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Headscratchers / The Count of Monte Cristo

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  • How does Noirtier eat? Or excrete?
    • Presumably, the servants help him.
      • No, I mean, how does he physically do it if the corresponding muscles are paralyzed?
      • I wouldn't know, but since his condition exists in reality, it's not unrealistic.
    • I always figured that they gave him liquid or other soft food that he could easily suck in with a straw. I'm not that aware of this condition, but it could be that he's still able to relieve himself. Maybe it's just his arms and legs (and vocal chordes) that are paralyzed and everything else still works?
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    • Automatically. A lot of systems (like the heart, diaphragm, throat, and bowels) work independently from the brain, and it typically requires training one's mind explicitly to overcome these systems in order to have any semblance of control over them. Noirtier eats and defecates because if he couldn't, either he would have died of heart failure long ago or nothing with a body too large to absorb sufficient air through osmosis would have ever come into being, or failing that, consistently died a much more disgusting death shortly after every single birth. Presumably, his servants take care to be certain he doesn't choke (such as feeding him a diet of liquified food and punching him in the chest every time something goes down the wrong pipe).

  • In what is essentially a decades-long morality play, it's always bothered me that the most moral character in the book winds up paying for crimes she never committed. Mercedes is the only person of her generation not to have intentionally harmed anyone, and yet she winds up broken and alone, while Dantes sails off into the blue horizon with a hot young thing. I know the book is of its time, but the other female characters seem to end up with fates that align with their actions. Why is Mercedes so screwed?
    • YMMV seriously on whether Mercedes deserved it or not. I don't neecessarily say she deserved to be alone, but arguably Dantes might have been less harsh on her if she hadn't married Fernand Mondego of all people. If she had waited a decent interval, say a year, and married someone for comfort and security and maybe a little love, I think things would have changed a lot - but she married her enemy and was too naive to think any deeper into it.
      • I don't think Fernand Mondego was her enemy. He was Dantes' enemy, to the point where they only shake hands because Mercedes tells them to. But to Mercedes, he was always a friend, and she knew that he loved her, she even loved him back in her own way - just not nearly as much as she had loved Dantes.
      • I don't think it was intended to be a "punishment." If anything, it's a testament to her character, in that she's easily able to give up all the things Fernand provided for her upon learning of his crimes against Edmond and settle down for the life she was "meant" to have in Marseille. Even if she would have him, that's a life Edmond would never be able to go back to.
      • The count specifically tells her that she should not have given up all the wealth that Fernand had amassed, because part of it was hers by right. He actually intended for Albert and Mercedes to live in peace and relative comfort after he was done with Fernand. Mercedes becoming a hermit and Albert joining the African army were entirely self-inflicted punishments.
      • To Mercedes' credit, and as Dantes acknowledged, she did wait eighteen months before agreeing to marry Fernand - which was a reasonable interval, especially considering Mercedes is established from the start as a penniless orphan who had to count on her village's charity in order to survive. She is, after all, a 19th century woman who can't really fend for herself unless she marries. Becoming a nun isn't really an option either, since convents at the time asked for a dowry from a postulant - and Mercedes can't afford that either. There is a big Dramatic Irony that she ends up marrying Fernand, but he was her cousin and she did esteem him, even if she didn't love him as he would have wanted her to. And she did take care of Edmond's father until he died - the poor man would have died alone if it wasn't for her and Morrel.
      • Not to mention that if you look at it, Mercedes could have chosen to end up with Edmond. Of course, she is somewhat tainted by Fernand's disgrace and suicide, but the Count marrying her might be seen as a very charitable act on his part, not to mention he has Fuck You Money if anyone would come to speak ill of her. The issue is that there is a bit of a case of Values Dissonance here, since honor was very much valued especially in higher society in the 19th century. Fernand may have been dishonorable, but Mercedes sure isn't, and honor dictates that she cannot accept anything from the man behind her husband's death, whatever her feelings might be. Not to mention that her entering a convent is basically a sign of pennance for Fernand's sins, which is sometimes a reason for a religious vocation in the Catholic Church.
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    • When playing as Busoni in front of Caderousse, Dantes condemns her as an unfaithful woman for marrying so quickly after he disappeared, and the implication seems to be that she probably never should have married at all (since he wouldn't have been happy with any amount of waiting). It's possible that Dumas agreed with this sentiment.
      • As I recall, isn't there some implication that she was aware of her husband's crimes, or a least knew where not to look and what not to ask?
      • That scene is hard to judge. The line where he says 18 months is more than any lover could ask for could be taken as heartfelt sentiment or bitter sarcasm; it doesn't give any hint as to which.
    • Madame Danglars gets the short end of the stick as well, considering there's nothing particularly "bad" about her character, besides being somewhat neglectful of her daughter. Villefort is the one who buried her child alive, while it's shown that she was unaware of this and is still stricken with guilt over the whole thing. She cheats on her husband, certainly, but it's shown over and over that Danglars is a horrible and domineering husband, and doesn't even care about her unfaithfulness. She even found a way to become financially independent! Yet she ends up dishonored and in fits of hysterics. Even Eugenie is last seen with her head bowed in shame, despite being able to run away with Louise.
      • Socially, Madame Danglars is ruined, and even if she has more than enough for food, housing, and entertainment, she will never be accepted in Parisian high society again. If this wasn't obvious after Danglars left, it was definitely true after the Benedetto affair.
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    • It should perhaps be noted that part of the point of the book is that seeking vengeance, no matter how seemingly righteous, inevitably results in collateral damage to people who didn't deserve it as much or at all. We can argue that these examples just support the point that if you're going to devote yourself to revenge, then you're inevitably also going to end up bringing harm not just to your enemies but people who just happened to be there or who just got in the way.