The Count of Monte Cristo

by: Alexandre Dumas

Chapters 15–20

Summary Chapters 15–20

During his employment as the private secretary to the last living member of the Spada family, Faria stumbled onto the secret message, written in a mysterious ink. Faria explains that Spada left all he had to Faria, so the treasure actually belongs to him. Faria says that the treasure also belongs to Dantès, who has become his spiritual son over the course of the past two years. Faria shows Dantès the piece of paper that reveals the treasure’s location.

Chapter 19: The Death of the Abbé

Faria forces Dantès to commit the directions to the treasure to memory. Several nights later, Faria has another attack and dies.

Chapter 20: The Cemetery of the Château d’If

Dantès is thrown into utter despair as he sits with his friend’s shrouded corpse. Suddenly, however, he hits upon a brilliant escape plan. He cuts open the shroud, removes Faria’s corpse to his own cell, and then sews himself inside the shroud. Later that night, when the guards come to bury the corpse, it is Dantès they remove. Dantès, believing that dead prisoners are buried in a nearby cemetery, plans to dig his way out with a knife. Minutes after he is carried out of the cell, he discovers he is mistaken. The guards tie a cannonball around his legs and cast him into the sea.

Analysis: Chapters 15–20

The title of Chapter 15, “Number 34 and Number 27,” indicates yet another crime of society against the individual. As prisoners, Dantès and Faria are reduced to numbers and are no longer addressed by their names. The disposal of Dantès’s name is the final affront to his rights as an individual; it amounts to a loss of his self. As an individual, Dantès is deemed worthless when Villefort sacrifices him for his own political ambitions; this denial of his worth is made official with the loss of even his own name. Abbé Faria, who is also known merely as a number, saves Dantès’s life and sanity by giving him back his sense of self. Once again treated as a human being and engaged in reciprocal conversation, Dantès rises out of his depression and finds new intellectual pursuits for which to live. Faria is able to counteract the harm that oppressive society has wreaked on Dantès by treating him as a human being.

Abbé Faria represents the eighteenth-century philosopher archetype that was prominent in literature of Dumas’s day and that would have been familiar to Dumas’s contemporary audience. The philosopher is a well-educated, well-read man who believes strongly in the power of human reason and closely studies human nature and human societies. Like the other sympathetic characters of the novel, Faria is a great admirer of Napoleon and a firm believer in the inevitability of national and personal freedom. By thoroughly educating Dantès, Faria gives him the potential to reach the highest aspirations that his individual nature permits. This emphasis on maximizing human potential was an obsession shared by the Revolution-influenced Romantics and the more rational philosophers represented by Faria. The fact that Dumas casts a rational, intellectual man like Faria in one of the most sympathetic roles in the novel demonstrates that Dumas does not rigidly adhere to the scorn of intellectualism that was typical of the Romantic movement.

Faria’s deduction about the truth behind Dantès’s downfall is the first major turning point in Dantès’s development, as it is in this moment that Dantès begins his transformation from a happy, innocent, and loving man into a vengeful and miserable one. That Dantès is unable to fathom his enemies’ treachery himself indicates the extent of his initial innocence. When he enters the prison, he is a person without malice; it never occurs to him that people could act as cruelly and selfishly as his enemies have. When Faria reveals the true cause of Dantès’s imprisonment, Dantès’s blinding naïveté is destroyed. Faria immediately apologizes to Dantès for telling him the truth about his history, knowing that he has infected him with vengeance and thus irrevocably transformed him. Dantès initially does not understand why Faria is apologizing to him, for he is happy to finally have the truth revealed. However, he soon realizes the oppressive weight of his newfound knowledge. Coupled with the knowledge of an enormous treasure that may soon be his own, Dantès, much to his horror, finds himself thinking only of the amount of harm he could wreak with such a fortune instead of the pleasure it could bring him. Now aware of the evil deeds committed against him, he has become overwhelmed with the desire for vengeance and has thus lost his capacity to enjoy life with the innocence of his past.