I first read this book back when I was in middle school. After reading The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux, I was looking for other books with the same romantic and melancholic vibe, for lack of a better descriptor, and I found The Count of Monte Cristo. Alexandre Dumas is also well known for writing The Three Musketeers. However, when I tried to read that novel, I could not get very far into the plot.
It’s necessary to have wished for death in order to know how good it is to live.
The Count of Monte Cristo was completed in 1844. And, surprisingly, a lot of the plot is recycled from an earlier short story. Yet, the wide consensus amongst its readers seems to be that it is no less of a great story despite that little fact. There is something deeply sensual and full of yearning about it. Perhaps it has to do with the way that Dumas plays with the themes of time and regret for certain decisions or actions made or missed. Or, perhaps it’s the Dumas’ ability to capture the zeitgeist of French and Italian society in the era of Napoleon Bonaparte.
All human wisdom is contained in these two words – Wait and Hope.
When you compare the sorrows of real life to the pleasures of the imaginary one, you will never want to live again, only to dream forever.
What is the story about? Essentially, Edmond Dantès is wrongfully imprisoned. Due to his imprisonment, he is separated from his love Mercédès. There are a handful of very important themes that run through the novel. After he escapes imprisonment and discovers the wealth that allows him to transform himself into The Count of Monte Cristo, Edmond’s focus turns to rewarding those that are kind to him and finding revenge on those that played a part in his sufferings. So, one of the themes highlighted has a lot to do with the French Revolutionary spirit, how much influence does one individual have in correcting societal ills. How does society view one individual’s desire to play judge, jury, and executioner? Woven through the novel is also the longing for lost time with the love of one’s life. A deep grief motivates Edmond’s actions because the life he lost beside Mercédès is priceless; it is something that the wealth of Monte Cristo island could never replace or purchase.
Moral wounds have this peculiarity – they may be hidden, but they never close; always painful, always ready to bleed when touched, they remain fresh and open in the heart.
If love stories full of angst, longing, and those deep Shakespearean feelings are your thing, then watch the movie adaptation of the novel. The Count of Monte Cristo (2002) film features Guy Pearce and Richard Harris, Henry Cavill, and Luis Guzmán. It’s been a while since I last saw the movie, but I think it’s worth a cozy movie night. Regardless, when you watch the movie, be prepared to miss so many of the great quotes full of wonderful existential truth readers can find in the book.
“The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas.” Goodreads, Goodreads, https://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/391568-le-comte-de-monte-cristo.
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