Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Counting on The Count

One man has remained constant throughout my various encounters with romance. He’s held my bleeding heart in his fictional hands since I aged into the double-digits. Ignorance and naïveté made him vulnerable. Betrayal broke him. Hope married hatred and gave birth to supreme vengeance. He is the ultimate Bad Boy redeemed.

Edmund Dantès, Le Comte de Monte-Cristo

I rarely read the same book more than once. The Count of Monte Cristo is one of the few exceptions.  It was a good book when Edmund resurfaced as the Count. What makes it a great book – and makes Edmund an enduring hero – is he did not sacrifice the core identity of himself to vengeance. He came close. He came damn close. The first third of the book external forces decided his life. Second half, internal demons dictated his actions. The culmination, the great climax, is when he ceased to be reactionary. He stopped being a cog and made the conscious decision to become the driver.

“Misfortune is needed to plumb certain mysterious depths in the understanding of men;
pressure is needed to explode the charge.” – Abbé Faria

It’s the old adage:  A great hero inspires others to become better people.  As any sidekick will tell you, heroes don’t achieve that status by themselves.  This willingness to embrace other views and perspectives, to seek enlightenment, and to admit error demands respect. Respect is the lasting foundation of romance, right?

“There is neither happiness nor misery in the world;
there is only the comparison of one state with another, nothing more.” –E.Dantès

The first time I read the novel by Alexander Dumas peré, it was the Classics Illustrated version. Yep, the comic book. In the truest sense it was a graphic novel. Did I understand the morals of the story back then? Nope.  Did I grock that Edmund had started off as the underdog? Oh yeah, and at that point in my young life, I totally empathized (younger sibling, perpetual new kid, athletically-challenged, etc). That empathy hasn’t faded with age. Quite the opposite. This, I imagine, is true for many and is what makes Edmund’s story timeless.

“He who has felt the deepest grief is best able to experience supreme happiness.” –E.Dantès

Hollywood is in love with Edmund too.  More than ten versions of The Count of Monte Cristo have been made for US audiences. Sure, Hollywood loves a reboot, but ten, ten? The 2002 version was beautifully filmed, lush costumes, and great sets. Who can forget the arrival by hot-air balloon scene? However, I want to send the screenwriter back to The Fundamentals of Reading in hopes that another classic novel will not have its plot destroyed. That said, some of the most handsome men of their times have been cast as Dantès: Jim Caviezel, Richard Chamberlain, Robert Donat, John Gilbert, Louis Jourdan, and Gérard Depardieu … Okay, the latter might not be considered Hollywood handsome but Depardieu did totally rock his part.

“Until the day when God will deign to reveal the future to man,
 all human wisdom is contained in these two words,—‘Wait and hope.”  –E.Dantès


  1. I've never read The Count of Monte Cristo, but I saw the latest movie. You make me want to read it and see... :-D

  2. I was in my thirties before I read this. Afterwards, I wondered what took me so long. It was incredible. I tried watching the 2002 version, but I had to stop after a few scenes. It didn't do the book justice.

  3. I loved this book, too. In fact, I had all sorts of references to CoMC in Obsidian, that I finally took out because no one "got" them and they were too cumbersome to explain. Gwynn, when she refuses to eat, says "Madame, I never eat Muscatel grapes." Well, it made ME laugh. I've never watched any of the film versions because I'm afraid of suckitude. Should I? B.E.'s comment makes me think no.

  4. I've been living in a literary cave, and haven't read it...off it goes into the TBR pile!

  5. Laura & Linda, try to get an unabridged version of it. It's worth the extra fifty-pages-ish that are missing from the versions foisted on unsuspecting high schoolers.

    B.E.'s right, none of the movies really do the book justice. Of the many made, I'd vote for the Jordan (B&W) or the Depardieu. The 2002 cast was great and filming was great, BUT the screenplay was done by someone who has a deep loathing for the story. Example? Dantes and Mercedes go off with their son for the HEA. ~listens for Jeffe's apoplectic fit~

  6. I love the Count of Montecristo, but the Musketeers are the ones with my heart. The book. Not the movie(s). Which bore only passing acquaintance with the book. Also liked The Man in the Iron Mask. But then, I'm a sucker for political intrigue plots. But yes. Alexander Dumas - the man wrote fine adventure stories with really great characters.

  7. This is one I never read. And the only movie version I saw was the new one, that everybody is hating on. I actually kinda loved it. But then, I hadn't read the book, so I was quite happy with the HEA. I like HEAs.

  8. HEAs are a wonderful thing - we all write them. (Except for maybe Kerry!) However, they must be earned and flow from the story, not be slapped on at the end.

  9. Ah, Kerry, never fear, there is a beautiful HEA in the book -- one that befits a man who has learned from his life's lessons.

    Marcella, I'm with you. Dumas (pere) is one of my favorites. I'm slowly collecting "keeper copies" of his complete works.