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Count Of Monte Cristo Ambition

In the timeless Romantic era novel The Count of Monte Cristo set in France during the early nineteenth century, Alexandre Dumas displays the complexity of the word ambition and demonstrates, through his characters, how ambition is the common driving force behind actions–often rooting itself in the very essence of a character’s being. Ambition is defined by The Random House Dictionary of the English Language as “an earnest desire for some type of achievement of distinction, as power, honor, fame, or wealth, and the willingness to strive for its attainment” ( ).

Most apparently, Edmond Dantes (the Count of Monte Cristo) has an ambition for revenge, which influences much of his decisions throughout the entirety of the novel. Additionally, Gerard de Villefort has an ambition for political status, which blinds him from acting morally. Gaspard Caderousse, desires wealth; this ambition causes him to lose everything dear to him. Finally, Dantes’s fellow prisoner, Abbe Jose Custodio de Faria, has an ambition for freedom, which lasts him until his death.

These men, though unique in what they desire, all have an ambition that consumes their lives; however, this ambition means something different to each of the four. When thinking of ambition, religious seeking of wealth often is the first to come to mind; perhaps, this is because seeking wealth is likely the most widespread in society today. A perfect example of this in the novel is Caderousse whose ambition for wealth ultimately ends in his demise.

His ambition first becomes apparent when Dantes (disguised as Abbe Busoni) “took the diamond from his pocket and handed it to Caderousse” (Dumas 110) in return for information incriminating people from Dantes’s past. Caderousse intentionally withholds the fact that he himself falsifies details in the letter which incriminates Dantes. Moreover, this diamond–worth fifty thousand francs–is not enough for the innkeeper and he resorts to killing the diamond merchant and even his own wife in order to get more money out of the diamond.

Lastly, when his allowance is not enough, he attempts to rob the Count of Monte Cristo’s house; this final act on his greedy ambition results in his murder. This parallels in life where ambition for wealth causes men to be so blinded from reality that they lose everything that is important to them. Though many believe that money is the key to happiness, studies support the contrary; ‘financial rewards mainly generate short-term boosts of energy which can have damaging unintended consequences’ (Williams 2).

Like Caderousse, most individuals whose ambition is for wealth find little fulfilment from their efforts for financial gain. Similarly to the ambition for wealth, the desire for political status can be just as detrimental. Often times, individuals may be less concerned with wealth, but have an ambition for status, which eats away at their souls and consumes their lives. This ambition most likely stems from pride and a desire for superiority, which one can only satisfy with a title.

This can be seen clearly in a New Jersey politician, James Treffinger, whose ‘… ursuit of national office began to consume him’ (Stewart 1). A great desire for political status drives Treffinger to become corrupt. This is similar to Villefort, who abandons morality in pursuit of political status. Villefort, in order to stay in good terms with those in power, disowns his own father because his father is a Bonapartist–an opposing political party leader. Furthermore, when Dantes is brought before Villefort in the beginning of the novel, Villefort is willing to sabotage an innocent man in order to avoid being connected to his father.

To destroy the only piece of evidence against him, he “threw the letter into the flames and stood watching it until it had been reduced to ashes” (Dumas 29). Additionally, Villefort imprisons Dantes for life so that he has no risk that his political ambitions would be disrupted. While Dantes is in prison, Villefort–through various methods of conniving and deceit–is able to become the Deputy Minister of France, the most powerful law enforcement position in the country.

Despite reaching the pinnacle of his political ambition, he does not gain fulfilment because his corrupt and immoral behavior catches up with him as Benedetto declares that he is the illegitimate son of Villefort whom he tried to kill him as an infant. Like a house built on a poor foundation, Villefort’s life comes crumbling down. His ambition for political status causes him to lose everything–including his sanity. Not all ambitions, however, have negative negative reactions. For many, ambition is a great desire for something far more noble and virtuous than wealth or status.

An example of this in the novel is seen through Abbe Faria’s tenacious ambition for freedom. In the prison Chateau d’If, Abbe Faria has one goal on his mind–to gain his freedom. He went through painstaking processes in order to prepare his escape. After reaching an insurmountable barrier against his liberation, he howls to Dantes: ‘Do you know what I’ve already done? Do you know that it took me four years to make my tools… two years I scratched and scraped earth as hard as granite… I had to dislodge stones which I would never thought myself capable of even moving? ’ (Dumas 51).

His ambition allows him to achieve great feats and to do what he never thinks he would be able to do. Moreover, his ambition enabled him to keep his sanity (despite what the guards thought). Even when he faces certain death due to a terminal illness, he has his ambition on his mind telling Dantes that he looks forward to ‘the hour of [his] deliverance, which can now be nothing except the hour of [his] death’ (Dumas 63). He anticipates his death because that is the only way he can gain his freedom. Similarly to Abbe Faria, Dantes forms an ambition that consumes the entirety of his thoughts while in prison.

Often, ambitions are formed when an individual goes through a traumatic experience which shapes their life and alters their personality. This is precisely the case for Dantes–the central character who is falsely convicted as a dangerous political prisoner and is placed in the Chateau d’If. As resentment towards those who ruined his life boiled inside him, he begins to form an ambition for revenge. After his escape, Dantes unrelentingly strives to enact revenge on his enemies who caused him to suffer in prison for fourteen years.

It is not until after his revenge is all but complete when he begins to doubt his actions; however, after returning to the location of his suffering, he again is convinced he did right saying to himself, ‘Woe to those who put me into that wretched dungeon, and to those who forgot I was there! ’ (Dumas 504). This ambition for revenge is far from irrational. Seeking revenge is actually a natural desire “because vengeance is part of the innate survival mechanics of a complex social species” (Bloom 1). Though Dantes may have taken his ambition to the extreme, one could argue that his actions are justifiable.

Throughout The Count of Monte Cristo, as in life, there are a variety of ambitions that guide the lives of many people; Alexandre Dumas exhibits this complexity through Caderousse’s ambition for wealth, Villefort’s ambition for political status, Abbe Faria’s ambition for freedom, and Dantes’s ambition for revenge. Like in the novel, ambition can come in many different variations and can affect people in different degrees. Being ambitious has always been seen as a positive attribute; however, it is important to have an ambition for what will bring fulfillment in life.

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