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Free Study Guide-The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas-Summary
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THEMES ANALYSIS

Like most of Dumasí novels, and owing mainly to their expected appeal as "adventure" novels, published in serial form in newspapers, The Count of Monte Cristo relies primarily on dialogue and is light on symbolism, metaphor and veiled themes. Instead, the novel addresses relatively evident themes, and tackles issues, which are readily identified by the reader.

Themes include:

1. Revenge/vengeance.

The major theme around which the novel revolves. Revenge itself is a major undertaking, and one that has severe repercussions for society and oneís own conscience. The decision to seek revenge will occupy decades of the Countís life and alter his entire lifestyle and personality.

2. The importance of manís relationship with society.

Specifically, what role does man play in affecting the lives and events that surround him? What right does man have to assume a role, which affects others? How far is it reasonable for a man to influence society?

3. Ideas of man as "his own authority".

The Count of Monte Cristo has strong Christian themes of God, vengeance and Providence. The novel tackles issues surrounding the independence of man to act as he sees fit as opposed to actions guided by the will of God.


4. The importance of hope. In particular, both Dantès (the protagonist of The Count of Monte Cristo) and the two men in the Morrel family (essentially the "good characters" in the novel) lose all hope of rescue at different times in the novel, prompting them all to contemplate suicide. For all three men, it is implied that because they are good, if they only hope, things will improve, but they must hope.

5. Conflict between good and evil. This is a major theme.

In the novel, good triumphs over bad because it is a reflection of the workings of justice. In this novel, good will always triumph over evil.

6. Man vs. man conflict side-by-side with man vs. God conflict.

Specifically, Dantès (the protagonist) hunts down his enemies to punish them. At the same time, Dantès is fighting to maintain a clear conscience and to convince himself that the horrible vengeance that he is undertaking is the will of God. He is alternately triumphant or uncomfortable with his own actions, depending on whose behalf he believes he is acting.

7. Punishment and reward.

Somewhat related to the theme of "good vs. evil", although with a more religious undertone, as when people who do "good" go to Heaven and are rewarded, whereas those who do "bad" are punished and go to hell.

8. The relationship between suffering and happiness.

Another recurring theme, it is implied that true happiness can only be respected and appreciated once one has truly known intense suffering.

POINT OF VIEW

Although the story is told entirely in the third person, the narrator is by no means objective, frequently inserting his own ideas and perceptions of the action that is taking place, without necessarily being omniscient. At points, the narrator appears that he almost does not know what to make of certain characters, speeches or actions (particularly in regards to the Count), but the narratorís desire to have us dislike certain characters is clear by the language that is employed when referring to them or when describing the manner in which they behave.

Because Dumas was such a master at dialogue, much of the description of the action and setting takes place through the mouths of the characters, such as when we gain a good idea of the state of the prison into which Dantès has been thrown by the description given by the Inspector of Prisons.

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