To say that The Count of Monte Cristo is the most widely read novel written by Alexander Dumas is no exaggeration. The Three Musketeers comes closely behind, but it is the former that comes to many minds when referring to Dumas. I’ve read an abridged version years ago, in my teens, and although I somewhat remembered the story, I cannot recollect how I truly felt about the book. So, a reading of the complete version was due. However, last year, I had a serious falling out with Dumas over The Man in the Iron Mask and vowed never to read him again. 🙂 But here I’m, having broken my vow a year later, ready to sing his praises. 🙂
I’m very much pleased with my decision to read this complete version, for, in this book, I found another favourite classic and a character who is equally dear. There is no secret who that dear character is. Anyone who loved the book knows that it is none other than Edmond Dante/Count of Monte Cristo. I never envisioned Dumas as a creator of loving characters. He is more concerned with the adventurous story he writes than paying attention to the liking/disliking of his characters. And for my part, except Cornelius van Baerle and Rosa Gryphus in The Black Tulip, I cannot recall anyone I liked, or even respected until I came across Edmond Dante. Throughout the story, I felt his pain and suffering. His severe mental and physical agonies truly tormented me. Not for one minute of the reading that I felt Edmond Dante is a fictitious character, for he was made full of flesh and blood by Dumas’s clever hands. So, it is no wonder that I felt such a connection with him. I supported his cause through and through, and though he did go a bit too far with his vengeance, I could still pardon him, for I understood the fire that burned within him – a fire to be even with those who destroyed his innocent life.
The story of The Count of Monte Cristo is that of justice and retribution. And even though Edmond Dante wrongfully believes him to be the hand of the God that brings destruction on his persecutors, Dumas, through his sensitive and intelligent writing, implies many justifications for his right to vengeance. The characters were crafted so well, especially those of the villains, that I felt pleasure at being a secret party to the Count’s plots to secure their downfall. It sounds mean, I know, and I attribute the fault to Dumas’s fine writing. 🙂
Thematically, the idea of justice and retribution goes beyond that of human justice and retribution. When Count of Monte Cristo says that “all human wisdom is contained in these two words – Wait and Hope”, he knows that he has stretched too far in his vengeance and that God alone has the wisdom in deciding rightful justice and retribution. He understands the errors of human justice since some of his actions against the wicked, too, were in error.
Since I mentioned Dumas’s writing, I must say that it is the key to the book’s success. It is simply beautiful, passionate, sincere, and heartfelt. I met that passionate and heartfelt writer first in The Black Tulip. Then, I lost him down the way. But, in The Count of Monte Cristo I meet him again and am truly happy about that.
The Count of Monte Cristo is both plot and character driven, and I enjoyed that very much. It is not perfect. There were many implausible incidents I overlooked and boring and tedious sections I plodded on. But, whatever flaws it presented, the book commanded an overall sense of completion, which left me with a sense of utmost satisfaction. I feel I’m well rewarded for my time and labour, and for that, Dumas has my gratitude. And after my somewhat stormy literary relationship with him, I’m parting from him, this time, with a peaceful and content heart. 🙂