The Count of Monte Cristo

by: Alexandre Dumas

Chapters 114–117

Summary Chapters 114–117

Valentine then comes running out. Monte Cristo tells her that she must never leave Maximilian’s side, since he has been willing to die in order to be reunited with her. In return for bringing the two of them together, Monte Cristo asks Valentine to look after Haydée, as she will now be alone in the world. Haydée then appears and asks what Monte Cristo means. He explains that he is going to restore her to her position as a princess, and orders her to forget him and be happy. Haydée says that she would die if she had to leave him. Monte Cristo embraces her ecstatically, finally allowing himself to believe that he can be happy in love. He says he had intended to do penance by denying himself Haydée’s company, but claims that this gift must be a sign that God has forgiven him. Monte Cristo and Haydée withdraw. Maximilian wakes up and finds Valentine waiting for him.

The next morning, Maximilian finds a letter left by Monte Cristo, who has already departed with Haydée. The letter instructs Maximilian and Valentine to sail to Leghorn, where Noirtier is waiting to lead Valentine to the altar. Monte Cristo has given the young couple all of his property in France, as well as his holdings on Monte Cristo, as a wedding present. Finally, the letter explains why Monte Cristo treated Maximilian as he did. There is no such thing as happiness or unhappiness in the world, he explains, but only the comparison of one state with another. Therefore, in order to know how good life truly is, one must, like Maximilian, have once wished for death. Monte Cristo’s final words are that all human wisdom is contained in two words: wait and hope.

[A]ll human wisdom is contained in these two words,—“Wait and hope.”

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Analysis: Chapters 114–117

Monte Cristo’s timely pardon of Danglars, just before he starves to death, can be seen as an indication that Monte Cristo has finally recognized his limits as an agent of Providence. Realizing that he is not a substitute for God on earth, Monte Cristo appears to have decided that it is not his right to take away another man’s life or sanity, neither of which can ever be regained. Though Danglars is left impoverished, he still has his life and his sanity, unlike Fernand and Villefort. This punishment is the least severe of the three, as it is possible to enjoy life without wealth and also possible to gain one’s wealth back. In addition, by allowing Danglars to remain alive and sane, Monte Cristo is giving his enemy the chance to repent and be forgiven by God, an opportunity he does not give Villefort or Fernand. However, it could be argued that Monte Cristo has been planning to spare Danglars’s life all along: although Danglars’s punishment is less severe than those of Fernand and Villefort, it nonetheless perfectly fits his sins of greed.

Regardless of whether each punishment is precisely what Monte Cristo has intended, each is a perfect match for the nature of the crime it is intended to punish. Danglars betrays Dantès out of pure greed, motivated by his desire for the lucrative position as captain of the Pharaon. In the years succeeding Dantès’s imprisonment, Danglars continues to live a life guided by such avarice. Money is the sole object of his desire and the cause of all his misdeeds, and so it is money of which he is ultimately deprived. Villefort, on the other hand, sentences Dantès to a life in prison because of his raw ambition and his mercilessness, so Monte Cristo leaves him without the coldly rational mind that earlier allows him to impose the law so brutally. Fernand, conversely, wants to ruin Dantès in order to win Mercédès for himself, and he is punished with the loss of the love and respect of his family, without which Fernand sees no reason to live and thus kills himself. Whether intended or coincidental, the perfect fit between crime and punishment in each case emphasizes how close Dantès comes to approximating Providence.

Dantès has barely seemed human ever since his discovery of the treasure on Monte Cristo and his embarkation on his voyage of revenge. He has taken no joy in life, and his emotions have been limited to gratitude and vengeful hatred. With Haydée’s unexpected avowal of her love, however, Monte Cristo suddenly sees his chance to reenter the human world. Overcome with emotion, he tells Haydée, “through you I again connect myself with life, through you I shall suffer, through you rejoice.” We see clearly that Monte Cristo’s ability to reconnect with life requires that he feel love once again. With his father and Abbé Faria dead and Mercédès married to another man, Monte Cristo has lived without love for years. He has felt affection for Morrel, Maximilian, and Julie, but these feelings are more fondness and respect than any deep, meaningful connection. Without love, and thus without an intimate connection to any human being, Monte Cristo has been disconnected from humanity. Now, with his love for Haydée requited, he can regain his full humanity and learn to “suffer” and “rejoice” again.

We may interpret Monte Cristo’s final words about waiting and hoping as his final renunciation of his revenge project, an acknowledgment that only God can act with the authority of Providence, leaving human beings to wait and hope that God ultimately punishes the evil and rewards the good. These words, however, do not indicate that Monte Cristo is abandoning his strong belief in the right to try to shape one’s own destiny, but merely that he is giving up the belief that one has the right to step in for God and irrevocably shape the destiny of others.