I haven’t yet completed my re-read of Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo for the Classics Tour. I’m savoring this read; in fact last weekend I upgraded my copy of this Dumas masterpiece; my ratty, worn-out Penguin Classic copy was exchanged for a lovely hardback. I’ve read The Count of Monte Cristo before and it is absolutely my most favorite book in the world. It even beats The Bell Jar as my all time favorite book. This is the book I would take with me if there was any chance I would end up stranded on an island or stuck in a room full of people I don’t like.
I was surprised to read reviews from my fellow Classic Circuit writers and other bookish types in the blogosphere; most folks seemed to dislike this book. The length and obsession with revenge puts some readers off.
The Byronic hero — Edmond Dantes — is obsessed with revenge. His young and successful life is forever changed when his jealous friends plot against him and lead to Dantes false imprisonment as a spy for Bonaparte. Dantes is imprisoned in a stark prison where he befriends a priest who enriches both his mind and his pockets. I won’t give too much plot away, but I will tell you that there is plenty here to keep this reader interested: infanticide, opium dens, secret affairs, lies, revenge, secret identities, and general bad assery.
Why do I love this novel? I don’t have a deeply thoughtful answer, simply put, it is because of Dantes’ bad ass nature. I found the book thrilling and I have more than a little crush on Dantes. He is flawed, but that is the glory of the Byronic hero. Perhaps I have a defect, I’m also a little sweet on Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights, and I know for a fact that he is a rather cruel person.
Surely, there’s another gushing Dantes fan out there?
Okay, enough with the gushing on imaginary bad boys, in all seriousness there is a very basic premise of the book. When one is consumed with a single feeling — to the point of moral blindness — the results are never good. In the novel Danglers is consumed with jealous, Villefort is consumed by his ambition, and Dantes is consumed with revenge. There are negative implications for each character and I believe the book truly teaches that one should endevor to be a better person. Perhaps this is an immature view of The Count of Monte Cristo, but is most certainly what I thought about after I completed the novel.