[Bea’s Book Reviews] The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

NOTE: This is a request from the ever-learning screen writer Ryan Gallant who, like me, is all about the down and dirty when it comes to badass heroes.



“The Count of Monte Cristo”

Author: Alexandre Dumas

Published: 1844


I’m going to say this right off the bat-Edmond Dantès , aka the Count of Monte Cristo is a mighty fine example of O.G. because hot damn.

Set in France during the 1800’s, Dumas’s tale centres around the cruel injustice directed at the innocent, hard-working but illiterate Edmund Dantes a young, handsome and successful merchant sailor who has just landed a well-deserved job as a ship captain and is about to get married to the femme of his dreams, Mercedes. Naturally, when a good person earns success, there are people out there who are so disappointed with themselves they will gladly victimize the fortunate soul.

By chance, Edmond manages to rescue a dying seaman known as Leclère, who is a  secret supporter of the exiled Napoléon I. Being the kind soul he is, Edmond honours a man’s dying wish when he is entrusted with the hasty delivery of two sensitive objects: a package to Marshall Bertrand (currently exiled with Bonaparte on the small island of Elba), and a letter from Elba to an unknown man in Paris. On the eve of his wedding to Mercédès, Fernand (Mercédès’ cousin and a rival for her affections) is given advice on the hush-hush by Dantès’ colleague Danglars (who is jealous of Dantès rapid rise to captainhood), to send an anonymous note accusing Dantès of being a Bonapartist traitor. Caderousse (Dantès’ jerk of a neighbour) is off his tits while the two conspirators set the trap for Dantès, and although he objects to the idea of hurting Dantès, he remains silent the next day as Dantès is arrested then sentenced even though his testimony could have stopped the entire scandal from happening. Villefort, the insecure and highly secretive deputy crown prosecutor in Marseille, while initially sympathetic to Dantès, destroys the letter from Elba when he discovers that it is addressed to his own father, a Bonapartist. In order to silence Dantès, he condemns him without trial or hope to life imprisonment.

After six years of incarceration in the Château d’If, Dantès is on the verge of forcefully ending his suffering when he befriends the Abbé Faria, a fellow clink-dweller whom he hears trying to tunnel his way to freedom. Faria’s calculations on his tunnel were off, and it ends up connecting the two prisoners’ cells rather than leading to the freedom beyond. Despite this accident, the two become fast friends and for the duration of the eight long years, Faria gives Dantès an extensive education in language, culture, etiquette and science all with the aim to escape the prison together. He explains to Dantès how Danglars, Fernand, and Villefort would each have had their own reasons for wanting Dantès in prison, but by now, Edmond’s rage at these men has overcome his curiosity. However, Faria catches ill, and although Edmond is almost devastated that his friend and teacher will not be able to join him in freedom beyond the prison, Faria tells Dantès the location of an enormous stash of treasure on the island of Monte Cristo. When Faria passes away, Dantès takes his place in a burial sack, moving Faria’s corpse to his own bed through their tunnel. When the guards throw the sack into the sea, Dantès flees and swims to a nearby island – an gutsy feat considering the Château d’If’s isolated location and perilous offshore currents.Thankfully, Dantès is saved by a smuggling ship the next morning. After several months of working with the bandits, the ship makes a stop at Monte Cristo. Dantès fakes an injury and persuades the pirates to leave him temporarily on the island while they finish their trip without him. He then makes his way to the hiding place of the treasure. After recovering the treasure, he makes a gracious exit from smuggling, buys a yacht, and returns to Marseille, where he begins to find out what became of everyone from his previous life. He later purchases both the island of Monte Cristo and the title of Count from the Tuscan government, does some good deeds for various folks and finally, after fourteen years of suffering, orchestrates the most divine of Hellish plots for revenge on those who did him oh-so wrong.



This, folks, is the 1800’s version of Street Justice.

Although this book is long and full of admittedly filler style material that is more about telling rather than showing, once “The Count of Monte Cristo” smashes in like a wrecking ball, it proves that it is one of those epic novels that plants itself smack bang in the middle of public consciousness and does not move a muscle. You can either go around it or through it because there is no chance that you will be able to fight it. Fundamentally speaking, Dumas’s tale of vengeance is a dish best served cold makes a statement about how destructive human passions can be when it is spurred by something dark. Interestingly, much of the book contains references to the natural phenomena of storms, and each of these punctuate a sequence that involves how Edmond is feeling or a sequence of devastation. A lot of terrible things happen human beings who are either good and bad, how life blesses your life one moment before snatching it all away with an inevitable, most times unseen event. Everybody experiences a moment of jubilee and victory and then moments of darkness and grief throughout their lives on an unrelenting cycle. Just like a freak storm that comes out of nowhere and begets no warning to the people who become affected by it. Dantès  is that freak storm that has been growing with intensity over each year of his imprisonment and when he finally breaks free of the walls and statutes that confine him, there ain’t nobody left standing who he sets his sights on.

You see, like Marvel’s resident Punisher Frank Castle, Dantès does not merely want to kill those who wronged him, he wants them to suffer greatly as he was forced to suffer in the Château d’If.  With this enormous power though comes a price, as Dantès observes. At one point, he provokes the entire destruction of Villefort’s family rather than just the man himself. Villefort’s wife ends up dead, as does their child, due to Edmond’s all-consuming thirst for retribution. When he gazes upon the bodies of the woman and child, he realises that he took this plot a step too far and admits to himself that their deaths were undeserved. Although he swears he will not make this mistake again, he continues on his quest bearing this knowledge in mind. Edmond is not a complete machine of cold-blooded reckoning though, because he lends assistance and concern to people who too are suffering from the hold of his traitorous ilk. Dumas points out that while you cannot undo your sins, you can find ways to lessen their impact, namely in the name of good charity and recognising your own faults. In the end, Dantès resolves his problems, accepts all he has done to be of his own machinations and is free. Does that exempt his more vicious acts? No. But for the sake of the thematic elements that are thick and fast through this tale, it is an ending that fits. If you can take accountability for what you have done in life, there will always be a chance for hope. At the end of the book, Dantès ruminates over this notion passed down to him by his dear Faria- “All human wisdom is contained in these two words, ‘Wait and Hope”.” Patience as well as mercy, no matter how demanding, are pure virtues which yield rewards and that is what truly serves as the best revenge… mind you, if your worst enemy steps on a Lego, there’d be nothing wrong with that. Just saying.




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