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Which Prison is the Real Prison?

Over the course of the 19thcentury novel, The Count of Monte Cristo, Edmond Dantes lives in two different prisons; the literal prison at the chateau d’If and his figurative prison of revenge. He his placed in the literal prison because of his friends; who were trying to secure their future by ridding themselves of him. Whereas, Edmond places himself in his figurative prison to keep from going insane. Throughout the book, Edmond is plagued by his figurative prison; he believes that he has been given the right to decide how to punish those who have done him wrong, even though he is sadly mistaken. He is also plagued by the chateau d’If prison; because it prevents him from being with the woman he loves.  Both prisons have three things in common; they are unescapable without help; Edmond falls deeper into them every day and lastly; when Edmond eventually does escape; he escapes by water.

Edmond tries time and again to escape the prisons, only to find that they are unescapable. In the chateau d’If, he tries to threaten and bribe the jailer into letting him go, but to his dismay, the jailer declines and refuses to even send a letter to his love. “Listen, then: if you refuse to deliver a letter to Mercédès, or at least let her know I’m here, someday I’ll be hiding behind the door when you come in and I’ll beak open your head with this stool. Threats! Cried the jailer, stepping back and putting himself on the defensive.” (Chapter 6). In Edmond’s prison of revenge, he is visited by Mercédès who pleads with him to cease following this treacherous path and to instead let himself be guided by God, but he refuses; then Mercédès tells him how she broke off from God and how it tortured her. “…has turned my hair grey and my eyes have shed so many tears that there are dark rings round them; and my forehead is furrowed. But you, Edmond, you are still young, still handsome and still proud. You did have faith, you had strength, you trusted in God, and God sustained you. I was a coward, I denied him, so God abandoned me; and here I am”. (Chapter 112: Unabridged Version) Edmond’s escapes, though in different forms, mean the same thing. In the chateau d’If prison, Edmond wishes that he could return to Mercédès but, he is restrained by the jailer and the prison itself. In the figurative prison, Edmond is restrained by his need for revenge, his hate and his anger which are what make his decision to stay in his prison until his work is finished. While Edmond resides in both prisons he has much time to think about how his life was and how it could still be provided he be released, but instead of working towards that; he tries to do whatever possible to get his freedom. Edmond tries to escape by threatening the jailer and listening to Mercédès, but neither work and he is forced to remain in his prisons until the arrival of help.

During Edmond’s stay in the prisons, he falls deeper and deeper into his treacherous situation. In the figurative prison, Edmond believes that God will save him and he will be free; but after many years, he believes his fate is sealed. In the chateau d’If prison, Edmond is immediately taken to a clean nice cell; but is later transferred to a dirtier cell, that is located in the dungeon. “…prisoners forgotten in a dungeon.” (Chapter 9) In both prisons, Edmond is moved into a deeper place and his spirits act accordingly; he is no longer joyful and does not believe that God is going to help him anymore. “His soul became dark and a cloud seemed to pass before his eyes.” (Chapter 9) He also considers starving himself showing he is completely sure that God will no longer be there to help him. “From that day onward, twice a day, he threw his food out the small barred window through which he could see nothing but the sky; at first gaily, then thoughtfully, then regretfully.” (Chapter 9) At the end of his stays in the prisons, Edmond is so broken, it is hard to believe he could ever recover and become a good, believing man again, but in the end, he proves us wrong.

When Edmond escapes from his prisons; he does so by water. At the chateau d’If, he believes that he will be buried in a grave and escape that way; but instead he is thrown into the sea. “The sea is the cemetery of chateau d’If” (Chapter 12). In his figurative prison, he sails away with Haydée; his new love, on the back of the ocean. “On the dark blue line separating the sky from the Mediterranean they saw a white sail.” (Chapter 73). This connection with water prompts the reader to think deeper about Edmond Dantes’ life; the reader then realizes that Edmond was a sailor before any of his imprisonments and perhaps God decided to relieve Edmond of his prisons by using his old friend: the sea. Edmond’s fortune was also concealed at sea, the island of Monte Cristo was where the treasure was hidden and after many, many years, it still remained intact without any floods or other natural disasters to destroy the small island. Later though the sea sinks the last Mr. Morrel’s ships which poses an argument that all of this was just luck. Edmond’s good luck when it comes to water prompts the reader to speculate if there was any divine intervention even though Edmond no longer thought God was there for him.

As we have seen, Edmond’s prisons are unescapable without help, Edmond falls deeper into them every day and; when Edmond eventually does escape; he escapes by water. Both prisons have many points in common and prompt the reader to think deeper into the hidden details and theories of the novel. When Edmond’s friends rid themselves of him for their own benefit and send Edmond to his literal prison at the Chateau d’If; Edmond responds by disguising himself to place misfortune and bad luck on their households. When he arrives in his literal prison, Edmond is broken and can only survive by accepting his situation for the time being. Overall, this 19thcentury novel by Alexander Drumas, holds many similarities between the chateau d’If prison and Edmond’s literal prison of revenge.

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