The character of Fernand in Alexandre Dumas’ novel of revenge The Count of Monte Cristo is established early on as a potential threat to the story’s protagonist, the seaman and beau of the beautiful Mercedes, Edmond Dantes. Dumas’ novel provides innumerable early instances of terrible developments yet to come. The early chapters of The Count of Monte Cristo have a sense of foreboding that leave little doubt of the travails to which Edmond soon will be subjected. Fernand is a seething cauldron of resentment regarding his position in life and his failure to have that which he most covets: Mercedes. That Dumas’ characters may harbor ulterior motives is evident in the following passage in which Edmond views the drunkard Caderousse, whose arrival is announced by Edmond’s aging father:
“Tis Caderousse, who has heard of your arrival, and no doubt comes to congratulate you on your fortunate return.”
Ah, lips that say one thing, while the heart thinks another,” murmured Edmond.
If Caderousse is not be trusted, however, the perfidy inherent in Fernand’s countenance is especially prevalent. Fernand’s jealousy regarding Mercedes’ preference for Edmond is laid bare. His thoughts may be ravenous with respect to his cousin, but those thoughts do not lie dormant. On the contrary, his expressions and comments leave little doubt regarding his capacity for evil. Dumas devotes Chapter 3 of his novel to the development of the conflict between Fernand and Edmond over the hand of Mercedes, who makes no secret of her love for the latter of the two men. Responding to Fernand’s growing obsession with prevailing over Edmond for her hand in marriage, Mercedes finally exclaims:
“Fernand . . . I believed you were good-hearted, and I was mistaken! Fernand, you are wicked to call to your aid jealousy and the anger of God! . . . I understand you, Fernand; you would be revenged on him because I do not love you; you would cross your Catalan knife with his dirk. What end would that answer? To lose you my friendship if he were conquered, and see that friendship changed into hate if you were victor. Believe me, to seek a quarrel with a man is a bad method of pleasing the woman who loves that man. No, Fernand, you will not thus give way to evil thoughts.”
Fernand’s thoughts are scarcely belied by his actions. On the contrary, his demeanor is one of hostility. Conceding, at the urging of Mercedes, to make peace with Edmond and shake hands, Fernand instead seethes with rage:
“His hatred, like a powerless thought furious wave, was broken against the strong ascendancy which Mercedes exercised over him. Scarcely, however, had he touched Edmond’s hand than he felt he had done all he could do, and rushed hastily out of the house.”
Fernand’s private thoughts are of revenge against Edmond for prevailing in a competition Edmond never knew existed. It is only the naiveté of Mercedes and Edmond, however, that allows this obvious threat to their happiness and to their future to materialize, setting the stage for the betrayals and acts of vengeance yet to come.