Chapter 31: Italy: Sinbad the Sailor

Ten years after the events in Marseilles, an aristocratic young Parisian named Baron Franz d’Epinay makes a stop on the island of Monte Cristo to hunt wild goats, at the suggestion of his Italian guides. Franz finds a band of men on the island whom he takes to be a group of smugglers. He later learns that they are the crew of a yacht belonging to a fabulously wealthy man who is rumored to travel constantly. The man goes by the name Sinbad the Sailor.

Franz is brought to meet Sinbad at his fabulous palace, which is hidden inside the rocks. He is stunned by the Oriental luxury of the man, his abode, and the food he offers. Sinbad—who is, of course, Dantès—tells Franz that he travels all over the world performing eccentric acts of philanthropy, such as saving bandits from punishment. Sinbad explains, for instance, how he met his mute Nubian slave, Ali. Found wandering too near the king’s harem in Tunis, Ali was sentenced to have his tongue and hand cut off, followed by his head. Hearing of this decree and wanting a mute slave, Sinbad waited until Ali’s tongue was cut out, then bought his freedom. Sinbad then rhapsodizes on the wonders of hallucinogenic drugs, in which he and Franz subsequently both indulge. Franz experiences a vivid drug-induced fantasy.

Chapter 32: The Awakening

The next morning, Franz tries for hours to find the opening to Sinbad’s hidden grotto, but is unsuccessful. After giving up the search, he travels to Rome to meet Viscount Albert de Morcerf, the son of Fernand Mondego, who is now known as the Count de Morcerf. The two friends are planning to stay in the city for the duration of the citywide carnival that precedes Lent. Arriving late and unprepared, they find themselves unable to rent a coach, which is necessary for enjoying the carnival.

Chapter 33: Roman Bandits

The hotel owner warns Franz and Albert of the danger of bandits, especially the notorious Luigi Vampa. Finding his guests somewhat skeptical that such a threat really exists, he launches into the story of Vampa’s rise to fame. Vampa was a young shepherd with a quick mind and a love for learning, sculpting, shooting, and a beautiful young shepherdess named Teresa. One day, the famous bandit leader Cucumetto stumbled upon Vampa and Teresa while fleeing the authorities. The couple hid Cucumetto, even though a large reward had been offered for his capture.

Chapter 34: Vampa

The hotel owner continues Vampa’s story: at a splendid party, the frivolous Teresa danced with a nobleman and lusted after the ornate costume of the aristocratic hostess. Vampa, overcome with envy and the desire to keep Teresa for himself, promised that he would get the costume for her. That night he set the host’s house on fire, seizing the costume in the ensuing panic. The following day, as Teresa changed into her costume, Vampa gave directions to a lost traveler named Sinbad the Sailor, who in return gave Vampa two small jewels. When Vampa came back from directing Sinbad the Sailor, he saw that Teresa was being kidnapped. He killed the assailant, realizing only afterward that it was Cucumetto. Vampa dressed himself in Cucumetto’s clothes, approached the remaining bandits, and demanded to be made their new leader.

Analysis: Chapters 31–34

In the ten years that intervene between the events in Marseilles and the meeting between Franz and Dantès, Dantès’s rebirth as the mysterious Count of Monte Cristo is complete. We have as little knowledge of the events of this intervening decade as any character in the story, and these lost years provide Monte Cristo with the requisite air of mystery. We are given only tantalizing hints of his life during this period, but enough to know that he has seen and experienced almost everything the world has to offer. Dantès emerges from these ten mysterious years as an almost supernatural being: he comes across as omniscient and omnipotent, possesses seemingly all possible human knowledge and superhuman physical strength, and maintains a level of cunning that gives him a nearly magical aura. Even Dantès’s appearance is supernatural, sometimes compared to that of a corpse and other times to that of a vampire. His flesh too is described as oddly inhuman, causing Franz to shudder when he touches it. The transformation that begins in prison has now been carried so far that the Monte Cristo we find in Chapter 31 (though he calls himself Sinbad) bears virtually no resemblance to the Dantès we leave in Chapter 30.

Monte Cristo is an odd juxtaposition of intriguing characteristics. He lives a lifestyle that seems to be aimed at maximizing pleasure: he surrounds himself with excellent food, beautiful women, drugs, and every imaginable physical luxury. Yet Monte Cristo does not actually appear to enjoy the pleasures that surround him. He barely eats any of the food he has prepared and hints that he does not touch the lovely women in his service. All of his thoughts, instead, are occupied by pain, death, and revenge. Hallucinogenic drugs are the only luxury in which he indulges, since they allow him to escape his all-encompassing obsession for short periods of time. Part of the reason Monte Cristo surrounds himself with luxury is simply to impress other people. Indeed, all who meet him are dazzled by his ability to insinuate himself into any situation and carry out his plan of vengeance. Dumas may also have intended his depiction of Monte Cristo’s sumptuous lifestyle merely as a treat for his nineteenth-century audience, which had a taste for books about the exotic.

Monte Cristo’s fascination with and idealization of hallucinogenic drugs is typical of the Romantic mind-set. The Romantic interest in drugs is connected to the idea of the cult of feelings, the notion that feeling provides a superior means of accessing the world than intellect does. Since hallucinogenic drugs provide experiences that would not otherwise be possible—strange visions, new sensations, and novel experiences of the familiar—Romantic writers believed that these drugs could deepen their understanding of the world and could perhaps even improve their emotional and sentient lives.

The Romantic interest in drugs was also connected to the Romantic obsession with moving beyond human limits, an obsession the Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley described as “the desire of the moth for a star.” Dumas emphasizes this connection between drugs and human transcendence when he has Dantès declare that drugs cause “the boundaries of possibility [to] disappear.” The boundaries of which Dantès speaks refer to the human limitations that the Romantic writers strove to exceed—or, at least, that they had their characters strive to exceed. According to Dantès, drugs allow one to move beyond human limits by providing a form of experience in which these limits do not exist. Dantès’s eloquent speech in honor of hallucinogenic drugs and the drug-induced reverie that follows reveals Dumas’s accepting attitude toward this typical Romantic fascination.

Read more about how the novel reflects 19th-century Romantics’ obsession with the exotic.