The Count of Monte Cristo is a story of revenge and redemption, but Dumas presents both revenge and redemption as being motivated by love. At the beginning of the novel, Dantes is about to marry his love, Mercedes, but the jealousy of those around him leads him to be falsely imprisoned on his betrothal day, which takes away his young life and thwarts his romantic fulfillment. Dantes is also a dutiful son to his loving father, Old Dantes, and Dantes recognizes, too, that his relationship to Old Morrel, the owner of the vessel on which he sails, is one of paternal and loving devotion. After escaping from the prison at the Chateau D’If, Dantes, as the Count of Monte Cristo, spends years exacting revenge on those who have betrayed him, but this does not return to him the happy life that was once in his grasp. Instead, Dantes’ life is only redeemed once he accepts romantic love from Haydee, a more platonic and friendly love for Mercedes, and a familial love with young Morrel and his intended, Valentine.
Dantes loses a great deal in being wrongfully imprisoned—his freedom of movement, his career—but most devastatingly, he also loses, for a time, the loving bonds that tie him to others. In this sense, Dumas understands Dantes’ loving relationships to his father, Mercedes, and Old Morrel as standing in for all the happiness that might have been his, had he not had the misfortune to run afoul of the jealous and cowardly Danglars, Caderousse, Villefort, and Fernand. And love, Dumas’s central indicator of happiness, is not exclusive to Dantes, either. It is Fernand’s loving devotion to Mercedes that prompts him to go along with the treacherous plot that allows him to eventually marry her and move with her to Paris.
During his time in prison, Dantes convinces himself that his purpose should be to exact revenge on those who have wronged him. But this desire occludes Dantes’, and then the Count’s, loving devotion to Mercedes, Old Dantes, Old Morrel, and especially the Abbe Faria, whose help and teachings in prison save Dantes’s life, allow him to learn the languages and philosophies of the world, and grant him access to the treasures of Monte Cristo. On his release from prison, Dantes, disguised as the Count and Sinbad the Sailor, is able to visit the room where his father lived, to find Mercedes in Paris, and to relieve a substantial banking debt of Old Morrel’s. But these aims, motivated as they are by love and devotion to the most important people in his life prior to prison, are overshadowed by his desire to seek out Caderousse and test him, and to punish and publicly humiliate Danglars, Fernand, and Villefort, whom he views as his mortal enemies. Dantes’ urge for revenge keeps him from seeing love as an avenue for personal redemption.
The Count’s study of the world’s mechanisms of revenge, which he explains to Albert de Morcerf and his friend Franz during their time together at Roman carnival, becomes more important to the Count than the forging of new relationships of love and care. But the Count, in his life as an “avenging angel,” does indeed form these relationships. Although he initially purchases Haydee as his “slave” because she is the daughter of the Ali Pasha, and thus a source of information about Fernand’s treacheries in the Greek wars, he comes to fall in love with Haydee, witnessing her devotion to him, and the joy and care with which she lives in his home. And although he is at first only fascinated by young Morrel’s positition in French society, and later by his betrothal to Valentine, Villefort’s daughter, he comes to love and care for these two on their own terms, as people important to him in his new life. The Count believed, after his release from prison, that he could never love again—yet his burgeoning relationships with Haydee, young Morrel, and Valentine point to a new place for love and redemption in his changed, post-prison life.
After Fernand’s suicide, and the Count’s realization that his desire for pure vengeance has caused him to misunderstand the relationship between justice and God’s will, the Count meets with Mercedes in Marseille, and realizes that he loves her now, but in a new way. Their relationship can no longer be the same: Mercedes did, after all, marry Fernand, owing to that man’s treachery, and the possibility of their young life together was destroyed. But the Count, in his final conversation with Mercedes, recognizes that he is devoted to her as an emblem of goodness and care experienced in the past, and as a person who remembers him as Dantes, a man he can no longer be outwardly, but the man at the root of his moral identity today. This devotion, along with recollected love for Old Dantes and Old Morrel, joins with the Count’s acceptance of new possibilities in love. Thus, in realizing his newly-forged love for Haydee, and in making young Morrel and Valentine the heirs to his vast fortune, the Count goes about re-creating, in love and care, the family that was taken from him so cruelly as a young man. And he does this through the continued recognition of, and reflection on, his platonic love for Mercedes, a figure devoted to the memory of their once-shared love. Although the Count cannot redeem his romantic love for Mercedes, he can express devotion to her in their changed, platonic circumstances; and he can redeem himself, through transferring that loving care to his new family—Haydee, Morrel, and Valentine.
Love, Devotion, and Redemption ThemeTracker
Love, Devotion, and Redemption Quotes in The Count of Monte Cristo
Come, now ... I have a better opinion than you of women in general, and Mercedes in particular, and I am persuaded that, whether I were a captain or not, she would remain faithful to me.
I regret having helped you in your investigation and said what I did to you ...
Why is that?
Because I have insinuated a feeling into your heart that was not previously there: the desire for revenge ...
Let us change the subject.
And now ... farewell, goodness, humanity, gratitude ... Farewell all those feelings that nourish and illuminate the heart! I have taken the place of Providence to reward the good; now let the avenging God make way for me to punish the wrongdoer!
What country does the Count come from? What is his language? What are his means of support? Where does his huge fortune come from? What was the first half of this mysterious and unknown life, that it has cast over the second half such a dark and misanthropic shadow?
How can you live like that, with nothing attaching you to life?
It is not my fault, Madame. In Malta I loved a girl and was going to marry her, when the war came and swept me away from her like a whirlwind. I thought that she loved me enough to wait for me, even to remain faithful to my tomb. When I came back, she was married.
I was taken to the bazaar. A rich Armenian bought me, educated me, gave me teachers and, when I was thirteen, sold me to Sultan Mahmoud.
And from him, I bought her, as I told you, Albert, for that stone equal to the one in which I keep my lozenges of hashish.
Oh, my lord, how good and great you are ... How fortunate I am to belong to you!
Oh, God. Oh, God, forgive me for denying You. You do indeed exist, You are the father of men in heaven and their judge on earth. Oh, my Lord, I have long mistaken You! My Lord God, forgive me! My god, my Lord, receive my soul!
What would you say if you knew the extent of the sacrifice I am making for you? Suppose that the Lord God, after creating the world, after fertilizing the void, had stopped one-third of the way through His creation to spare an angel the tears that our crimes would one day bring to His immortal eyes. Suppose that ... God had extinguished the sun and with His foot dashed the world into eternal night ...
Yes, I share your hope: the wrath of heaven will not pursue us, you who are so pure and I so innocent. But since we are resolved, let us act promptly. Monsieur de Morcerf left the house around half an hour ago; so, as you see, we have a good opportunity to avoid scandal or explanations.
You see, the angel for whom you longed has left this earth. She no longer needs the adoration of men – she, who, at this moment, is adoring the Lord. So say your farewells, Monsieur, to these sad remains that she has left behind among us.
Oh, yes, now. That’s where the trying times will begin. You know what is agreed?
Have we agreed something?
Yes, it is agreed that you will live in Marseille and I shall leave for Africa. There, instead of the name I have given up, I shall make for myself the name I have adopted.
Yes, he is gone. Farewell, my friend! Farewell, my sister!
Who knows if we shall ever see them again?
My dearest ... has the Count not just told us that all human wisdom was contained in these two words – ‘wait’ and ‘hope’?