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