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isolation

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, love Mercedes?"

"I adore her!"

"For long?"

"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?" said Fernand.

"How do I know? Is it my affair? I am not in love with Mademoiselle Mercedes; but for you, in the words of the gospel, seek, and you shall find."

"I have found already. Pen, ink, and paper," muttered Fernand.

"The honorable, the 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."



imprisoned

"No; 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 afternoon."

"Today is the 30th of July, 1816. Why it is but seventeen months."

"Only seventeen 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.

God alone knows what country will see me die.

I adopt all customs, speak all languages.

You 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 Greek.

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 mortal being.

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 overwhelm me."

"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 observation."

"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!"



tale's end

"Live, 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."

Your friend,

Edmond Dantes, Count of Monte Cristo

Alexander Dumas, French serial author



the prison system

"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.

It is 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.

Under absolute 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.

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?"

Michel Foucault, on the Role of Prisons

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