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CHAPTER SUMMARIES AND NOTES
CHAPTER 1: Marseilles - The Arrival
(The novel opens at the Marseilles port in southern France where M. Morrel, the owner of the ship Pharaon, is anxiously awaiting the return of his crew and cargo from a three-month voyage.)
Upon returning to port, Edmond Dantès, the shipís first mate, informs M. Morrel, the shipís owner, that the shipís captain, M. Leclère, died from a brain fever during the return voyage. M. Morrel expresses his appreciation for the manner in which Dantès capably took over the ship for its safe return, and the two are obviously fond of one another. Dantès immediately expresses his desire to see his father, with whom he is very close, and then to see his Catalan fiancée Mercédès. He asks for a few daysí leave to be married and then to go to Paris, which Morrel grants.
Danglars, the shipís Supercargo, attempts to arouse Morrelís suspicions regarding the shipís unplanned landing at the Island of Elba, where the deposed Emperor Napoleon has recently been exiled, however, Morrel trusts Dantès and believes that he would make a capable captain. Danglars mentions that Leclère gave Dantès two mysterious packages before dying. When asked, Dantès replies to Morrel that he does not have a letter for him from Leclère. Trusting Dantès, Morrel tells him that he plans to make him the new captain of the Pharaon. Morrel then asks Dantès whether he likes Danglars and whether, as captain, he would like to see Danglars remain as the Supercargo. Dantès admits that while he feels Danglars does not particularly like him, "I shall always have the greatest respect for those who possess the ownersí confidence." Dantès goes ashore happy and excited to see his father and fiancée.
In general, the opening chapter to The Count of Monte Cristo sets the stage for a stark contrast in mood and atmosphere in the chapters that will follow. DantesDantès is obviously a capable sailor, both trusted and respected by his employer Morrel. DantesDantès is going to be both promoted to captain and married to the woman he loves, and is intensely happy. His loyalty and good character is stressed by Dumas, and stands in stark contrast to the character of Danglars, DantesDantèsí shipmate, who is jealous and hateful. Dumas has immediately rendered DantesDantès into a likeable character, while Danglars is portrayed as sinister and cruel.
CHAPTER 2: Father & Son
Dantès leaves Danglars steaming with hatred and arrives at his fatherís small room. His father is delighted to see his sonís return and the two trade affectionate words. Dantès tells his father the good news that he shall probably be the next captain of the Pharaon. Edmond notices that his father does not appear well, and when he searches quickly for some wine, his father admits that there is no wine or food. His father confesses that Edmond had left Marseilles with an outstanding debt of 140 francs to their neighbor, Caderousse. Caderousse had told the elder Dantès that if he did not pay on behalf of Edmond, that he would go to Edmondís employer for the money. Rather than risk his sonís embarrassment, the elder Dantès had paid Caderousse, and had lived on only 60 francs for the past three months. Edmond feels terrible and throws a dozen gold pieces onto the table, promising to find a servant for his father when he next leaves.
Caderousse then enters and praises Dantèsí safe return, of which he has just heard from his friend Danglars. While civil, Dantès cannot help but ill-conceal his coldness to Caderousse, particularly when Caderousse looks greedily at the money on the table. When Dantès mentions he will go to see his fiancée Mercédès, Caderousse implies that she has not lacked for admirers in Edmondís absence. Caderousse rejoins Danglars downstairs and Danglars immediately asks Caderousse whether Dantès alluded to any hope of becoming captain of the Pharaon. When Caderousse states that he has, Danglars replies "Pooh! He is not one yet...If we choose he will remain what he is; and perhaps become even less than he is." When Caderousse asks him what he means by this, Danglars refuses to elaborate. When Danglars asks Caderousse about Mercédès, Caderousse tells him that she has frequently been seen accompanied by a tall, strapping black- eyed Catalan whom she calls cousin. The two decide to follow Dantès and stop for some wine at a small shop while they wait for news.
This chapter further serves to show the good nature and loyalty of the Dantès character, who is also obviously a good and caring son to his elderly father. Dantès good character is now contrasted with that of his neighbor Caderousse, who has taken advantage of Dantèsí father and is obviously greedy. When Danglars and Caderousse meet, it is clear the two are jealous of Dantès. Dumasí language in describing each character is very clear, and it is clear that the author has determined which characters are "good" and which are "bad". In fact, this method of character description will be used throughout the novel, further supporting Dumasí theme of "right" and "wrong" and pitting good against evil. Dumas relies mainly on dialogue to convey the traits of his characters, and contributes very little in the way of description of the characters other than describing the way in which they speak and the expressions on their faces.
CHAPTER 3: The Catalans
A mysterious colony, which once quitted Spain, now a village with a different language, was permitted by the commune of Marseilles to keep the land and continue its way of life. Mercédès is described as young and beautiful, with jet-black hair. She is with Fernand, who is in the process of begging Mercédès to accept his love, as he has dreamed for over ten years of marrying her. Mercédès repeats, as she has no doubt done several times, that she has never encouraged his love, she loves him only as a brother and that she is in love with Dantès. Mercédès notes that he has recently been conscripted and that he may be called to fight any day. Dantès arrives and Fernand is visibly upset and jealous. When Dantès senses that he has an enemy in Fernand and Mercédès pointedly states that should any misfortune ever befall Dantès, she would "ascend the highest point of the Cape de Morigion and cast herself headlong from it". Fernand rushes from the house, where he is called over to sit with Danglars and Caderousse. After prodding him for information, Fernand admits he has been rejected by Mercédès in favor of Dantès. Caderousse remarks that Fernand is not the only person to be put out by the good fortune of Dantès. Seeing Dantès and Mercédès in the distance walking hand in hand, Fernand is tempted to rush upon Dantès, but recollects Mercédèsí threat of killing herself should Dantès die. Dantès and Mercédès announce that their wedding will take place within days and that Dantès will go to Paris immediately afterwards to fulfill the last commission given to him by the late Captain Leclère. Danglars mutters under his breath that Dantès is no doubt going to deliver the letter given to him by the grand marshal at Elba, and that he has a great idea.
This chapter begins with Dumas romanticizing the history and background of the Catalan people, as people of little means but who make an honest living. Here again, Dumas contrasts the obviously loyal, honest and good nature of Mercédès against Fernand, who is overbearing and pushy. Despite Mercédèsí frustration with Fernand cruelty here, however, she is still obviously very trusting and forgiving of him. We also learn here the depth of Mercédèsí love for Dantès, who she says she will love as long as she lives. In this chapter, the seeds are sown for the betrayal of Edmond in which Fernand, Danglars and Caderousse will participate.