The opening of Chapter 12 of The Count of Monte Cristo describes a meeting between Villefort and his father Noirtier, on which a servant apparently attempted to eavesdrop. The passage (translation from Chapman & Hall 1846 with my emphasis) reads as follows:

M. Noirtier – for it was, indeed, he who entered – looked after the servant until the door was closed, and then, fearing, no doubt, that he might be overheard in the antechamber, he opened the door again, nor was the precaution useless, as appeared from the rapid retreat of Germain, who proved that he was not exempt from the sin which ruined our first parents. M. Noirtier then took the trouble to close and bolt the ante-chamber door, then that of the bed-chamber, and then extended his hand to Villefort, who had followed all his motions with surprise which he could not conceal.

What is the reference to "the sin which ruined our first parents"? I thought it might be a reference to the biblical sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, but if that's the case I'm wondering what the exact parallel is between eating forbidden fruit and eavesdropping on a private conversation. Or is this a reference to a Christian doctrine in which all sin is some sort of extension of the Original Sin? Or is this a reference to something else entirely?

  • 3
    disobedience? curiosity? – Peter Shor Oct 16 '18 at 0:18
  • Biblical original sin? – DJohnson Oct 16 '18 at 12:49

The sin of Adam and Eve could be stated as a desire for knowledge that did not belong to them - the tree that they ate from was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and the snake tempted Eve into eating the fruit by telling her that this knowledge would give her power akin to God's. So if this is indeed intended to be a specific reference, it is probably referring to the servant trying to gain knowledge (and potentially power) by eavesdropping on a conversation that didn't concern him.


“The sin which ruined our first parents” is a reference to the first sin of Adam and Eve (which in Christian theology is a distinct idea from original sin, though the two are closely related).

So what exactly was the first sin? There is disagreement on this point among theologians. If you look at Aquinas, you’ll see that he considers and rejects arguments for disobedience, gluttony (!), curiosity and unbelief, before settling on pride. Here’s his presentation of the argument in favour of curiosity:

Further, man sinned at the devil’s suggestion. Now the devil in tempting man promised him knowledge (Genesis 3:5). Therefore inordinateness in man was through the desire of knowledge, which pertains to curiosity. Therefore curiosity, and not pride, was the first sin.

Thomas Aquinas (1274), Summa Theologiae, 2-2.163.

Curiosity is clearly the indicated sin of Germain.

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