The Limitations of Human Justice
When Dantès escapes from prison, he is obsessed with gaining revenge against those who betrayed him, as well as rewarding those who remained loyal to him. The revenge theme drives the entire narrative, and Dantès, as Monte Cristo, pursues it patiently and ruthlessly. He believes he is one of those “extraordinary beings” who act as agents of divine Providence. He brings punishment when it is deserved and when it is due. Monte Cristo states this quite explicitly to Villefort when they first meet in Paris and engage in a philosophical discussion (Chapter 48, “Ideology”). Monte Cristo takes Villefort to task for thinking about justice only in terms of human law and society. He, on the other hand, is aware of a more profound reality. He tells the astonished Villefort of an encounter he had with Satan, in which he declared that “the most beautiful, noblest, most sublime thing in the world is to recompense and punish.” Dantès requested that he become Providence itself. Satan told him that the most he could aspire to was to be an agent of Providence.
Eventually, Monte Cristo comes to see the limitations that attend a human being who seeks to appropriate to himself a function of the divine. Having previously used the Biblical notion that the sins of the father are visited on the children to justify the devastation he was prepared to wreak on whole families, he is brought up in shock at the death of the...
(The entire section is 806 words.)
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