Some people freely let their destinies unfold, while others choose their own destiny. While we all are accustomed to fate some time in our lives, some people make it their life journey to seek retribution against the travesty of justice that has been imposed on them. Throughout the Count of Monte Cristo, we can see the themes of internal justice, gratification, and struggle against one’s internal state mind play in our minds, giving us great lessons towards our own life.
Throughout the entire novel we can see the main protagonist, Edmond Dante, seek vengeance and retribution for his false imprisonment for fourteen years in prison. Through elaborate plots and bribery, he manages to seek justice for his father, who died in poverty, and also pays off his late ship captain Morrel’s debts. We can also identity Dante as a harbinger of justice against the corrupt French society at the time, which relied on illicit relations and underhand dealings. Readers should take away from Dante’s character that the qualities of justice, honesty and perseverance will always prevail against injustice in the end. The final quote “Wait, and see” by Dante to Valentine as he sails off into the ocean is a testament that the Count is in no rush, allowing justice to take its natural course. After meeting in the Abbe in prison, Dante makes it his lifelong mission to seek revenge against his oppressors. The limits of society push Dante to seek justice for himself, motivated by a higher order than himself. Frustrated with the failure of society to punish those who have unfairly benefited from his pain, Dante makes it his life mission to bring an end to his oppressors’ good fortune. He does this in the name of God, acting as God’s messenger on Earth. After completing his journey, Dante leaves society knowing in his heart that he has claimed justice for his father and those who have been kind to him during his darkest days.
One of the lasting themes in this novel is that of gratification — whether that be of instant gratification or lasting gratification. The massive amounts of power that Dante’s executioners obtained after his imprisonment all ended when he emerged in their lives again. In no way would have Fernand or Danglars predicated that their good fortune would one day come to an end because of their impulse for instant gratification in the past. We can see this theme again when Maximillian believes that his lover Valentine is dead, and Dante intentionally lets him feel the pain of losing someone to understand the feeling of true happiness. In a society that is obsessed with instant gratification, the Count of Monte Cristo helps us appreciate that true happiness lies in the insignificant. It lies in understanding that pain is temporary, no matter how long it may feel. He teaches us that good things happen to those who wait — no matter how long — sometimes in the face of overwhelming adversity, sometimes with no end in sight. Instant gratification is a natural impulse for humans to feel, and we often fail to examine the true ramifications of our behaviour. For Dante, he had to learn it the hard way through no fault of his own; At 19 years old he was set up for a good life with a new wife and position as captain, unfortunately, his perpetrators toke that all away. But when they did, they ultimately set up for their own demise, because jealously is never a highlighting character trait. Rather, altriusm and empathy is what brings society forward, in a dark contrast to the selfishness exhibited — which is reflected in French society at the time that seemed to trivialize family, friends and true connections in life. Family wars over inheritance as illustrated by the Villefort family and murder over wealth and inheritance is what brought this society to a standstill.
The Internal State of Mind
During his time in prison, Dante contemplated suicide as his only friend and mentor at the time the Abbe dies of sickness. One of Dante’s most striking quotes is when he remarks on the state of happiness in life, stating : “There is neither happiness nor misery in the world; there is only the comparison of one state with another, nothing more. He who has felt the deepest grief is best able to experience supreme happiness.” After all, Dante would understand this feeling the most, after dealing the grief of his mentor Abbe, and then learning that his father died in poverty, along with the fact that his lover Mercedes married his rival, Fernand. We can than deduce that happiness is a state of mind, and that we can be happy with a few things or unhappy with many things. Happiness is objective to whomever possess it and is subject to individual alteration. At the beginning of the novel, when Dante was inviting guests while at his bridal party, he stated that he was overwhelmed with joy, stating that “Joy has that peculiar effect that at times it oppresses us just as much as grief” ; therefore further indicating that emotions - whether positive or negative — are both oppressive, depending on one’s state of mind as we can be oppressively happy or sad. Later, when Dante fails in love with the slave Haydee again, he begins to feel the happiness that was lost to him when Mercedes remarried and his father died. The internal state of mind is illustrated to be one of the most complicated elements of the human experience. In the darkest of days, and in the most brightest of days, we all must all be able to experience true sadness to understand what real happiness entails.
Writing this book review during the pandemic suggests that novels help us alleviate the troubles of the present, because they illustrate that all human struggles and human hopes in life are universal. They illustrate that justice always prevails, gratification is never permanent, and that our internal state of mind is and will always be our strongest protector against fear of the unknown.