How does the theory of "the sins of the fathers must be visited upon subsequent generations" affect the events in The Count of Monte Cristo?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The trope of sons suffering the consequences of their fathers' sins is recurrent in the narrative of The Count of Monte Cristo as Edmund Dantes, who considers himself an instrument of Providence--"God is for me and with me--sets in motion some of the payments for these sins.

  • Noitier de Villefort / Gerard de Villefort / Eduoard de Villefort

M. Noitier has been a loyal Bonapartist all his life.  When the General de Quesnel acted as a spy for the Royalists and was taken to a secret meeting, he was made to swear he would reveal nothing.  However, on the return ride in a carriage while he is blindfolded, Quesnel insults Noitier, then the President of the Bonapartist Club which worked to restore Napoleon as Emperor.  Noitier kills Quesnel in a duel. 

Years later, Noitier's son aligns himself with the aristocracy, marrying Renee de Saint-Meran, and becomes a loyal Royalist who tries to keep his real name secret, but he is haunted by his father's name.  When Edmond Dantes appears before him and cites his name, Villefort casts the innocent Dantes into prison.  Later, after Renee dies, Villefort marries Heloise, whose greed for her son Edouard leads her to poison the Marquis and Marquise de Saint-Meran and Valentine, unsuccessfully, so that Edouard will inherit their fortunes. But, when she is strongly suspected for the murders, Villefort tells her to commit suicide. In defiance, she poisons their son as she herself dies.

The ruin of M. Gerard de Villefort himself comes when Monte Cristo orchestrates his trial and his illegitimate son testifies that he was buried alive by de Villefort and later rescued.  The disgrace and ignominy of his trial causes de Villefort to go insane.

  • Ferdnand Mondego / Albert de Morcerf

Desirous of Mercedes, Ferdnand is one of the conspirators who incriminate Edmond as a Bonapartist.  With Dantes presumed dead, Mercedes eventually marries Ferdnand, who goes on to become a decorated officer in the French army.  However, Ferdnand betrays a French ally, Ali Pascha, who is slain. He then sells Pascha's wife and daughter into slavery, stealing their fortune.  After Monte Cristo exposes the Comte [count] de Morcerf before his peers, Ferdnand kills himself.  Albert de Morcerf, his son seeks to avenge his death by dueling Monte Cristo, but his mother pleads for the life of her son, who could have been, she tells, Edmond, their son.  Thus, it is only for the old love of his betrothed that Dantes spares Albert.  Nevertheless, the young man is disgraced.

  •   General Flavien de Quesnel / Baron Franz d'Epinay

After Franz d'Epinay reads the report from the Bonapartist Club, he realizes that his father was not as honorable a man as he had supposed.  His hopes of marrying Valentine de Villefort are dashed, he is deeply embarrassed and angered, and he cancels the engagement.


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