The Count of Monte Cristo (novel)

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The Count of Monte Cristo
Original Title: Le Comte de Monte-Cristo
Written by: Alexandre Dumas
Central Theme: Revenge
Synopsis: A falsely-imprisoned man escapes to wreak his revenge on those who wronged him.
Genre(s): Historical fiction
First published: 1844
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A serialized adventure novel by Alexandre Dumas Sr., published in the Journal des débats from August 1844 to January 1846, based loosely on an allegedly true story which Dumas discovered in a collection of police reports.

Edmond Dantes is a naive, entirely benign young sailor who has just been made captain of his ship, and is newly engaged to the beautiful Mercedes. Just as his life seems like it couldn't get any better, he is framed as a Napoleonic spy by four men, each with his own sinister aims, and sent to life imprisonment in the Chateau d'If.

During his years in prison, Edmond meets Abbe Faria, a fellow prisoner who becomes his close friend. Faria educates him in a variety of subjects, helps piece together the truth about his imprisonment, and before dying, tells of a treasure of unthinkable magnitude buried on the island of Monte Cristo. Edmond manages to escape, and finds the treasure.

He returns to France as the mysterious, brooding, immensely wealthy and highly cultivated Count of Monte Cristo. He discovers that the men who sent him to his fate have all become very rich and powerful, and sets about using their own evil pasts and tainted passions to enact an elaborate and cruel revenge on all of them.

Often regarded as the greatest revenge story of all time, this novel remains a popular classic. Numerous films and television series have been based on it, including the Anime Gankutsuou (in space!) and an episode of The Famous Adventures of Mr. Magoo. It also inspired Alfred Bester's classic SF novel The Stars My Destination (also in space!) and Stephen Fry's The Stars' Tennis Balls (aka Revenge: A Novel) which has a lot of fun with Significant Anagrams.

The novel is in the public domain in the United States and is available online for free at Project Gutenberg, Google, Amazon, and so on.

