Genre: Classic Literary Fiction
The Plot Thus Far: Although I was rather intrigued by the glimpse into Villefort’s personal life and political philosophy, I was glued to my seat for the duration of chapters 7 & 8. For the first time, we catch light of Dantes’ inner turmoil. My heart broke for him when he was tricked into the gated carriage, the promise of freedom at his fingertips and a life with Mercedes crumbling into a thousand little pieces.
Okay, back to the summary. We are introduced to M. Villefort, who is, coincidentally, attending his own betrothal dinner. The topic of discussion is the extent of M. Villefort’s power to judge a man and render him guilty, innocent, or dead. Although Villefort is clearly of aristocratic blood (and talks that way too), at first the reader can’t help but feel as though his logic will inevitably surface. We can’t deny that, at first glance, he has a sense of morality and sound judgement of character. However, it is the drama surrounding that mysterious letter Dantes was ordered to deliver that becomes his undoing. Villefort is prepared to release Dantes, until he reads the contents of the letter, which apparently fingers his own father as a Bonapartist. This piece of information would, of course, be a stain upon his reputation and ambitions, so he sets into motion a plan that will ultimately silence the only person with access to this juicy bit of gossip. Dantes, being the naive young thing that he is, doesn’t understand the power of that letter, nor does he know the contents. Villefort, however, does not want to take a chance, and orders him locked up in Chateau d’If, after promising that Dantes will only be detained for a couple of days as a precaution.
Alas, the nightmare begins.
The prisoner followed his conductor, who led him into a room almost under ground, whose bare and reeking walls seemed as though impregnated with tears; a lamp placed on a stool illuminated the apartment faintly, and showed Dantes the features of his conductor; an under-gaoler, ill-clothed, and of sullen appearance.
As you can tell, the future looks very dreary for Edmond Dantes.
The reader is also privy to a moment of moral consciousness for Villefort, who begins to questions his own actions. He begins to wonder if the life of a man is worth the financial gains that will undoubtedly result from his social and political climbing. I even get the impression that he doesn’t feel completely comfortable with himself but, at that point, having already made his choice, feels that he cannot go back. Why? That remains a mystery… or possibly a character flaw. Even even promises himself that, if Renee or Mercedes were to plead one second longer for the life of Edmond Dantes and intervene, he might reconsider his actions. I am not completely convinced of this, but Villefort seems to be convinced of his own behaviour. Needless to say, his logic is somewhat skewed.
Lastly, chapter ten is somewhat unexpected. The reader is actually allowed into the home of King Louis XVIII in Paris, where Villefort has ventured to warn him of potential dangers concerning his father.
Thoughts & Impressions: Even though I was reading chapters 7 & 8 on the bus to and from work, I couldn’t put it down. So, being in the midst of a reading slump, you can imagine my sheer surprise and happiness at such a development. Even though I still struggle to find something satisfying to read, I am very pleased with my progress of The Count of Monte Cristo.
As for the story itself, the description of Chateau d’If was enough to send chills up and down my spine… twice! There is something painfully claustrophobic about the notion of being caged, closed in and kept prisoner. The frustration that builds, which is clearly depicted through Dantes, is palpable. I can feel his anxiety through the pages and I am eager to see Dantes’ plan of revenge take shape.
Villefort, however, is a curious character. While Danglars and company could more traditionally be categorized as villains, but Villefort is a little different. Yes, he is causing Dantes great pain and is obviously greedy enough to ruin the life of another man for his own gain. It is his inner battle of morality and his compulsion to justify his deeds that casts him in a strangely undefinable light. Is he a bonafide villain? 100% evil? I don’t know… yet.