Alexandre Dumas: The Count of Monte Cristo

Set against the turbulent years of the Napoleonic era, Alexandre Dumas’s thrilling adventure story is one of the most widely read romantic novels of all time. In it the dashing young hero, Edmond Dantès, is betrayed by his enemies and thrown into a secret dungeon in the Chateau d’If — doomed to spend his life in a dank prison cell. The story of his long, intolerable years in captivity, his miraculous escape, and his carefully wrought revenge creates a dramatic tale of mystery and intrigue and paints a vision of France — a dazzling, dueling, exuberant France — that has become immortal.

The Count of Monte Cristo is one of those novels (and movies) that is referenced everywhere in pop culture. But of course, because it’s French lit, I’d been putting it off. My husband ranks it up there as one of his top favorite movies, but aside from the brief sword fight and “Can we come up?” scene in V for Vendetta, I really had no reference point–I thought it was all about dueling.  Of course I knew there was some sort of prison revenge plot, but that’s about it.

When I read The Black Count, though, and found out why Alexandre Dumas wrote CoMC–I knew I had to move it up the list. This book was so much more than I expected it to be. At first, I was mostly just looking for comparisons to General Dumas’ life, but the longer the story went on (and this story is LONG), the more I got wrapped up in it.

I read The Three Musketeers a few years ago, and hated every moment of it. I found the characterization ridiculous and irregularly detailed, and I didn’t understand why we couldn’t just get to the point and action. However, now that I know that Dumas was paid BY THE LINE…all that makes so much sense! Heck, I would write the thing to death too! Also, I learned in The Black Count that one of the most important things in the world to Dumas was never to forget a person, the way he felt his father was forgotten. That is why every person he writes has a backstory, and every backstory has a place in the plot.

This is the very crux of Edmond Dantes vengeance. Everyone has forgotten him–to the point that he can parade around in society as a massively rich count–and no one recognizes the man they sent to prison. Because of that, he is able to destroy their lives from the inside out. But in the end, is that vengeance as sweet as he hoped it would be?

I’m glad I gave Alexandre Dumas another chance. There’s so much depth to his writing that I didn’t see before. You can’t rush Dumas, that’s for certain, and I think that’s what I had tried to do with The Three Musketeers–I had too many expectations of what it was supposed to be. The Count of Monte Cristo is a wholly brilliant story, and I look forward to reading it over and over.

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