Reading Rec: The Count of Monte Cristo Part 3

Hello! I’m picking up again today with this series, but if you missed the first two parts, you can read those at the following links: Part 1, Part 2. For convenience sake I’ll put a summary and color code guide, but if you’re already up to speed, you can skip the next paragraph.

When we last left off, Edmond Dantes (aka the Count of Monte Cristo, Abbe Bussoni, Lord Wilmore, and Sinbad the Sailor) had moved to Paris and started meddling in the affairs of the other characters. He gets the default black color. His old love, Mercedes, who recognizes him but says nothing out of fear and her son Albert are pink. The Count met Albert in Italy and saved him from bandits. Mercedes’s husband, Fernand Mondego (aka The Count de Morcef), in red, accused Edmond of treason to get him out of the way but doesn’t recognize him as the count. He is now wealthy after a military career in Greece. The reader also meets the Count’s “slave” and friend – a Greek girl named Haydee who is traveling with him. The Morrel family are old friends of Edmond is green. Notably, Maximilian is in love with Valentine de Villefort, but their marriage is impossible due to a family grudge and her existing arranged engagement. Her grandfather, Noirtier loves her to death and does not get along with his son due to differing political views. He is disabled due to a stroke but communicates with her through blinking. Valentine’s mother hates her, dotes on her son, and takes an interest in poisons while ignoring her husband. Valentine’s father, the prosecutor Gerard Villefort, sentenced Edmond to prison, and tried to bury a baby in a box one time before he got stabbed by Bertuccio – a man with a vengance who took the child and raised him as his own. Their fun dysfunctional family is violet colored. The child, Benedetto, grew up to be a criminal and ran away from home at age 11. He’s not missing, and he gets Brown.. In the meantime, Bertuccio was also witness to Caderousse (the old cowardly and selfish neighbor) killing a jeweler to keep a diamond and large sum of cash. He was last seen on the run from the police, and is shown in yellow. The Count also makes an impression on Danglars, the greedy sailor who schemed to betray Edmond now turned banker, by taking out a huge line of credit. We also meet Madame Danglars, a scheming woman who doesn’t actually like her husband very much. Their daughter, Eugenie is engaged to Albert Morcef, and the family gets this blue color.

Connections, Continued… Chapters 54 – 57

Continuing the story, we learn that the connections between the characters are even more complex than what they seem on the surface, and this is the moment that I realized I’d need to break up this series into so many parts! At the opera, Haydee recognizes Fernand de Morcef as the man who betrayed her father in the war and sold her into slavery. It’s confirmed that the Count bought her to save her from a worse fate and he continues to give her agency and treat her like a princess, so she is loyal to him even in her anger at Fernand.

The next day, Albert and his friend Lucien Debray visit the Count to discuss Albert’s arranged marriage with Eugenie. Mercedes disaproves of this match, and Albert isn’t happy about it either, since he doesn’t love his betrothed and doesn’t want to hurt his mother, but he feels trapped because their fathers have set it up for money and he can’t seem to find a way out of it. For the record, Eugenie doesn’t want to be married either, preferring an independent life as an artist. Eventually the conversation drifts into finance, and Debray admits that he’s having an affair with Madame Danglars, and that he gives her insider information about the stocks so that she can gamble large sums of her husband’s money. The Count files this useful information away for future reference, and invites them to a dinner party before dismissing them to take a detour to a different conversation.

Two poor Italians arrive at his home under instructions from the Abbe Busoni, pretending to be a nobleman and his son, called Andrea Cavalcanti. He gives them both large allowances of money to service the disguise and invites them to a dinner party the following Saturday. This is passed off as a one-off event, but within the narrative, reads as setup for part of the Count’s larger plans.

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This is supposedly the dashing and charismatic young man the Court is patronizing but he looks sus to me

These three seemingly disparate events don’t really fit together as an arc, but they do an important role in setting up other aspects of the story and showing how much careful thought and effort the Count has put into his plans. By going out of his way to get people and information, he works each new development into the bigger picture, and so does Dumas behind the page. This does slow down the pacing, but the important part of why this works is that we know Edmond is content with slow pacing – he bided his time for 14 years in prison, and for another 10 years after that. These events could be written off as tangents, or the eccentricities of a billionaire, but because they fit into the characterization and plot, they become important in hindsight. Reading normally, you don’t know what exactly the Count is planning yet, but it’s implied that this is important and that you should pay attention, so I’m trying to highlight that with the colors here so you can look ahead and try to make connections as well!

For the several sections, a lot of different aspects start to overlap in fast succession, so I’m going to try and summarize them as cohesively as possible. In a summary this reads as a little jarring, but in the prose, Dumas takes his time with each chapter so that the pace slowly picks up after a long slow setup, which works to effectively heighten the tension.

The Engagement, Chapters 58 – 60

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