The Count of Monte Cristo
by Alexandre Dumas
“ All human wisdom is contained in these two words –
Wait and Hope ”
For a lot of aspiring readers, picking up one of the numerous tomes deemed “classic” can be a daunting task. From school reading lists peppered with titles like War and Peace, Moby Dick, or A Tale of Two Cities to friends who insist that you “aren’t cultured until” you’ve read The Picture of Dorian Gray or The Odyssey, classic novels are easy to find intimidating — and not just because of their
overwhelmingly large size. The language styles, anecdotal phrases, and wordings are different from those of today, the subject matters and environmental circumstances are often unfamiliar to modern-day readers, and the plots are often slower moving than the quickly cranked out novels of today. And lest we forget, while writers and authors of today can pull book out of book from their minds and put to press within months, the literary geniuses of days past wrote their masterpieces entirely by hand, by candlelight or oil lamp — if they were lucky enough to be able to afford it.
But, classics are classics for a reason. Books such as Treasure Island and The Time Machine have intrigued and entertained readers for over 100 years with their swashbuckling heroes, treacherous villains, adoring and beautiful damsels in distress, and time traveling adventures. It’s amazing to me that some literature can not only last that long, but continue to bring about new readers and lovers. The magic of the written world never fails to inspire me and push me onward, eager to add another tome to my ever-growing library.
You can ask nearly anyone if they’ve heard of The Three Musketeers and their answer will be a resounding YES. From the older generations who are young at heart to the millennial attached to their cell phone, all the way down to the toddler who has seen the images of three fencing artists protecting good from evil depicted by the precocious Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Goofy, everyone has heard of them. A book that is set into a series of three, circling the life of a young and ambitious nobleman named d’Artagnan who aspires to become wrapped up in the exciting service of musketeers, The Three Musketeers is a true classic, and penned by an interesting and aristocratic French author named Alexandre Dumas.
But while Dumas was pleasantly settled into the adventurous and scintillating life of the roguish d’Artagnan, he was also fully immersed in the creation of another story, tenderly chronicling the life and times of a man falsely accused of the high crime of treason before being sent away live out his final days in a dark and dank prison by the sea. The Count of Monte Cristo would become a tale for the ages, celebrated for decades to come, the classic telling of revenge and pirate’s treasure.
Edmond Dantès is a man with his entire life set before him. After a tour set at sea, he is finally home and preparing to marry the love of his life, the lovely Mercédès. Due to the death of his captain, Dantès is also now set with the task of a new seafaring position and is anxious to tell his fiancee the news. He can now support her financially, allowing her all of the things in life that she truly deserves. But upon his deathbed, his captain and friend begged a final favor — to successfully deliver a letter and a package. Naively Edmond accepts his challenge, hoping that this will help ease the mind of a dying man and fulfill his last wishes, allowing him to pass in peace. Unbeknownst to Dantès, the parcels are part of a conspiracy of which he has been made a pawn of, and when the items are found to be objects of a larger Bonapartist crime,Dantès is sentenced without a fair trial, found to be a willing criminal and sent to prison. The victim of an elaborate cover-up set forth by three men, one of which truly meant to do Edmond harm because of the love he carried for Mercédès, Dantès is banished without ever being able to say goodbye.
After spending years on the dreary island trapped inside his small and depressing cell,Dantès is on the literally on the verge of suicide when he encounters a surprise visitor. Abbé Faria is a prisoner neatly residing in a cell nearby to Edmond’s and is hell-bent on the act of escape. He has managed to ferret an escape route via complicated underground tunnels during his extended stay in the less than worthy accommodations, and Faria quickly befriends Dantès when he realizes the state that the hopeless young man is in. During the next eight years, Edmond is transformed from an ignorant and provincial sailor who’d all but given up hope, into an accomplished and worldly man. Under the direct tutelage of Faria,Dantès spends his days learning languages, cultures, arts, and sciences.
Dantès holds onto his new lease on life with renewed and furious hands, but Faria’s time on earth is rapidly coming to a close. Much like the old captain who died on Edmond’s watch nearly 20 years ago, this particular old man also has a final request of Dantès. During an emotional meeting of the minds, Faria weaves for Dantès the tale of a massive buried treasure, the acts of a shipwreck and a roguish band of pirates, hidden deep in the coves and caverns around the mysterious island of Monte Cristo. He beseeches Edmond to hunt and find this treasure, by way of a legacy, and to use it to his own benefits. When the old man and beloved friend dies, the apprentice stows away in the body bag being pushed out to sea as a final farewell and escapes. He honors his friend’s request and to his surprise finds the buried treasure exactly where he was told it would be. Dantès begins making plans to use the endless amount of jewels, coin, and artifacts to enact a very specific revenge upon those who have disgraced him and essentially stolen his life.
“ The friends we have lost do not repose under the ground. . .they are buried deep in our hearts.
It has been thus ordained that they may always accompany us. . .”
Reinventing himself as the darkly mystifying and elusive Count of Monte Cristo, Edmond begins to unravel a complicated web of deceit and vengeance, this time of his own making. His every move becomes a calculated exercise in patience and futility as he endeavors to put back the pieces of his life. Searching for the three men whose nefarious plans landed him in his predicament in the first place,Dantès uses the strong arm of his immense newfound wealth to dazzle and amaze them, a show of cloak and dagger, a presentation of smoke and mirrors. Edmond uses the men’s pretentiousness and ego against them, all while brilliantly bringing them to their knees both financially and lawfully. Some things the Count has not intended, such as the fate of his beloved Mercédès, and he must make the decision of whether to bring her down with his enemies or lift her up into virtue.
But can authentic peace be found in the cool arms of retribution? Readers will simply have to wait. . . and hope.
“ ‘How did I escape?
How did I plan this moment?
With pleasure.’ ”
The Count of Monte Cristo is a classic novel that I give a solid 5 stars to, and not just for the wonderful tale that is spun. It is a book that anyone can pick up and dive into, as it is as relatable today as it was a century ago when it was first published. The plot is daring, adventurous, and slipping into the mind of Dantès as he is transformed from pauper to prince is thrilling. The way that Dumas is able to formulate the complicated plan of revenge is uncanny and at times, simply awe-inspiring. It is a book that should not be missed out on by anyone, for it is a true telling of good versus evil, and a story that transcends time.