"The Count of Monte Cristo" by Alexander Dumas
Verdict: Read it!!!
"The Count of Monte Cristo" by Alexander Dumas was originally written in 1844 (Wikipedia.org) and is considered by all canonized standards, a classic. My biggest suggestion to everyone who passes by this book because of that status (an alarming number of people seem to find the word “classic” indicative of boring… but I love them, and they are usually far from boring!) to take another look and read it! The best word to describe this book is swashbuckling. The story is an adventure from beginning to end.
The thing that struck me most about this book was not only the fantastic adventure, but Dumas’ talent for writing with elaborate detail, but never getting boring. Often when authors are as detailed as Dumas they lose the urgency to continue reading. This, however, is not the case with this author. I always had a perfectly clear vision of what was going on without ever losing my total immersion in the story.
So what is the story about? The most obvious answer is, simply put, revenge. The entire tale is the life of Edmond Dantes’, who at 19, was stripped of everything he had and imprisoned on a false charge for 14 years seeking revenge on those who took it from him. This is what I was expecting to find. I knew enough about the story line to realize its main theme. What I didn't expect to find was the depth of Dantes’ character. Here is a man who not only seeks revenge but who yearns to learn everything he can about the world, and succeeds. Here is a man who is, above all, filled with sadness for what he has lost. So much so that he refers to Edmond Dantes’ as a separate individual who did not survive the prison. On top of all of this there is still more, he is a man who incorporated reward for those who stood by him, and even those who did not know him into is plot of revenge. As the Count of Monte Cristo, he is the tool of God, here on earth to give those who cross his path justice. In so doing, he succeeds in causing the death of an entire family, the financial ruin and suicide of another, and the imprisonment of yet a third. His depth of character is the true driver to this story, because even the reader cannot fully understand the man that goes by the names “Sinbad the Sailor”, “Lord Wilmore”, “Abbe’ Busoni”, and “The Count of Monte Cristo”.
There are other themes that present themselves throughout the text, more as a result of the historical context than as a result of necessity to the story. The first is the political theme of Bonapartist vs. Royalist. The time set is in France, shortly after the fall of Napolean Bonaparte. Hence, the current government is the Royal family, the one (said to be supported by Dantes) that are the rebels are the Bonapartists. The major issued this causes is that many prominent families of the time, though now converted Royalists, have elder family members and connections that are deeply loyal to the Emperor. This gives the Count of Monte Cristo ways to destroy, by exposing secrets and the like of the hushed up Bonapartists.
The second theme is the unknown east. The Count of Monte Cristo exudes an eastern air, speaking several Asian and Mediterranean languages fluently, with no accent. This helps him to stay anonymous; revealing that most of Europe still revered the east as an undiscovered, exotic place. Because the east is still misunderstood and stereotyped it, of course, becomes something to fear. This is shown not only in characters’ tendency to mistrust the Count, but also by the mere fact that anyone who is dangerous, mysterious, or frightening originates in the east. It is also shown because any activities that are evil or shameful happen in the east, where they can stay or their truths be altered for personal gain, over personal embarrassment. For example: Count Fernand Mondego M de Morcef, earns much of his reputation for having been an ambassador and adviser of a Sultan in the east. The truth of the matter is, however, that he not only betrayed his duties to France but sold the Sultan’s entire court to massacre by betraying them to the Turkish. This truth, once revealed, causes him to commit suicide due to shame. Truths like this seem to litter the population of France once related to the east.
In conclusion, read this book; it is well worth it! I realize most won’t want to pick it apart as I always do but read it anyway, it is simply a great story.