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The Count of Monte Cristo

by Alexandre Dumas père
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Imagine Edmond Dantés can write one letter to Mercédes from his prison in the Chateau d'If of The Count of Monte Cristo.

Edmond Dantes would not write Mercedes a letter while in prison because he would be aware that anything he wrote could potentially ruin his ultimate revenge on all who wronged him.

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This is a difficult hypothetical to explore and certainly one that would be completely subject to the interpretation of the reader. During his time in the dread fortress, the Chateau d'If, Dantes reaches a level of depression that could easily be described as hopelessness. He feels as if the entire...

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This is a difficult hypothetical to explore and certainly one that would be completely subject to the interpretation of the reader. During his time in the dread fortress, the Chateau d'If, Dantes reaches a level of depression that could easily be described as hopelessness. He feels as if the entire world is against him and simply wants to shut him away and forget about him. During his first six years of imprisonment, Dantes is hopeless and even suicidal. If he were to write a letter to Mercedes at this point, he would no doubt simply profess his undying love and beg her to believe his innocence if she cannot outright intercede on his behalf. However, in the state that Dantes is in, it is not difficult to believe that he would not have the emotional strength or direction to write a letter even if he were able.

After meeting and beginning his education with Abbe Faria, Dantes becomes increasingly aware of the conspiracy against him. His education, while empowering him greatly, makes him acutely aware of how his naivete has been a weakness in the past. As he plots his revenge, he begins to blur the line between friend and foe and would not dare give away any of his machinations for fear of his vengeance losing its edge. It is not at all difficult to believe in this scenario that Dantes would choose not to write a letter to Mercedes, and if he would, he certainly would not be honest about his increasingly fortunate turn of circumstances.

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With such an assignment, one needs to consider verisimilitude as the most important element of the letter.  That is, the letter must befit the character as protrayed by the author so that it seems genuine.  Therefore, one should return to the novel and seek salient personality traits of the character; these are often revealed in dialogue and reactions to the character by other characters.  For instance, Dantes is young and ingenuous; having spent much of his time at sea away from his fiancee and her environment, he does not fully comprehend the interrelationships that exist around Mercedes.  And, because he is a first mate, his socializing on Morrel's ship is mainly with gentlemen. Obviously, too, his father has protected Dantes from the "seedier side of life." So, he is unacquainted with the type of character that Caderousse is; the deviousness of Danglars is also unknown to him.

With Danglars and Caderousse, also, Dantes's naivete is indicated. In an instance of situational irony, Dantes replies to the greeting of Caderousse, who asks, "are you too proud to speak to them?"

'No, my dear fellow, I am not proud, but I am in love, and I believe love is more apt to make one blind that pride is."

With this blindness of love, Dantes invites Ferdinand, who secretly desires Mercedes, to his betrothal feast. And, when Fernand open his mouth to reply, his voice "died in his throat," but Dantes does not notice his reaction.  Yet, he has some premonition for he chastises the men not to speak of him as a captain, for it will "bring bad luck."  At the betrothal feast, where his enemies surround him, Dantes does not notice that "Danglars looked at Fernand, who impressionable nature was keenly alive to every emotion," but he does say,

'Joy has that peculiar effect that at times it oppresses us just as much as grief....I cannot help thinking it is not man's lot to attain happiness so easily.  Good fortune is like the palaces of the enchanted isles, the gates of which were guarded by dragons.  Happiness could only be obtained by overcoming these dragons, and I, I know not how I have deserved the honour of becoming Mercedes's husband.'

Added to Dantes's uncertainly and discomfiture with the forces of fate are his experiences when he is brought before the Deputy Procureur, who initially tells Dantes that he is free to go, but then recalls him, asking to him the captain's letter is to be delivered.  At this point, de Villefort sinks into his chair, passing his hand over his brow that drips with perspiration, and rereads the letter a third time (which Dantes does not note).  "He made a violent effort to pull himself together."  Telling Dantes that the principal charge against the young man is the letter, the Deputy Prosecutor sets the letter afire.

Consider, too, the conversation between de Villefort and Dantes when he is examined:

'Perhaps you have no enemies, but you may have aroused feelings of jealousy....'

'You are right.  No doubt you  understand men better than I do, and possibly it is so, but if any of my friends cherish any such envious feeling towards me, I would rather not know lest my friendship should turn into hatred.

'You are wrong, you should always strive to see clearly around you....

All that has happened before Dantes's arrest must still be in his mind as he composes his letter to Mercedes, asking her to make every effort to intercede for him, along with his father. Yet, although he may reflect upon these events, one must also consider that Dantes does not recognize the treachery against him until after he meets the Abbe Faria in prison.  So, while he may mention some oddities of behavior by the other characters, Dantes will not draw the proper conclusions in his letters because he clearly chooses to be naive, as mentioned in several of the above remarks and quotations.

Good luck, now, with the letter which you will write.



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