The lessons of revenge from literature
Revenge does more damage to the avenger than to the avenged.” One of the best pieces of literary genius tells the story of betrayal, survival, faith, revenge and God. “The Count of Monte Cristo,” written in 1844 by Alexandre Dumas, brings to light a disturbing story with a powerful message.
But, the true message is not what the book is known for. This story is not about justified revenge. It is quite the opposite.
During the exile of Napoleon Bonaparte, two best friends from different social classes in French society were inseparable. Edmond Dantes was a sailor from a poor family. Fernando Mondego was a wealthy young man from an upper-class family. They were closer than brothers.
There was only one problem. While Fernando had the money and wealth, he allowed his unfettered desire for his best friend’s girlfriend, Mercedes, to destroy himself from within.
Meanwhile, Edmond was promoted to be the chief sailor among the crew after one hectic trip to France. The decision of his promotion was disgusted by Fernando and other crew members.
Edmond had also been given a letter from the banished Bonaparte. When Fernando received the letter, his jealousy, lust and ambition were unleashed. Fernando conspired with the local prosecutor Villifort, the crew members and others to betray Edmond. Not only did Fernando and his co-conspirators conspire to have him arrested and convicted of treason, they ensured that he would be sentenced to 15 years imprisonment at the prison where no one escapes — Chateau d’If.
After time passed with her love now imprisoned as an enemy of the state, the devastated Mercedes finally lost hope and gave in to Fernando’s relentless marriage proposals.
During his years of solitary confinement, coupled with his knowledge that he betrayed by those he loved, Edmond lost faith in God and every principle he ever stood for. He was just waiting to die.
However, he befriended a fellow inmate (a priest) who was also sentenced based on false testimony. The priest educated Edmond, taught him the ways of the sword and gentleman, how to suppress emotions and provided him with expert knowledge in military strategy.
However, the priest would have no effect on Edmond’s plans to unleash Hell along with the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse upon his betrayers.
Edmond finally escaped, retrieved the now dead priest’s vast fortune, and became a new man in every way. Edmond became the Count of Monte Cristo.
With money, confidence and a polished demeanor, he travelled to Paris with only one purpose — revenge. His newly built image drew his enemies closer to him than ever. None of them even recognized him. Since each of them had prospered by deceiving others, taking advantage of men who freely gave money to others in need and were devoid of conscience and moral fabric, the Count easily, one by one, exacted his revenge by ruining each man in a different way. He would always reveal himself to a shocked enemy just before they were about to be taken to jail, kill themselves or realize they were doomed.
Thus, the commonly held belief is that “The Count of Monte Cristo” is a story about the justified use of revenge to “make things right.”
Yet, nothing could be further from the truth.
Edmond does not ride into the sunset a happy man with a sense of justice. His thirst for revenge had only been partly satisfied. He realized that there was no amount of pain he can inflict on deserving liars and treacherous men that will ever fill that deep void in the center of his heart.
Though Edmond managed to escape from prison after 14 years, he may as well have remained there for an extra 10 years. His unquenchable thirst for revenge was just as confining — mentally, emotionally, spiritually and morally — as his jail cell ever was. Revenge kept him from beginning anew. Edmond’s ability to see his plan through might be called a triumph of the human spirit, but it was also a triumph of the darkness within him.
“The Count of Monte Cristo” sends the Biblically sound message that when we experience betrayal, lies, challenges to integrity or any of the thousands of possible unprovoked attacks on our character, we are expected to forgive each of the wrongdoers, be grateful for what we have and remove ourselves from the situation. Yes, much easier said than done.
During my career and life, I have witnessed countless examples of evil deeds. But, I have yet to see God ignore these misdeeds either inside or outside of the courtroom.
By leaving injustice in God’s hands and working on the tough duty to forgive, then peace, honor, and integrity for the falsely accused criminal defendant, former business associate, former family member, spouse or former friend naturally occurs.
Consider the true lesson from “The Count of Monte Cristo.” I promise to you that I will do so.