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?