I have split up the book into uneven sections so I can discuss my re-read in parts. This first section ends with the completion of M. de Villefort’s examination of Dantes (Chapter 7, The Examination), which I think is a very significant moment in the story.
Synopsis so far: France, 1815. Nineteen-year-old Edmond Dantes is recently returned to port in Marseilles. His captain died at sea, leaving him, as first mate, in charge of the ship. He returns to his father, whom he dearly loves, and Mercedes, his young Catalane betrothed. While everything is looking up for Dantes, little does he know how his small successes in life have angered jealous men. Danglars, the supercargo of the ship soon to be captained by Dantes, feels he is better suited for a captaincy–or, at the very least, Dantes is not suited. And Fernand, cousin to Mercedes, wants her hand, extremely envious of the man she loves with all her heart. Set, at this stage of the story, in a France just recently rid of Napoleon (for the first time), these two men scheme to imprison Dantes for political affiliations due to the late captain’s last request for a docking at Elba and Dantes’ fulfillment of that request. Mercedes and Dantes are feasting their upcoming nuptials when Dantes is arrested. All would be for naught, if the deputy procureur who heard Dantes account–a staunch royalist–hadn’t been the son of a known Bonapartist to whom the letter Dantes carried was for. In the last scene this deputy procureur, M. de Villefort, tells Dantes he will have to imprisoned for a few days because of this situation, but he will attempt to free him as soon as possible; Dantes follows the guard from the house of M. de Villefort.
Now that the picture has been painted…
So far, there has been no tedious or boring part to the story. As soon as Dantes returns to port, two men who want what he will shortly have begin scheming to get those things. They are fairly warned by a long-time acquaintance of Dantes before they carry out their plot:
“…only people get out of prison,” said Caderousse, who, with what sense was left him, listened eagerly to the conversation, “and when they get out, and their names are Edmond Dantes, they revenge—–” (p37)
If a reader remembers any words from the beginning of the story, these are some of the most important. More than half of the book is dedicated to the vengeance to which Caderousse alludes in this single, drunken warning. I cannot remember how Dantes gets his revenge on Fernand and Danglars later in the book–one reason I have decided to re-read it–but wouldn’t it be interesting to find that the revenge on one is more severe than the revenge on the other. On one hand, it was Danglars who schemed up the whole thing. On the other hand, it was Fernand who got Mercedes, something I’m sure Dantes would have chosen over what Danglars got out of the plot.
I wonder what it is that caused Caderousse to hold his tongue when Dantes was arrested. Amidst the chaos of Dantes being escorted from his wedding feast, Caderousse confronts Danglars about the plotting the previous night:
“What is the meaning of all this?” inquired Caderousse frowningly, of Danglars, who had assumed an air of utter surprise.
“How can I tell you?” replied he; “I am, like yourself, utterly bewildered at all that is going on, not a word of which do I understand.”
Caderousse then looked around for Fernand, but he had disappeared.
The scene the previous night now came back to his mind with startling accuracy. The painful catastrophe he had just witnessed appeared effectually to have rent away the veil which the intoxication of the evening before had raised between himself and his memory. (p54)
Even though Danglars plays dumb to the whole plot, why did Caderousse not mention his suspicions to the authorities? Dantes was framed. True, he carried a letter to a Bonapartist conspirator, but his own political leanings and knowledge of what was in the letter were truly innocent. Because Caderousse did not bring forward the information that could easily have helped Dantes’ case, I feel that Dantes’ misery is, in part, his fault.
Danglars and Fernand–and Caderousse, depending on how you look at him and how he acts within the future parts of the story–are not the only men to wrong Dantes. The last man to cross Dantes is M. de Villefort, the deputy procureur who examined him upon his arrest. Had it not been for Villefort looking out for his career rather than actual justice, the rest of the story would have no purpose. Dantes’ imprisonment, which takes place in the first chapter of my next “section”, is all due to Villefort wanting to keep is royalist reputation clear of the besmirches of his Bonapartist father.
Quotes: These are quotes that I like.
“…so much the worse for those who fear wine for it is because they have some bad thoughts which they are afraid the liquor will extract from their hearts.” ~Caderousse, p36
Very advisable–those who have secrets are most afraid of liquor. (However inappropriate it might sound in the discussion of a serious classic, this reminds me of TV-show Seinfeld‘s character Elaine who opens “the vault” anytime she drinks Schnapps.)
“Man does not appear to me to be intended to enjoy felicity so unmixed; happiness is like the enchanted palaces we read of in our childhood, where fierce, fiery dragons defend the entrance and approach; and monsters of all shapes and kinds, requiring to be overcome ere victory is ours…” ~Dantes, p47
This last quote is very providential, as Dantes is describing that he worries because everything is so perfect for him at the moment. He wonders what will happen, because no person should have so easy and successful a life. I find myself feeling this way sometimes. There are no real hardships I have ever had to endure, and while there are small stressors to my life sometimes, I get anxious to know what is going to go wrong because I shouldn’t have such an easy life.