The Governor of Prisons visits the Chateau D’If one year after the Second Restoration, about seventeen months after Dantes’ initial imprisonment. On his tour of the building, this Governor asks, finally, to see the dungeons in the basement, and the wardens tell him that down there are only insane men. Two examples jump to mind: an old Abbe, named Faria, who is originally Italian and who busies himself by solving riddles and puzzles in his cell; and a younger man named Dantes who was violent when initially imprisoned and who has been asking after the Governor for a year and a half.
As a complement to the battle of Waterloo, described in a mere sentence, the narrator admits that a year and a half has passed within the walls of the Chateau D’If. This indicates just how malleable the idea of time can be – and indeed, for many characters in the novel, this is the case. For Dantes in particular, the fourteen years he spends in prison seem to last an eternity (but are a relatively brief section of the book), whereas the months he spends in Paris enacting his revenge take up the majority of the second half of the novel.
When the Governor meets with Dantes, he initially wants to ask only about the conditions of the prison. But Dantes insists that he has committed no crime and says that Villefort knows the truth of his case. The Governor asks whether, therefore, Villefort’s notes on Dantes can be trusted, and because Dantes has no sense of Villefort’s true perfidy, he says yes. The Governor agrees to review these notes after passing through D’If, and Dantes, though seemingly on the verge of madness and despair, marks the date—1816 —on the walls, as a way to better understand the passage of time in his cell.
One of the most disorienting features of the prison in the Chateau D’If is its complete separation from the activities of the outside world. Dantes does not even have a sense of how much time has passed, or even enough daylight to see whether one twenty-four-hour period has given over to the next. Dantes vows to keep better track of his time in prison, at least from this stage – though it is not clear why he wishes to know how the days pass, since there is little hope he will ever be allowed to leave.
When the Governor and the wardens visit the Abbe Faria, the Abbe tells them, as the wardens had said he would, about a treasure he supposedly controls, about 100 leagues from the prison. He offers the Governor up to 6 million francs from this treasure for his release, but the officials, none of whom seem even to remember why Faria was imprisoned, dismiss Faria as a madman and his treasure as entirely illusory. When the Governor returns upstairs, he sees Villefort’s note that Dantes is an “extremely dangerous” Bonapartist sympathizer and thus decides to leave him in prison. When another Governor takes over, in 1817, he forgets Dantes’ name; Dantes becomes known only as inmate no. 34.
For the first time in the reader’s hearing, the Abbe importantly announces that he knows where they can find a large fortune. The guards do not believe the Abbe, and in fact think he’s insane, but it is this fortune that will later transform Dantes into the Count. At the same time, Dantes undergoes the further humiliation of having his name replaced by a number. This is a first instance of changed identity for Dantes, who will go through several further identities as the novel progresses.