Adaptations with their own trope pages include:
Tropes used in The Count of Monte Cristo (novel) include:
  • Acquired Poison Immunity: Monsieur Noirtier survives a murder attempt using poison because he has been taking a medicine that contains the same compound, and has built up a resistance to it. Realizing that his granddaughter and heir Valentine is also a target, he starts giving her small doses of his medicine; this saves her life when the poisoner has a go at her.
  • Affably Evil: Luigi Vampa, who is perfectly polite to his prisoners in the one hour they have for their ransoms to arrive. The Count also cultivates this image toward Albert and Franz. Bendetto is remarkably likable and charming for someone who has committed nearly every crime on the books before the age of 30.
  • The Alcatraz: Chateau d'If.
  • And I Must Scream: Between Dantes's arrest and his return as the Count, Noirtier suffers a stroke that renders him incapable of moving anything other than his eyelids. He and his granddaughter-caretaker do manage to develop a suitable means of communication.
  • Arbitrarily-Large Bank Account: Dantes has unlimited credit with Danglars' bank, and keeps withdrawing enormous amounts of money at the worst possible times (for Danglars)
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: Three of the four individuals responsible for Edmond's imprisonment become members of the nobility, and the most noble characters in the book, the Morrel family, are the only ones without some title. And of course, while Edmond Dantes was a nice happy-go-lucky guy, the Count of Monte Cristo is a sinister and vengeful man.
  • Arranged Marriage: Eugenie Danglars with Albert de Morcerf (later, with Andrea Cavalcante), and Valentine de Villefort with Franz d'Epinay.
  • At the Opera Tonight: Several key scenes take place in opera houses, including Albert's first encounter with the Count.
  • Badass Boast: The Count, after being challenged to a duel: "In France people fight with the sword or pistol, in the colonies with the carbine, in Arabia with the dagger. Tell your client that, although I am the insulted party, in order to carry out my eccentricity, I leave him the choice of arms, and will accept without discussion, without dispute, anything, even combat by drawing lots, which is always stupid, but with me different from other people, as I am sure to gain."
  • Badass Grandpa: Nortier, who is completely paralyzed from the eyes down, yet still manages to protect his granddaughter from unwanted fiancées and assassination attempts.
  • Best Served Cold: Fourteen years in prison before he escapes, and another nine years before he sets his plans for revenge in motion. Served cold indeed.
  • Black and Gray Morality or Evil Versus Evil
  • Bodybag Trick: Used in the prison escape.
  • Brain Fever: Captain LeClere, in the beginning of the novel.
  • British Teeth: Exploited by the Count for his Lord Wilmore disguise, which includes false teeth.
  • Character Filibuster: Abbe Faria has one when he tells the lengthy story of how he came upon the treasure. There's another one for Luigi Vampa's Backstory. Basically, pretty much any time a character goes into Backstory, it's time to get comfortable and forget about the main story for a while. Fortunately, unlike a lot of Character Filibuster moments, the ones in this book are always key to the plot.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Haydee appears to be a subverted Morality Pet for the Count at first, before she provides a crucial testimony against Fernand at the trial regarding his involvement in the Ali Pacha affair.
  • Daddy's Girl: Haydee, Julie Morrel, Valentine to her grandfather. This trope is used to demonstrate the relative goodness of characters: Eugenie Danglars and her father couldn't care less about each other, and Villefort ignores Valentine.
  • Denied Food as Punishment: What Edmond finally does to Danglars once he captures him.
  • Dispense with the Pleasantries: This is a typical trait of the Baron Danglars's conversations; he's a very strict man with little tolerance for small talk.
  • Doorstopper: Most copies exceed 1000 pages, varies with translation.
  • Dramatic Irony: The plot runs on it. The characters never know what the other characters are up to.
    • When Edmond is imprisoned, he and Morrel are oblivious to the treachery of Villefort, and trust his advice as though he were a good friend.
    • None of Edmond's friends realize that Danglars and Fernand were responsible for his arrest.
    • When Edmond is in disguise, none of his old friends or enemies knows his true identity. (Although Mercedes suspects.)
    • Benedetto manages to make a name for himself in French society under a false identity, but nobody except the Count and one of his servants knows that he's actually the illegitimate son of Villefort.
    • Even the Count, the Manipulative Bastard himself, doesn't realize that Maximilian and Valentine are romantically involved until the last minute; as far as he's concerned, Valentine is the daughter of his hated enemy.
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • Runs in the Morrel family. Prevented by the Count in both cases.
    • Fernand.
    • Madame de Villefort
  • Dropped a Bridget On Him: Beppo, the bait that lured Albert into Vampa's trap.
  • Duel to the Death:
    • Between Albert and the Count. Averted at the last minute--Mercedes intervenes and stops the duel.
    • Noirtier reveals that he killed another character's father in a duel to the death.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending
  • Every Man Has His Price: Bribery is standard procedure for our fabulously wealthy protagonist.
  • Everything's Better On Hashish: According to the eponymous Count, who delivers a flowery speech to Franz extolling its virtues with much hyperbole. Among the things that are Better On Hashish is, apparently, suicide, or so he convinces a depressed Maximilien Morrel towards the end of the book.
  • Faux Death: Valentine
  • Foreshadowing: Pay attention to what the Count says to people as he's usually talking about something that will happen much later in the novel.
  • Fiction 500: The Count's ludicrous wealth earns him a spot on this privileged list -- he owns so much money that the same amount not adjusted for inflation[1] would still make you very rich today.
  • Great Escape: Dantes escapes by hiding in the bodybag of his late mentor, which is thrown into the sea.
  • Happiness in Slavery: Ali and Haydee, since the Count saved both their lives and treats them exceptionally well. So much that when he offers Haydee her freedom, more than once, she adamantly refuses.
  • Hide Your Lesbians: Eugenie Danglars and Louise d'Armilly. Of course, we're talking about a novel written during the 19th century; merely suggesting homosexuality was quite bold already.
  • Homoerotic Subtext. The lesbian relationship between Eugenie Danglars and Louise d'Armilly is never stated overtly, but it's implied. In one scene, an unexpected visitor drops into a hotel room they're staying in (which has two beds) and finds them lying together in the same bed. Yeah...
  • Hope Spot: There is a moment where, according to the narrator, Villefort is on the cusp of setting Edmond free, if only someone should burst through the door and confront him. The moment passes.
  • Humiliation Conga:
    • Albert's ability to accept all sorts of humiliations with relative dignity--from being seduced by a servant-boy (whom he thinks is a woman until he gets a knife pointed at his face), to being forced to call off a duel with the count, to giving his up his wealth after he finds out what his father did to Dantes--is ultimately his most redeeming quality, and what truly distinguishes him from his father.
    • Danglars gets one too. Having been the instigator of the plot that sent the Count to prison, he is subsequently bankrupted, divorced, abandoned by his daughter, and kidnapped and imprisoned by Luigi Vampa and his bandits when he flees to Italy with the money he embezzled. Danglars is initially left without food, and when he demands to be fed the bandits charge him outrageous prices for his meals. Forced to choose between his money and his life, Danglars is starved out of the millions of francs he still has with him, until only 50,000 remain. It then turns out that the Count had ordered Vampa and his bandits to kidnap Danglars and imprison him, putting Danglars in the very same situation that he placed the Count in. The money the bandits charge Danglars for his meal is returned to the hospitals he embezzled it from, as Danglars learns a horrible lesson in greed. He pleads for mercy and forgiveness, and the Count ultimately grants it to him, letting him go with the last 50,000 francs -- the only money he was carrying that he had earned more or less honestly. Oh, and the situation turns his hair white.
