Alexandre Dumas, père — The Count of Monte Cristo

When listening to you, existence no longer seems reality, but a waking dream.

Two stories about The Count of Monte Cristo:

  • I inherited my love of reading from both of my parents but my taste was strongly shaped by my father early in life. As a child though, he himself didn’t enjoy reading until fourth grade—he just had no interest. That summer, though, he stepped on a wasp and it stung him all along the bottom of his foot. While he was recovering, his father gave him The Count of Monte Cristo to read while he was stuck inside. He said he read it in three days and that it’s still one of his favorite books. My Grandpere is gone, but I like to think that he’s responsible for we two younger generations loving this book… I’ve yet to re-read it after his death. It’s going to be weird thinking about it in that context.
  • The only time I ever got detention in high school was because of The Count of Monte Cristo. I hated my ninth grade honors English teacher because she had a doctorate but she was possibly one of the ditsiest people I’d ever met. Of course I gave her attitude when I shouldn’t have and she hated me too. One of those arguments began because I complained about having to read an abridged version of The Count as the new assignment (it was a sixth grade reading level). I was promptly given detention for “insubordination.” The first and only time.
  • Anyway, about re-reading the actual book.

    It is perhaps the finest and most complicated novel about revenge ever written. Edmond Dantes is wrongly imprisoned as a result of the jealousy of an associate. He spends years trapped in a dungeon, bettering himself with the help of an elderly fellow prisoner. Eventually, he escapes, and with the help of his fabulous wealth (of course he managed to find a smuggler’s treasure), begins to set in motion a plan that will destroy those who have wronged him throughout the years. The question, of course, is who will he harm and what will it cost to accomplish this–is the cost worth the price?

    In the end it would seem that it is not. You turn the page compulsively as Edmond’s masterful revenge unfolds, though in the end it may be too horrible even so. And what has he accomplished, really? The last few chapters, especially his conversation with Mercédès, are incredibly affecting. Throughout, the reader becomes so invested in the wrongs perpetrated against Edmond, his emotions and feelings, that the denouement is incredibly satisfying in some ways and incredibly frustrating in others. Some get their just desserts, but innocents are also hurt in the process.

    If you can say one thing about Dumas, it’s that he writes a lively and captivating adventure story. With a good translation (and the Modern Classics version that I have isn’t awful), his language still feels modern and fresh and exciting, which I think is definitely a testament to his abilities.

    Joy takes a strange effect at times, it seems to oppress us almost the same as sorrow.


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