The Count of Monte Cristo (Chapters 1 through 5)

On the Docket: The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

Genre: Classic Literary Fiction

The Plot Thus Far: Chapter one introduces us to the sweet but naive Edmond Dantes, who returns on the Pharaon, a ship who has just lost its captain due to illness. M. Morrel, who trusts and likes Dantes very much suggests that Edmond take the position as captain. Of course Edmond is very happy at the prospect, for he is engaged to be married. He would love nothing more than to welcome his new bride-to-be with the salary of a captain.

From the moment we meet Danglars, we know that he is manipulative and sinister. He attempts several times to convince M. Morrel that Dantes plotting something underhanded. M. Morrel will not listen, thank goodness, which leaves Danglars stewing in the jealousy of his frustration.

We are then introduced to Dantes father and neighbour, Caderousse, who isn’t necessarily evil but easily convinced. He’s more of a cad but I get the feeling that underneath all his talk is a coward. It is his greed that motivates his actions and decisions.

Chapter three travels to the Catalans where Dantes’ beloved, Mercedes, lives. She is having a conversation with Fernand, a cousin who is desperately in love with her. He is trying to convince her that Dantes will never return and that he will adore her if she were to only say yes to his proposal. Mercedes, in turn, promises to kill herself if Dantes dies at sea.

Danglars and Caderousse can see from the moment they encounter Fernand that he is a frustrated man in love. They convince Fernand to play a trick on Dantes that will take him away from Mercedes, leaving her free for Fernand. They plot to accuse Dantes of being a Bonapartist. At the end of the chapter, they dismiss the idea and do not think anything will come of it.

Unfortunately, at the betrothal dinner of Dantes and Mercedes, Dantes is arrested for the exact reason the threesome had plotted earlier. Danglars and Caderousse are confused because they thought they had dismissed the idea, but they suspect that Fernand went ahead with the accusation.

First Impressions & Thoughts: Although I have only completed the first five chapters, I feel like Dumas has thrown me head first into the action. I don’t have a clear sense of the characters just yet, but I think that’s because Dumas is busy setting the scene before launching into character development and motivation. Right now, I can only distinguish “villain” from “victim” so I look forward to the rest of the story. I was, however, impressed with Mercedes. The one chapter in which she was closely featured, I was rather heartened by her loyalty but also her intelligence. Fernand is manipulative and she is clearly familiar with his tactics; she isn’t afraid to call him on his behaviour. Dantes, on the other hand, feels somewhat one dimensional at this point but, considering I am only on page 62 of 1462 pages, I’m not too worried.

Did you enjoy your introduction to The Count of Monte Cristo? Any favourite characters so far?

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18 thoughts on “The Count of Monte Cristo (Chapters 1 through 5)

  1. I kind of feel like you. Dantes is really naive. He does seem to kind of put himself in a place where it appears that he thinks quite highly of himself when really I think he is just trying to do a good job and do right by his father. I think he kind of falls into the category of being too nice for his own good.

    I also think that Caderousse didn’t really participate much in tricking Fernand. He was so drunk that I think he was just kind of going along with whatever. He seems to be one of those two-faced people that you would always be looking for the knife in your back! I don’t really care for those people that like to play both sides of the fence so they can hop on the winning side.

    Oh Fernand….I kind of felt bad for him. Such a simple guy…he didn’t have a chance against Danglars. Oh well. He’s a baddie. I won’t feel bad for him long.

    I actually really like that it throws you right into the story. I like Dumas because he’s sort of a writer of the swashbuckling type…likes the action! It was definitely needed after finishing the character driven Middlemarch. It’s a nice change to go to plot driven. I actually had trouble putting it down after Chapter V. I can’t wait to read more. :)

    Oh, here’s my INTRO POST for the read-a-long. I won’t post again about it until we’re maybe 1/3 to 1/2 through the book if I do at all. I also posted my Middlemarch wrap-up. I can’t remember if you looked at it or not.

    • I really liked your intro post! (I tried to post a comment but an “error” tag kept coming up. I think it’s my computer; it’s been really slow lately.) The background on the history of The Count of Monte Cristo was really helpful and I didn’t realize that there was a true story behind the plot. It adds a little extra flavour!

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  3. Well Darn. It didn’t put the link for my intro post for The Count of Monte Cristo. It includes some stuff about the two unabridged translations and some trivia about Dumas and the book. Click HERE to see it.

    ..sad that I messed up the HTML…embarrassed.

  4. I read the intro in the Penguin Classics version that Carin was kind enough to post the link to. I have been a big fan of this story for many years so it was interesting to see where Dumas got his inspiration from. It sheds a new light on what I previously believed to be a made-up too interesting to be true “swashbuckler” story. Goes to show how the truth can also be fascinating.

    So far I agree, we haven’t gotten a real good picture of who Dantes is as a character beyond the view that everyone else is taking of him, mostly his enemies. Dumas Paints him to be somewhat of a Mary Sue, just too naïve to exist it is almost painful. I am certain that he will gain depth throughout the novel. For now, we see him as others do. It is almost as if it is his goodness itself that the other characters are either attracted to or repulsed by. I get a strong sense of good and evil depicted in Dantes and then by contrast Danglars. It is through Danglars that the others are lead to do evil.

    Thus far, we have very simple concepts. We have the villain, the hero and the lady in distress. But as the plot moves forward I think we will see some more complex ideas forming as things become more convoluted for Edmund while he struggles to understand what and why these bad things are happening to him. I too admire the plot forward action centered writing. I tend to believe that without Dumas we might have suffered every writer to be either a serious writer, or a fluffy writer, without anyone taking the time to try and accomplish a little of both.

    I just love the travel log/ historical details that I am sure were left out of the abridged version. For instance the information about the Catalans was enlightening to the characters of both Mercedes and Fernand. I am so happy I decided to read the whole story over again in this read-a-long, this time properly.

    • Did they skip the Catalans stuff in the abridged? One thing I found very annoying in this whole process is that there are SO many different versions of the book available even though it has only been translated to English twice. It’s been around 10 years since I’ve read the abridged version so I only remember the main parts of the story now.

      • Nope, I am wrong, the section about the Catalans was in there. I looked up the abridged version done by Barnes & Noble on Google Books. The part that was missing was the whole chapter about the plotters .. and Danglers exchange with M Morrell in the first chapter was alluded to but not played out. The abridged version leaves you guessing more about what happened, leaves you almost as clueless as Edmund. I am not sure how I feel about the revelation so early on in the book.

    • Well put Ellie; I think we’ve got the lay of the land with the key figures identified. I am looking forward to how the characters will develop a three dimensional, authentic portrait of greed or innocence, maliciousness or vengeance. It looks like we’re in for a swashbuckling story, as Carin put it, and I am very eager to see how the adventure will continue. Even though I am familiar with the story, I still hate the feeling that I know what will happen to poor Dantes… sort of like watching a movie about the Titanic. :)

      So glad you guys could join the read along!

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