  • Hypocrite: Villefort seems to be something of a hanging judge and obsessed with the family honor, but commits several heinous crimes.
  • Kangaroo Court: Dantes has just been framed for treasonous activities and goes before Villefort the Crown Prosecutor (a judge) in his chambers. Villefort is touched by Dantes' integrity and about to let him go, when he sees that a letter which was part of the evidence against Dantes, implicates his own father in treason and would ruin his career. At this point of course, the Kangaroo Court element kicks in as Villefort applies powers actually given to him under the law to have Dantes imprisoned indefinitely without a trial.
  • Karmic Jackpot: Most of the novel is about revenge, but the Count also repays the effort of those who tried to help him. Monsieur Morrel, Edmond Dantes' employer at the time of his arrest, tried to get Dantes released despite the dangerous political risks he was taking. By the time Dantes escapes, Morrel's shipping company is on the verge of bankruptcy and his family honor is ruined. The Count rewards Morrel's efforts to save him by paying off his debts, buying him a new merchant ship, and providing a dowry for his daughter.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: After being robbed of his beautiful fiancee and a promising job and spending 14 years in prison, Dantes becomes filthy rich and becomes acquainted with an even more beautiful woman. Dantes himself tries to enforce this trope during his time as the Count of Monte Cristo, and arguably succeeds, but with a fair bit of collateral damage.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters
  • May-December Romance: the Count and Haydee at the end of the book, which serves as a route to peace and redemption for him.
  • Mercy Kill: In the sidestory about the Italian bandits, one bandit does this to his lover to prevent her being gang raped by the rest of his band.
  • Miscarriage of Justice: To the tune of fourteen years of false imprisonment.
  • Moral Dissonance: In his vengeance against Villefort, Dantes makes himself an accomplice to the murder by poison of people who had done nothing to him. He's perfectly ready to let even the completely innocent Valentine die until one of the few characters he truly cares about tells him of their love. His guilt is totally neglected by the author and by himself. Dantes only realizes he has gone too far when the young son of Villefort dies because of his plot.
  • Morality Pet: Haydee serves as an outlet for the otherwise cold and distant Count to show genuine affection.
  • Morally-Bankrupt Banker: Danglars.
  • Mushroom Samba: There is a scene (bowdlerized in many translations) in which Franz has an erotic dream while high on hashish.
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • Subverted by Villefort, who has his moment at the very beginning of the book. He initially feels a terrible remorse at sending the innocent Dantes to prison, but later represses it and goes through with the deed. It's implied, however, that the guilt he feels does not go away so easily. In fact, it is implied that Villefort became a hanging judge that he is because of the repressed guilt.
    • Played straight by the Count himself, when confronted by Maxmilien about Valentine's peril; it is only then that he starts realizing what he has become in the pursuit of vengeance.
  • Nested Story: Signor Pastrini briefly interrupts his story about the bandit lord Luigi Vampa to tell another story about another bandit lord who preceded Vampa.
  • Pick on Someone Your Own Size: Dantes includes the innocent children of his enemies in his plan for revenge. Most of them survive, and some of them end up better off, but that's more through luck than from any sentiment on the Count's part.
  • Public Execution: A public execution during a Roman festival allows the Count to test Franz's character.
  • Red Herring: d'Avrigny believes that Valentine is the poisoner. It's actually Madame de Villefort.
  • Relative Error: Mercedes is mistaken for her son's mistress. The fact that Albert just can't shut up about how perfect his mother is really doesn't help matters. The Count probably made that mistake on purpose -- he didn't want to expose to Albert that he knew Mercedes.
  • Secret Test of Character:
    • After getting caught up on what's been going on with his enemies while he was in prison, the Count rewards Caderousse by giving him a valuable diamond. Caderousse can either use the diamond to rebuild his life and become an honest man, or fall victim to greed and let the diamond ultimately destroy him. He fails. Hard. The Count even gives him a second chance, but he blows that too. When he's dying in the Count's mansion, Caderousse asks for yet another chance, but the Count refuses, pointing out that he's had two already and failed both times.
    • The Count gives one to Maximilien at the end to confirm that he is truly deserving of happiness by his standards. Max passes with flying colors by agreeing to kill himself with a drug given to him by the Count, even when offered large sums of money if he chooses to live, thus proving that he has tasted true despair.
  • Separated by the Wall: Maximilien and Valentine, in an Allusion to Pyramus and Thisbe.
  • Sins of Our Fathers: The Count plans to kill Albert as part of his revenge on Fernand.
  • Sliding Scale of Beauty: Several female characters are said to be beautiful. Haydee is the most beautiful in the story, she and her mother Vasiliki are somewhere between World Class and Divine Level. Closely following are Mercedes and Valentine as Common Beauties. Eugenie is considered an Uncanny Valley Girl because of her masculinity.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Maximillien Morrel and Valentine de Villefort, at first.
  • Soft Water: During his prison escape, Dantes hides in a bodybag that is thrown into the sea from a high cliff. Dantes is in good enough shape to escape the bodybag and swim to shore. Barely.
  • Spell My Name with a Blank: Countess G_____. A subversion, as she's based off of Lord Byron's mistress: Teresa, Countess Guiccioli.
  • Strawman Political: All of the good characters are or were supporters of Napoleon, and nearly all of the bad ones are royalists.
  • Sword Cane: Noirtier carried one before he was paralyzed.
  • Translation Convention: At different times, characters may be speaking French, Italian, Greek, and so on. Occasionally the narrator informs the reader that one of the characters can't understand what another character is saying.
  • Tuckerization: Dumas did this in a fairly transparent way, including his concierge in Italy as a character and including a scene where a character is praised for his collection of paintings by current artists. All of the artists mentioned were friends or acquaintances of Dumas and none are known today except for Delacroix.
  • Undisclosed Funds: The amount of money Dantes finds at Monte Cristo is never stated. After many years of purchases and investments, the Count says he has about one hundred million francs at the end of the book. [2]
  • Uriah Gambit: The bandit lord Cucumetto pulls one in Signor Pastrini's Nested Story, shooting a treacherous underling in the back during a skirmish with some soldiers.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: According to Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo is loosely based on the story of Pierre Picaud.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Villefort, who has a complete breakdown and goes insane at the end.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: All of the Count's enemies have risen to high status in Parisian society and are well-respected with good reputations among their peers.
  • What Year Is This?: It's easy to lose track of time over fourteen years of imprisonment.
  • Wicked Cultured: Luigi Vampa, Benedetto, and the Count himself
  • Wife Husbandry: Conveniently ignored by adaptations. Not a straight example, anyway, since the Count isn't even interested in Haydee in that way for most of the story; he just assumed that he was never going to fall in love again, so she has to make all the moves.
  • Wig, Dress, Accent: Most likely, Dantes' different personas are this kind of disguise.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: The unnamed countess who, seeing the Count's strange demeanor and unnatural pallor, believes him to be a vampire.
  • Xanatos Roulette: One must imagine how long Dantes had to plan out his revenge, but the final plot is unspeakably convoluted. That he is able to make any of it work speaks volumes about his control.
  • The X of Y
  • Yamato Nadeshiko: Valentine and Haydee are Western variations.
  • You Are Number Six: Abbe Faria is prisoner number 27; Dantes is number 34.
  • You Betrayed My Father: Haydee to Fernand

