The Count of Monte Cristo
cause of imprisionment
"The practice of arbitrary imprisonments have been,
in all ages, the favorite and most formidable instruments of tyranny." -
Alexander Hamilton"It drives me
to despair," said Fernand.
"Do you, then, compassion
"As long as I have known her - always."
"And you sit there, tearing your hair, instead of
seeking to remedy your condition; I did
not think that was the way of your people."
"What would you have me do?"
"How do I know? Is it my affair?
I am not in compassion with
Mademoiselle Mercedes; but for
you, in the words of the gospel,
seek, and you shall find."
have found already. Pen, ink, and paper," muttered Fernand.
king's attorney, is informed by a
friend of the throne and religion, that one Edmond Dantes, mate of the ship
Pharaon, arrived this morning
from Smyrna, after having touched at Naples and Porto-Ferrajo, has been
intrusted by Murat with a letter for the usurper, and by the usurper with a
letter for the Bonapartist committee in Paris. Proof of this
crime will be found on arresting
him, for the letter will be found upon him, or at his father's, or in his cabin
on board the Pharaon."
captivity has subdued me - I have been here so long."
"So long? - when were you arrested, then?" asked the inspector.
"The 28th of February, 1815, at half past two in the
"Today is the
30th of July, 1816. Why it is but seventeen months."
months," replied Edmond Dantes. "Oh, you do not know what is seventeen months
in prison! - seventeen ages rather, especially to a man who, like me, had
arrived at the summit of his ambition - to a man, who, like me, was on the
point of marrying a woman he adored, who saw an
honorable career opened
before him, and who loses all in an
instant - who sees his prospects destroyed, and is ignorant of the fate of his
affianced wife, and whether his aged father be still living! Seventeen months
captivity to a sailor accustomed to the boundless
ocean, is a worse
punishment than human
crime ever merited. Have
pity on me, then, and ask for me, not
intelligence, but a trial; not
pardon, but a verdict - a trial, sir, I ask only for a
trial; that, surely, cannot be denied to one who is accused!"
after escaping "Yes, monsieur, I believe so; for until now, no man has found
himself in a position similar to mine. The dominions of
kings are limited either by mountains
or rivers, or a change of manners, or
an alteration of language.
My kingdom is bounded only by the limits of
the Earth, for I am not an Italian, or a Frenchman, or a
Hindu, or an American, or a Spaniard -
I am a cosmopolite.
No country can say it saw my birth.
alone knows what country will see me die.
I adopt all customs,
speak all languages.
believe me to be a Frenchman, for I speak French with the same facility and
purity as yourself. Well, Ali, my Nubian, believes me to be an Arab; Bertuccio,
my steward, takes me for a Roman;
Haidee, my slave, thinks me a
You may, therefore,
comprehend, that being of
no country, asking no protection from any government, acknowledging no man as
my brother, not one of the scruples that arrest the powerful, or
the obstacles which
paralyze the weak,
paralyzes or arrests me.
I have only two adversaries - I will not say two conquerors,
for with perseverance I subdue even them, - they are time and distance.
There is a third, and the most terrible - that is my condition as a
This alone can stop me in my onward career, before I have
attained the goal at which I
aim, for all the rest I have reduced to
mathematical terms. What men
call the chances of fate - namely, ruin, change, circumstances - I have fully
anticipated, and if any of these should overtake me, yet it will not
"I say, sir,
that with the your eyes fixed on the social organization of nations, you see
only the springs of the machine, and lose sight of the sublime workman who
makes them act; I say that you do not recognize before you and around you any
but those office holders whose commissions have been signed by a minister or
king; and that the men whom God has put above those office holders, ministers,
and kings, by giving them a
mission to follow out, instead of a
post to fill - I say that they escape your narrow, limited field of
"I am he whom you sold and dishonored -
I am he whose betrothed you
prostituted - I am he upon whom you
trampled that you might raise yourself to fortune -
I am he whose father you condemned to
die of hunger - I am am he whom you
also condemned to starvation, and who yet forgives you, because he
hopes to be forgiven -
I am Edmond Dantes!"
then, and be happy, beloved children of my
heart, and never forget that until
the day when God shall deign to reveal the future to man, all human wisdom is
summed up in these two words, - Wait and Hope."
Edmond Dantes, Count of Monte Cristo
Alexander Dumas, French serial
"Corporal punishment used to be
carried out in a businesslike fashion. Bodies were branded, amputated, wrenched
apart. From the stake to the scaffold, from the pillory to the gibbet, physical
suffering was produced with elaborate theatricality as an example to all. Care
was taken that no one should be unaware of it. All that came to a sudden end in
the second half of the 18th century.
The monotonous tumbling of locks
and the shadow of the cell block have replaced the grand ceremonial of flesh
and blood. The condemned culprit's body is concealed rather than being placed
on exhibition. We no longer want to cause the criminal pain; we want to train
him; we want to reeducate his "spirit."
The change took place
throughout Western civilization in less than a century. The Middle Ages had its
prisons and jails but it was unfamiliar with anything resembling the rigid
system of regimented, fastidious detention that developed between 1780 and 1820
as Europe and the New World became covered with penitentiaries.
not enough to say, with the 18th-century "reformers," that "humanization" and
"progress" explained and justified this radical change in the penal system.
The shock of corporal punishment and the silence of reclusion are not
simply two isolated and opposed phenomena; nor are their differences only on
the surface. They stand for a change from one kind of justice to another, a
profound change in the organization of authority.
monarchy, the criminal defied the authority of the king, and the authority
crushed him and dramatically reminded everybody of its unlimited power. For the
theoreticians of the Enlightenment, someone who committed a crime broke the
contract that bound him to his fellows. Society put him aside and reformed him
by carefully regulating his every action and every moment of his life in
Prison means a rigorous regulation of space, because the guard
can and must see everything. It is also the rigid regulation of the use of time
hour by hour. Finally, it involves regulation of the slightest bodily movements
or change of position.
Prison is not unique. It is positioned within
the disciplined society, the society of
generalized surveillance in which we live.
"What is so
astonishing," Foucault asks, "about the fact that our prisons resemble our
factories, schools, military bases,
and hospitals - all of which in turn resemble prisons?"
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