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Justice is a universal idea that has existed since human civilization began. According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, justice is “the maintenance or administration of what is just especially by the impartial adjustment of conflicting claims or the assignment of merited rewards or punishments.” Because it is and has always been important to people and in society, numerous works of literature have been written on this topic. Published in France in 1844, the historical fiction novel The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas tells the story of how Edmond Dantès, a kind young man, is imprisoned due to false accusations of treason and betrayed by people he knows or is around, such as Fernand, Danglars, Caderousse, and Villefort, and avenges these injustices after his escape from prison. Edmond uses multiple aliases, such as the Count of Monte Cristo, Lord Wilmore, Abbé Busoni, and Sinbad the Sailor to create a new mysterious identity after his escape from prison and to earn the trust and confidence of the people he wishes to get vengeance on. He then exploits their flaws against them by giving them the tools to destroy themselves. Although it may seem that the Count’s philosophy on justice is that people must mercilessly persecute those who have wronged them, his true philosophy on justice is that it must be carried out only to the necessary extent in both good and bad ways to ensure fairness and equality because he believes strongly in the importance of loyalty and friendship and the idea that God is the only one who can give people the power and justification to act as they do.
It is true that the Count’s philosophy can be viewed as one that is unforgiving and ruthless in punishing others for vengeance; however, this is untrue because in reality, his actions are justified by the injustices that those people have previously committed in his life. This is shown when the Count watches as Caderousse dies before revealing his true identity to Caderousse just as he is about to die (Dumas 343-344). It may appear that the Count is simply trying to punish Caderousse because of a simple dislike or hatred. This implies that the Count’s philosophy is simply punishing anyone who opposes him mercilessly, but as the famous proverb says, “appearances can be deceiving,” so we will analyze the Count’s actions deeper. This requires us to look farther back to see what Caderousse did to the Count. When Danglars and Fernand wrote the fake letter of denunciation that led to Edmond’s imprisonment, Caderousse allowed it by not opposing the act of writing the letter. He let Edmond suffer and languish in prison for fourteen years by watching and doing nothing. Here, the Count is getting his vengeance by doing the same. Many years later, the roles are now flipped, and the Count watches as Caderousse suffers to his death by bleeding and being in pain. Caderousse feels what Edmond did: pain, isolation, and suffering. The Count does not directly hurt Caderousse; instead, he allows for Caderousse’s greed to lead him to try to burglarize the Count’s house before failing and being killed by his accomplice. The Count lets Caderousse’s own fatal flaws destroy himself. He is using the old philosophy of Hammurabi: “An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth” (Dumas 139). He believes that if one makes another suffer in a certain way, then for justice to be fully served, then that person must also suffer in the same way. This is an important aspect of his philosophy on justice because it dictates to him how much and what he can do to others who wronged him; thus, the Count’s philosophy on justice is not ruthlessly punishing enemies as may be believed, but rather logically and mindfully making them suffer for what they have done.
The Count believes that justice must be carried out in the name of God in order to reward people for good acts that they have done and punish criminals for their bad acts. His philosophy is that he must act as Providence, in the place of God, to ensure that people are rewarded with what they deserve for their good deeds or suffer as punishment for what crimes they have committed. This ideology is demonstrated when Albert and Mercédès, son and wife of Fernand, realize what a malevolent person Fernand is and leave Paris with very little resources and money. Although he hated Fernand because of his role in the false accusations, he does not believe that innocent believe should suffer. He sees Albert and Mercédès, so he takes pity on them and hopes that, “God will help [him]” (Dumas 461) give back to them what they should rightfully have but lost, despite their innocence, due to Fernand’s criminal conduct hurting them. Fernand is punished, and rightfully so, because he was instrumental in the imprisonment of Edmond, but Albert and Mercédès should not be because they are loyal and ignorant of everything that happened. This shows the Count’s generosity, but more importantly, it is a prime example of his philosophy on justice. He believes that he must act as Providence to give people what they deserve, and he does just that by giving back to Albert and Mercédès. It is necessary for him to do this to ensure that his actions are justified and that he is not being cruel or unreasonable. Justice is not necessarily revenge for the Count; it can be both helpful and harmful to people.
Another critical aspect of the Count’s philosophy on justice is the idea that justice must only be carried out to a certain degree; if too much harm is done, then one is no longer justified in his or her actions. When he causes Villefort to lose his entire family, he realizes that God is no longer ‘for … and with [him]”. The Count realizes that his plan of careful and controlled justice has become uncontrollable due to Villefort’s own actions. This caused his plan to be ruined because it led to two bystanders to the plan being harmed by the plan. Because of this realization, the Count tries to save the life of Villefort’s son, who unnecessarily suffered a death by poisoning due to the discord caused by the Count’s plan. Upon not being able to save this life, the Count, normally a stoic man, becomes emotional because he has failed to carry out what he truly desired: avenging the grievances in his life and only those grievances. He has violated his own philosophy on justice; he went too far in attempting to get revenge. His inability to save this innocent life leads him to be much more thoughtful and cautious with his actions as well as more generous to others. He attempts to right this terrible incident by saving his former employer’s son’s life by rescuing his fiancée and reuniting them after a long period of sadness and assumed death (Dumas 527). The Count is rewarding the people that helped or tried to help him when he was in prison; his former employer, Monsieur Morrel, wrote countless petitions and letters begging for his release. The Count is seeking justice by rewarding those who helped him. He has already helped the Morrel family by paying off their loans and gifting them a ship, but he still saves the life of one of the family’s members. One may think that the Count is creating imbalances by creating too much happiness in the world, but this is not true. He does this because it is a cornerstone of his philosophy of justice: his purpose on Earth is to act in the name of Providence to make the world a more just place. Because he has created too much evil in the world, he must outweigh that evil with happiness and joy. He must restore equality and balance in the world. The Count trusts the authority of divine power. He does not think that he can control the world; in reality, he believes that he is making the world better and more fair, and this is strongly reflected in his philosophy of justice. His actions of justice are justified in both what they are and their extent by the grievances against him and by divine power, so he is allowed to do them by himself and by God.
The Count of Monte Cristo uses complex plans of justice and revenge to achieve his goal of rewarding the good and punishing the bad. In his quest for vengeance, he uses the ideas of karma and divine power to justify his actions. He believes that he is helping God do his job on Earth by acting as Providence and making everything that is necessary happen. Ultimately, the Count’s philosophy justice is that people must be rewarded and punished in order to truly provide justice to the world, and that it is necessary for these acts to be justified by the moral values of people and by divine power.
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