Archetypes in the Count of Monte Cristo

9 September 2016

The Count of Monte Cristo Mysterious, morose, cunning, rebellious, and even ingenious are only a few words used to describe Edmond Dantes as a Byronic Hero. A Byronic Hero is defined as a glorified but flawed character with immense superiority in his passions and powers. These heroes can be depicted in a variety of ways and contexts. Similar to a Byronic Hero, Edmond Dantes has suffered great wrongs and was betrayals. However, he emerges as a cruel and powerful man who believes he is taking the place of fate by having revenge on the men responsible for his suffering.

In The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas skillfully uses symbolism to craft and portray Edmond Dantes as the ideal Byronic Hero. First used by Monsieur Morrel in his attempt to save the life of Dantes’s father, Dantes later uses the red silk purse when he is saving Morrel’s life and family’s honor. Right as Monsieur Morrel puts the gun to his head, Valentine runs through the door and calls out “’Father! Father! You’re saved! ’ She held up a red silk purse. ‘Look! Look! ’” (Dumas 129. ) The red purse becomes the physical symbol of the connection between good deed and reward.

Archetypes in the Count of Monte Cristo Essay Example

Morrel recognizes the purse and works out the connection between the good deed performed on his behalf and the good deed he once performed himself. Morrel concludes that Dantes must be his savior, suspecting that he is working from beyond the grave. This purse represents Dantes as a Byronic Hero because it symbolizes his own titanic passion to reward those that have done him fair and kindness. His intense drive and determination to live out his philosophy without regard to others’ beliefs only intensifies this immense fervor.

When Dantes escapes from prison, he plunges into the ocean, experiencing a second baptism and a renewed dedication of his soul to God. Just after diving into the ocean, Dumas depicts Dantes as “…the best swimmer in Marseilles, and he was now anxious to rise to the surface to try his strength against the waves. To his joy he found that he had enforced inaction had not in any way impaired his strength and agility, and he felt that he could still master the element in which he had so often sported when a bay” (Dumas 80. ).

Edmond Dantes can be seen as a Byronic Hero in view of the fact that the Byronic Hero does not possess “heroic virtue” in the usual sense; instead, he has many dark qualities. He emerges from the waters as a bitter and hateful man, bent on carrying out revenge on his enemies. He is washed in the waters that lead him to freedom and his rebirth as a transformed man is complete. The sea continues to appear in the novel even after this symbolic baptism. Byronic Heroes are often depicted as isolated from society as a wanderer or in exile of some kind.

Considering himself a citizen of no land, Dantes spends much of his time on the ocean, traveling the world in his yacht. The sea seems to beckon constantly to Dantes, a skilled sailor, offering him escape and solitude. Dantes’s potion seems to have the power to both kill and to bring to life, a power that Dantes comes to rely on too strongly. The strength of the elixir is conveyed perfectly when the count states, “Only remember one thing. In small doeses it is a remedy, in large doses it is a poison!

One drop will restore life as you have witnessed, five or six will inevitably kill” (Dumas 249). His overestimation of the elixir’s power results in the overestimation of his own power, his delusion that he is almost godlike. It is this misconception that ties the count to the prideful thinking and “larger than life” conduct of a Byronic Hero. The elixir is not powerful enough to bring the dead to life, just like Dantes himself is not capable of accomplishing anything of the nature. It is when Dantes realizes the limits of his potion that he realizes his own limitations as a human being.

Edmond Dantes is viewed as the ideal Byronic Hero by means of Alexandre Dumas’s expertly used symbolism in The Count of Monte Cristo. The passion delivered by the red purse, the transformation caused by the baptismal waters of the ocean, and the pride and power brought by the elixir are all symbols that contribute to him being the perfect exemplar of a Byronic Hero. Because of these symbols, Edmond Dantes can be viewed and compared similarly or even superiorly to any of the Byronic Heroes if the 1800s.

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