Is Revenge Good?
I’ve been listening to The Count of Monte Cristo on Audible. It is another 50+ hour book! I loved to listen to this book, because it provided great literary substance about the worth of conducting one’s vengeance.
Throughout the whole time of listening to The Count of Monte Cristo, I have observed the obsessive nature of Edmond Dantès. Edmond believes he is sent by God to enact his revenge on the men who betrayed him. Edmond will not stop until these betrayers have their lives literally destroyed.
His emotional drive for revenge is like a boulder that is rolling down a mountain. The betrayers are bystanding trees that get obliterated by being in the path of the descending boulder.
With revenge being a prevalent topic in the book, would Alexandre Dumas show if revenge was good or not? With what happened to Edmond is terrible; it would almost be that his vengeance is justified. Throughout adventures, intrigue, and disguise, Edmond learns that he does not need to serve his own revenge; Edmond needed to let go of the past and look towards the future and what treasure it could hold.
There is a particular perspective about revenge that is demonstrated in this book. I would have thought that Edmond would have directly influenced the lives of the betrayers. Instead, Edmond manipulates, leverages, exploits, and prompts the downfall of these men that sold him out to be a Bonapartist with King XVIII in power.
Fernand the soldier; Villefort the king’s attorney; and Danglars the banker were all driven by jealousy to frame Edmond. Danglars wanted Edmond out of the way so he could take the command of the boat that Edmond was destined to take. Fernand wanted Edmond’s fiancée. Danglars and Fernand forged a letter saying that Edmond was a Bonapartist. Villefort affirmed the false letter that Edmond was a Bonapartist in order to get better standing with King Luis XVIII. Villefort sent Edmond to the Chateau Dif prison.
While in prison, Edmond languishes in his fate, and he does not understand how he got unfortunate. He was about to marry the love of his life and have gainful employment. Luckily, Edmond meets the Abbé Faria, and the Abbé helps Edmond realize that he was sold out. At this moment of realization, Edmond swears vengeance if he ever gets out of prison. The Abbé Faria and Edmond become partners and set to escape. Before the escape could be done, the Abbé Faria is about to die and the Abbé tells Edmond to go retrieve a treasure on the island of Monte Cristo.
Upon escaping prison and finding the treasure, Edmond retrieves the fabled fortune and goes to the orient in order to train and plot his vengeance. During the next several years, Edmond would train, plot, and follow the careers and lives of the men that sold him out - not unlike Batman.
These men have done deeds and acts that they are not happy about. First, they sold Edmond out to be a Bonapartist. They continue to do shady behavior of which they do not restitute. Edmond covertly figures out the crimes or embarrassments of these men, and he plots how he could use the information gathered individually against Danglars, Fernand, and Villefort.
At the point of death, madness, or starvation, these men express terror and remorse. They must have felt these same feelings as they lived their lives, and yet they did nothing to make things better.
At what point does Edmond realize that he doesn’t have to get revenge? That point probably doesn’t come until Edmond is more than half way done with his plot.
Edmond’s old fiancée and wife of Fernand, Mercedes, confronts and challenges Edmond’s resolve for vengeance. With Mercedes’ confrontation, this was probably Edmond’s chance at not getting too deep into his vengeance. Even with Mercedes’ warning, Edmond continues in his vengeance. From that point and onwards, irreversible actions will be done to the lives of the men that sold out Edmond. Fernand commits suicide and Villefort goes insane. On one occasion, a young boy was poisoned by his mother. The death of the boy makes an impact on Edmond and will influence his later decisions.
When Edmond is vengeful, he is destorying himself and he is taking others with him. Vengeance is self destruction because there is so much hate and anger in the soul. And when there is so much hate and anger, the holder will reap no benefit. He is not edified by anger in anyway.
One may be committed to overpowering their enemy, so one could argue that there is benefit in gaining skill. Edmond gained skills in business, swords, guns, and chemistry. But if that skill is used as a tool of hate, then the gaining of skill is unjustified because the skills are making things worse.
How can things be measured to make things better? Things get better when things are done holistically. That means that if someone has done another wrong, things can not get better if that someone is dead. Things can only get better holistically if the perpetrator restitutes the thing that has been done wrong. By restitution, jealousy is fixed and mercy may be served.
There is justice if vengeance is served. Edmond claims this. But justice is cruel and not helpful. Justice restricts any improvements. The men who framed Edmond could have done better by admitting their jealousy if they were given that chance. They weren’t really given that chance except for one.
Forgive and Move On
By the end of the book, Danglars, a banker, is in the process of going bankrupt. In order to salvage what money Danglars has left, he takes the last of his money and flees to Rome. In Rome, Danglars is captured by the banditi, who were hired by Edmond.
The banditi imprison Danglars and they conduct a plan by Edmond to charge Danglars absurd prices for water and food. Danglars, greedy of his money money, holds onto his money, but he starts to starve because he doesn’t want to pay the cost. Desperate to stay alive, Danglars gradually pays up most of his money in order to eat. This is when Edmond confronts Danglars, and Danglars admits his fault and begs forgiveness. Edmond orders the release of Danglars.
With the release of Danglars, Edmond’s vengeance could be satisified because restitution was being made. Danglars’ life didn’t have to be destroyed. With the restitution from Danglars, everyone was improving for the better.
Should Edmond have forgiven all of these men and moved on? I think so. Edmond says the following statements near the end of the book.
“A man, like Satan, thought himself equal to God.”
“God alone possesses supreme power and infinite wisdom.”
“Perhaps those prayers may soften the remorse that he feels in his heart.”
Edmond finds a new found respect for God and His role in life. God is wise, omnipotent, wise, and loving. He knows the best ways to get everyone to improve their own lives. Edmond had no responsibility in picking up God’s role to destroy lives. He had ample opportunity to take the fortune on the island of Monte Cristo and build a new life and or to forgive these men. Edmond could have let God decide the fate of those men. Edmond sums it up best with this, “All human wisdom is summed up in these two words: wait and hope.” Edmond could have learned a more significant lesson in waiting and hoping that his injustice would be restituted and look forward to a new provident life.