that Franz is returning to Paris soon, and Valentine swears that she is unable to oppose her father’s will that she marry Franz. Valentine mentions that her stepmother wants her to remain unmarried and join a convent so that all of her inheritance will go to Edward, who will otherwise receive almost no inheritance at all. In the course of the conversation, it becomes clear that Eugénie is just as reluctant to marry Albert de Morcerf as he is to marry her. Eugénie has confided in Valentine that she never wants to marry but wants instead to lead a free and independent life as an artist.

Chapter 59: M. Noirtier de Villefort

While Maximilian and Valentine hold their secret tryst, Villefort and his wife visit the room in their house in which Noirtier lives with his devoted servant, Barrois. Noirtier’s stroke has left him with only the powers of sight and hearing, so he is unable to communicate with anyone but Villefort, Barrois, and Valentine. Valentine is Noirtier’s sole happiness in life; because of her love and devotion, she is able to read all of her grandfather’s thoughts and desires in his eyes. Villefort and his wife break the news of Valentine’s engagement, and Noirtier is silently enraged, since Franz’s father was his greatest political enemy. Valentine is sent to comfort her grandfather, and she confides in him that she does not want to marry Franz. Noirtier vows that he will help Valentine escape her unwanted engagement.

Chapter 60: The Will

Noirtier summons a notary and rewrites his will. He provides that if Valentine marries Franz, all of his inheritance will go to the poor rather than to Valentine. Villefort is unmoved by his father’s threat and refuses to call off Valentine’s engagement.

Chapter 61: The Telegraph

Downstairs, the Villeforts find Monte Cristo waiting for them. Monte Cristo invites them to his upcoming dinner party and tells them that he would like to visit a telegraph office. They suggest that he visit the Spanish line, which is the busiest.

Chapter 62: The Bribe

Monte Cristo visits a remote telegraph post, where he bribes the operator to pass along a false report. The next day, Debray hurries to the Danglars household and tells Madame Danglars that her husband must sell all of his Spanish bonds. Debray has just learned—in advance because of his government position—of a telegraph that came in announcing that a revolution is about to break out in Spain.

Madame Danglars follows Debray’s advice. That evening’s newspaper confirms the news about Spain, and Danglars saves a fortune as Spanish bonds plummet. However, the following day the newspaper states that the previous report of impending unrest was mistaken, stemming from an improperly intercepted telegraph communication. Danglars ends up losing one million francs.

Analysis: Chapters 54–62

The scene at the opera in Chapter 64 provides a sharp juxtaposition of two opposing elements of The Count of Monte Cristo. On one hand, the story is a fantastical melodrama, with a vampirelike count, a beautiful Greek princess, horrible betrayals, and breathtaking acts of revenge. On the other hand, it is a highly realistic novel, depicting the customs, hypocrisies, and everyday lives of French nobility. Dumas himself saw his novel as essentially a tale of contemporary manners, taking great care to provide the characters with real addresses, real restaurants, and stores to frequent, along with behavior authentic to their social status. Even the opera Monte Cristo attends is carefully chosen: Robert Le Diable, an 1831 work by Jacques Meyerbeer, is a performance that the upper crust of Dumas’s time would certainly have turned out to see. Dumas even goes so far in his realism as to engage in some mild social satire. He mocks contemporary notions of propriety, for instance, by noting that while it would have been considered a scandal if Madame Danglars and her daughter had attended the opera alone, it is considered perfectly appropriate for them to be accompanied by Madame Danglars’s lover, Debray. Dumas’s impressive realism gives his novel a depth that a mere melodrama would not possess.

Dumas portrays Noirtier as one of the sympathetic characters of the novel, which is strange in light of Dumas’s concern for individual liberties. In his days as a revolutionary, Noirtier committed the high sin of sacrificing individual lives to big ideas. In Villefort’s words, he was a man “for whom France was a vast chessboard, from which pawns, rooks, knights, and queens, were to disappear, so that the king was checkmated.” In other words, Noirtier treated people as means toward that which he considered an important end. Perhaps Dumas pardons Noirtier because he violated individual rights only with the eventual aim of securing such rights. As a revolutionary leader, Noirtier fought for the common people and for liberal, democratic ideals. In addition, because he is poised perfectly to do harm to Villefort, one of the novel’s least sympathetic characters, Noirtier must, by default, have a redeeming character.

The telegraph episode of Chapters 61 and 62 is one of the only events in the long and drawn-out destruction of Danglars that Dumas actually portrays. Unlike the downfalls of Fernand and Villefort, which occur in brilliant bursts of spectacle, Danglars’s downfall is slow and dull. Since Danglars cares about nothing but his wealth, it is his wealth that Monte Cristo attacks, causing repeated losses that destroy Danglars’s credit. For the most part, Dumas gives us the behind-the-scenes story of Danglars’s destruction in small hints. Various long-standing clients of Danglars suddenly borrow large amounts of money and then go bankrupt, unable to honor their debts to him. These long-standing clients, we are to understand, are all Monte Cristo borrowing under assumed names.


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