Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas

Dumas' works have always been a little daunting to me. But, as I looked for a venerable classic available on audiobook download from my library, The Count of Monte Cristo seemed the perfect foil to fluffier books I'd just read for book clubs.

I followed the book with interest, but little thought or judgment, until Dantes' vengeful plans began to be revealed to the reader. While I really enjoyed seeing how Dantes would avenge his wrongs (the elaborate impersonations, the network of friends and compatriots carefully curated solely to exact revenge), I was pretty quickly struck by his playing God. Why does he get to decide their fates? Didn't his own experience with others unfairly commanding his future teach him anything?

Thankfully, for both myself and Dumas' moral and God-fearing readers at the time, Dantes did realize his fault, even sparing the life of one enemy. And it wasn't a sudden feeling of remorse or change of heart--which I think would have felt too cheap--but the incidental death of a child that woke him from the automatic pilot of complete devastation to all.

The relationship between Dantes and Haydee is the one part of the novel I didn't enjoy. His love of the young girl surprised me, because I took him as a only-love-Mercedes kind of guy. The romantic in me wanted him to be devoted to her, although I understood his coolness and yet absolute compassion for her, which was necessary for the advancement of his character from a wronged, heartsick man to a worldly, manipulative Count. All that aside, I still don't get where Haydee fits. Dantes' revelation of being in love with her seemed as unexpected to him as to me, which didn't fit the way the novel tended to allude to things as they developed. And then there's the way they come to their realize they're in love with each other: some sort of middle school s/he thinks s/he doesn't like me, can you believe it, can it be true? And this conversation is even facilitated through another person, so it might as well have been middle school. Why did his second love have to be assisted? Why weren't they mature about their relationship? Why wasn't the novel more gratuitous with their growing relationship? It's such a small part of the book that I can hardly get hung up on it--and I certainly don't strongly judge the book for this reason--but I did find it worth noting.

A final note, I highly approve of the sentiment of the ending, which is about the bigger picture over all, and certainly the lesson that Dantes learned as a prisoner, as a vengeful man, and as a lover: '[A]ll human wisdom is contained in these two words: wait and hope.'

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