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CHAPTER SUMMARIES AND NOTES
CHAPTER 14 - The Two Prisoners
It is a full year after the restoration of Louis XVIII and Dantès has been imprisoned for a year and a half. The governor visits and inspects the prisons and dungeons with the Inspector of Prisons and finds them horribly disgusting and dark. Referring to Dantès, the governor notes that he is extremely dangerous, having tried to kill the turnkey the year before. The governor and inspector then discuss the imprisoned Abbé, approximately 20 feet away from Dantès who had formerly been a party leader in Italy and who has been in the dungeon since 1811 (about five years) and who is now insane. Dantès pleads with the governor to look into his case and the governor, kindly, promises to do so. The Inspector tells Dantès that M. de Villefort, who originally arrested Dantès, is now at Toulouse.
Dantès still expresses trust in Villefort. The governor and Inspector of Prisons discuss the Abbe's crazed claims of possessing an immense treasure and fortune, which he has offered to give to the government over his years there in return for release. The Abbé was born in Rome, and was a secretary of Cardinal Spada for 20 years before being arrested in 1811 for an unknown reason. The Abbé offers the two men 5 million francs for his release as the governor had laughingly predicted. The Abbé is desperate, promising to wait in jail while they find the treasure, but the governor and Inspector refuse to believe him, reasoning if he were really wealthy he never would have been imprisoned in the first place. The Inspector examines Dantès register of arrest, and finds a note left by Villefort calling Dantès a "violent Bonapartiste who took an active part in the return from Elba," who must be watched carefully. Dantès waits in hope for ten months, but when the governor is transferred and the new governor learns numbers instead of names, Dantès becomes number 34.
At this point, Dantès, despite being in prison for some 17 months now, is still trusting in Villefortís protection. This trust and Dantèsí gradual awakening and realization of the facts and the true nature of people begins to be revealed here with his neighbor, a learned and wiser person from whom he learns much. Dumas uses the visit of the governor to describe the conditions of the prison, noting that he finds them horribly disgusting and dark. This is an effective narrative technique for Dumas to employ to ensure the reader has an "impartial" viewpoint of the conditions in which Dantès currently finds himself.
CHAPTER 15 - Number 34 and Number 27
Having lost much hope, Dantès tries to make the best of the situation by asking for things including pen, paper, cell change or a companion - all are refused. Dantès turns to God, then begins to rage, wondering what he could have done to deserve his situation and swears vengeance. Six years into his imprisonment, Dantès considers suicide and begins to starve himself to death by hiding and disposing of his food. On the fourth day of starving, Edmond hears a neighboring prisoner scratching his way to what Dantès believes is escape. Dantèsí hope is renewed and he begins again to eat, determined to help his neighbor. He first breaks a pitcher in his cell and uses the pieces to remove stones in his cell wall, then graduates to a saucepan holder, regretting not having considered escape seriously before.
That night he speaks for the first time to his neighbor, Number 27, who is now very close to Dantès through the wall - the neighbor learns from Dantès that Napoleon has been defeated and admits he has miscalculated the prison in his attempt to escape. Grateful for the company, Dantès is full of renewed hope and solace and is eager to help in the escape, vowing to kill his jailer should he ever discover the hole in the wall behind Dantèsí bed. The next day, prisoner #27 breaks through to Dantès cell.
This chapter marks the lowest point in Dantès existence, and it is of this state of being that he will constantly remind himself when seeking revenge later. He has almost begun to go mad and, like his father and Danglars later, is starving to death. This misery is integral in Dantèsí later assertion that to understand true happiness, one must first know what it is to be completely miserable. Further, this chapter also marks the beginning of Dantèsí belief in the importance of hope. After almost giving up, he learns the importance of hope, which he will later teach to others.
CHAPTER 16 - A Learned Italian
Dantès is impressed by Number 27, a learned man with a number of homemade and sophisticated tools for his escape. Number 27 is in fact the so-called crazy Abbé Faria, and both he and Dantès discuss the escape situation, which the Abbé finds useless, having spent too much time and effort on the first failed attempt. Dantès, however, is so impressed with the Abbé having plotted an escape over three years that he is filled with hope. Dantès hatches a new plot involving the murder of the sentinel that guards the prison gallery.
The Abbé refuses to resort to murder and instead believes they should wait for a more favorable moment. Dantès learns that throughout the Abbe's imprisonment, he has kept himself busy by writing and studying, having made himself pens, ink and paper, which impresses Dantès. The Abbé has spent years writing "A Treatise on the Possibility of General Monarchy in Italy" on his shirts, his references and history having been recalled from memory. The Abbé had memorized some 150 books before his imprisonment and speaks six languages.
This chapter marks Dantèsí first experience with the power of learning, resourcefulness, and the will to overcome seemingly impossible obstacles. When he eventually leaves the prison, he will be much wiser, and will endeavor to learn much more before carrying out his vengeance so that it is sure to succeed. The Abbe's interest and skill with chemistry will be a major influence on Dantès. Importantly, Dantèsí learns the virtue of extreme patience from the Abbé, and is surprised to learn the Abbé would refuse to take anotherís life. Although Dantès himself will never take a life, at this point in the novel he is willing. The fact that Dantèsí new friend is a religious man will figure importantly into the rest of the story and Dantèsí belief that his life is being guided by God. Dantèsí meeting with the Abbé while he was on the verge of committing suicide is a form of divine intervention in itself.