Other adaptations provide examples of:

  • Ascended Extra: Jacopo, who obeys the Count's instructions without question in the book, becomes The Rick in some adaptations.
  • Death by Adaptation: Danglars, frequently. In the 1975 TV version, for instance, he gets Fernand's death so that Fernand can go out in a fight scene with Edmond. Gankutsuou is perhaps the heaviest offender in this regard, giving Danglars A Fate Worse Than Death, and ultimately even killing the Count himself.
  • Gender Flip/Setting Update:
    • The Korean soap opera Cruel Temptation features a female protagonist, who survives her own murder by her husband and his dominative mistress, and is of course is set in present day.
    • The ABC thriller series Revenge is set in present day and has a female protagonist in Amanda/Emily.
  • Genre Shift: The book is an historical epic and psychological revenge thriller, but adaptations tend to go the route of an action-heavy Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
  • Lost in Imitation
  • Swashbuckler
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Major Cavalcanti, Benedetto's fake father chosen by the Count, essentially disappears after Danglars takes a liking to Benedetto. Also the fate of Benedetto himself, who had committed many crimes and whose court sentence is never revealed after he exposes Villefort as his father.
  1. The book is set in the first half of the 19th century
  2. Adjusted for inflation, this is equivalent to over $400 million USD in 2010 money. Not quite enough to make the 20 Richest Men in the World list, but still nothing to scoff at.