The Count of Monte Cristo

by: Alexandre Dumas

Chapters 85–88

Analysis: Chapters 85–88

Albert’s reaction to the revelation of his father’s shameful past consists entirely of undirected rage and an overwhelming desire for violence. He makes it clear that he wants to kill someone and that he does not particularly care whom he kills. Initially, Albert is even willing to kill his best friend, Beauchamp, for the simple reason that Beauchamp is associated with the newspaper in which the defaming article first appears. Afraid that Danglars will refuse to fight, Albert challenges Andrea Cavalcanti to a duel, even though he knows full well that Andrea has nothing to do with Morcerf’s exposure. Finally, when confronted with the fact that Monte Cristo is his true enemy, Albert remarks, “I only fear one thing, namely to find a man who will not fight.” Albert’s reaction, though hotheaded and irrational, fits well with the rugged individualism heralded in the novel. Albert desires to act because he does not want to be a pawn of fate or of any other powerful, unfriendly forces. His overwhelming desire is not so much to kill but rather to avoid passivity: he will act simply for the sake of acting, even if there is no rational reason to do so. In this strong drive to assert himself against the forces of fate that are attempting to oppress him, Albert resembles Monte Cristo.

It is unclear, however, to what extent Monte Cristo truly holds Albert accountable for the sins of his father. Initially, Monte Cristo shows a markedly strong aversion to Albert, recoiling when he first shakes his hand in Italy and clearly hating him for being Fernand’s son. Franz d’Epinay notices this aversion and warns Albert to keep his distance from the mysterious Monte Cristo. Yet, as the story progresses, we see Monte Cristo reluctantly growing fond of Albert and struggling with his positive feelings for him. When Albert reveals his strong devotion to Mercédès in Chapter 55 , for instance, declaring that he could never hurt his mother by marrying Eugénie, Monte Cristo seems irritated by the presence of such a noble sentiment in Albert. Monte Cristo is forced to acknowledge that Albert is a good man and should not be viewed merely through the lens of his father’s sins.

When Fernand’s downfall seems imminent, Monte Cristo even begins to feel pangs of pity for Albert. With Danglars’s revelation to Monte Cristo that he has succeeded in obtaining the information from Yanina, for instance, Monte Cristo finds it impossible to look at Albert, and he turns away “to conceal the expression of pity which passed over his features.” The fact that Monte Cristo whisks Albert off to Normandy just when the story about his father is about to break can itself be interpreted as an act of pity, as Monte Cristo may be trying to spare Albert the pain of witnessing his father’s humiliation firsthand. Then again, we might just as easily see the trip to Normandy as an attempt to deprive Fernand of his son’s support just when he needs it most. In the next chapter, Monte Cristo’s attitude toward the duel only casts his feelings for Albert into further doubt.