The Count of Monte Cristo

by: Alexandre Dumas

Chapters 6–14

Summary Chapters 6–14

Dantès’s lack of intellectual opinions follows a model of the Romantic ideal. Indeed, Dantès is a living embodiment of the Romantic idea of the cult of feelings. Romanticism, a cultural movement in nineteenth-century Europe, viewed emotion as superior to intellect and admired the human who feels over the human who calculates. Dantès simply loves and admires; he does not analyze or judge. Interestingly, when he emerges later as the Count of Monte Cristo, he is guided only by ideas. He is specifically motivated by one idea—revenge; consequently, he becomes incapable of feeling normal human sentiments. Given Dumas’s affiliation with the Romantic movement, it is not surprising to find that the Dantès of the early chapters, a man of unimpeachable character, is portrayed as a person dominated by emotion. For the same reason, it makes sense that when Dantès later falls into error and sin, becoming a strange mixture of hero and antihero, it is his intellect that takes over as a dominating yet dangerous force. This dichotomy between emotion and intellect allows Dumas to show his belief in the supremacy of the Romantic individual over the rational human being.

By giving Chapter 12 the same subtitle as Chapter 2—“Father and Son”—Dumas invites us to compare the two father-son pairs portrayed in these chapters. In Chapter 2 the father and son are Louis and Edmond Dantès, a pair bound by absolute love and devotion. In Chapter 12, however, the father-son pair of Noirtier and Villefort is bound by little more than mutual distrust. When Dantès hears of his newfound good fortune, his first thought is of how he might improve life for his father; he fantasizes about all the nice things his newfound affluence will enable him to provide for the old man. Villefort, in contrast, is prepared to sacrifice his father in order to increase his own fortune. Though Villefort warns his father that the authorities are searching for a man of his description, this act is motivated not by loyalty but by self-interest: Villefort knows that his own career will be ruined if his father is charged with murder. Later, Villefort attempts to break all ties with Noirtier, even going so far as to renounce his family name. When his future in-laws ask him to state his allegiances, Villefort has no qualms about harshly denouncing his father. Here, filial loyalty serves to underscore the vast difference in character between Dantès and Villefort. Dantès’s devotion to his father reveals his kindness and basic goodness, while Villefort’s neglect and betrayal of his father expose him as a heartless conniver, looking out only for himself.