Reading Picks: The Count of Monte Cristo

Hello Readers!  By now, the weather has turned and I’m spending a lot more time inside.  As the days grow shorter, I begin to look forward to my reading time: just me, a cup of hot coffee, and a great book.  And one of my first picks every Fall is The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas.

This is actually one of my favorites that I never read in college for a class but that I read for fun.  This is an amazing book about adventure and revenge, and there’s something about it that attracts me to its pages every Fall.  It isn’t even specific about the seasons, so I know it’s not because of the season that I love this book.  So, allow me to give you a summary of the book.

Edmond Dantes, a poor boy from Marseilles, becomes captain of the ship the Pharoan when the previous captain becomes ill and dies on the Isle of Elba, where the former Emperor Napoleon is held prisoner for his crimes.  While there, Edmond is asked by Napoleon to pass a message along to an old friend, which Edmond agrees to do out of cordiality.  What must be known is that Edmond can’t read and, therefore, he is unaware of the message’s contents.  When he gets back to Marseilles and is made captain of his ship, his childhood friend Fernand and his girlfriend Mercedes greet him at their hang out.  As soon as Edmond reveals his promotion to captain of the Pharoan, he proposes to his longtime love Mercedes.  Fernand, jealous of Edmond and eager to see him fail, meets up with the captain’s mate of the Pharoan Danglars, who was passed up on the promotion to captain by Edmond.  Both men, envious of Edmond’s good fortune, hatch a plan to accuse Dantes of treason due to the letter from Napoleon that he carries for someone.

As a result, Edmond Dantes is arrested and taken to Paris to see the Marquis de Villefort.  When Dantes tells of his innocence and ignorance, due to his lack of reading, the marquis is prepared to let him go until the recipient of the letter–the marquis’ father–is discovered.  In order to cover up his father’s indiscretions, the Marquis de Villefort sentences Edmond Dantes to an indeterminable sentence at the dreaded Cheateau d’If, a prison atop an island in the sea.  Before Edmond is aware of what’s happening, he’s thrown in a prison cell to rot away without ever knowing what crime he has committed.

He spends years in the prison, and due to a mistake made in calculations, he winds up meeting a fellow prisoner via a botched escape plan by the other prisoner.  The prisoner, an older gentleman and scholar, begins to teach Dantes about scholarly pursuits.  Latin, economics, sword-fighting, reading, and other skills fill their days as they, together, plan their escape and begin digging their way out of the prison.  The prisoner also tells Dantes about a fortune of buried treasure at the Isle of Monte Cristo left from the time of the Romans.    Through their meeting and discussions, Dantes learns that he has been unlawfully thrown into prison in order to protect others, disposing of Dantes as though he is meaningless even though he is innocent of any crime.  So, Dantes sets his mind to revenge while planning his escape.

Sadly, tragedy strikes the old prisoner and he dies.  Dantes uses this to his advantage to take the prisoner’s place in the death sack before he is tossed to sea.  Dantes escapes the Chateau d’If and swims to the shore of a nearby island where he is captured by a band of pirates.  He joins their ranks and befriends Faria, a man who was destined for death but was saved by Dantes and his cunning skills of trickery.  For years, Dantes travels with the pirates and makes his plans of return to Marseilles for revenge.

When he finally decides to leave the prisoners, Faria joins him on his quest and the two set out for the Isle of Monte Cristo where they soon discover the vast treasure for their venture.  Dantes uses the fortune to transform himself into the Count of Monte Cristo, the title he uses as a disguise, and makes his way to Marseilles to exact his revenge on his enemies.  From then on, every move is calculated and cunning on Dantes’ part, and at the end he is left in a conundrum.  He has gotten his revenge and is still alone with no purpose.  The ending of the book is quite odd, for it is not a happy ending.  It’s a sad ending as the moral of the story is that revenge does not make you happy in the end.

Still, I love the adventure and the story.  Something about it speaks to the tomboy kid within me.  It’s a longer book than usual, but it’s well worth the read as it’s a classical masterpiece that has stood the tests of time.  It’s the original adventure story that all others set to follow, and it tells the tale so well.  I highly recommend curling up with this book like I have done for years past.

Until next time,

-BBM

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