The Count of Monte Cristo
Alexandre Dumas’s epic tale of suffering, revenge, and providence. An enjoyable work with elements of the gothic and romanticism making it very much of its time. I think the plot is well executed for the most part even if I was bored of when the scenes were not about the Count in some way. All of these characters have lengthy backgrounds which link together wonderfully and with good planning on Dumas’s part. Another notable style is that most of the unseen action or past actions is told in dialogue. The work, at over 1200 pages, did not actually take that much time when I got down to it. It would have been better if I had read it in French because I realize that that some translations can vary greatly in terms of titles and interpretations. I just thought I would read this epic novel faster in English, but circumstances prevented that. When I reread it, it will be in French, and I will enjoy it again. By the way, I read the Penguin Classic edition translated by Robin Buss.
I liked most of the characters and appreciated the subtle characterizations. I did enjoy Dumas’s The Three Musketeers as well, and he can craft some interesting people. I really liked Edmond Dantes at the beginning and Abbe Faria. Dantes changes so drastically through the book, and once he becomes the Count completely, he is very mysterious and omnipresent. He does appear Godlike or preternatural, but it does make the book more interesting having such a superhuman character. He kind of reminds me of Batman and other morally ambiguous superheroes from graphic novels or comic books. I wish there was more of Mercédès who is often described as one of the most intelligent characters. I also really appreciate the mother-son relationship between her and Albert.
The ending was okay, and in some ways, I kind of like the ending of the 2002 movie adaptation more as it gives a more hopeful ending for a couple of the characters. I wish Mercédès got a better ending because while Dumas is not harsh to female characters as some authors from the nineteenth century can be, he is not generous either. Most of the “passive” females are given good characterizations (Mercédès, Valentine), and those that are active are usually immoral (Mme Danglars, Mme de Villefort) or odd (Eugenie). Mercédès’s fault also seems to lie in her passivity (girl can’t win) so her ending leaves me dissatisfied because she seems to be punished while she holds less blame and guilt than others. Aside from those who truly acted ill against Edmond, her suffering is the most complete. It’s a credit to her character that she takes it gracefully, but not to Dumas’s view of women especially shown in her last scene and her somewhat hopeless ending.
On a more positive note, the book was engaging for the most part, and I like the last line:
…all human wisdom is contained in two words- “wait” and “hope.”