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The Count of Monte Cristo

The Count of Monte Cristo is a novel by Alexandre Dumas, pere. It is often considered Dumas' best work, and is frequently included on lists of the ten best novels of all time. The writing of the work was completed in 1844, and released as an 18-part series over the next two years. Dumas is thought to have collaborated with other authors in the writing.

The story takes place in (primarily) France, during the historical events of 1814-1838 (the end of the rule of Napoleon I of France through the reign of Louis-Philippe of France). It is primarily concerned with themes of justice, vengeance, mercy and forgiveness, and is told in the style of an adventure story.

Plot Warning: Wikipedia contains spoilers

The novel follows the adventures of the protagonist, Edmond Dantés. Dantés is a young, idealistic sailor with excellent prospects and a beautiful fiancee. However, a chance encounter brushes him with the edge of a larger framework of political machinations; and various individuals, for their own reasons, use these circumstances against him. The result of their various plots is that Dantes is thrown into prison indefinitely in the Château d'If, near Marseille.

In prison, Dantes encounters a fellow-prisoner, the Abbé Faria, with whom he forms a deep friendship. Faria becomes his instructor in a number of subjects, ranging from history and mathematics to swordplay. As a result of his conversations with Faria, Dantés slowly begins to piece together the plots that put him in his current predicament. He and Faria work long hours on an escape tunnel, but the elderly and infirm Faria does not survive to see its completion. Knowing himself dying, Faria confides to Dantes the location of a great treasure on the islet of Monte Cristo. Dantes subsequently escapes by the simple expedient of taking the place of Faria's body.

Following his escape, Dantes retrieves the treasure and re-invents himself as the enigmatic Count of Monte Cristo. His long experience has changed him physically, aging him prematurely; mentally, giving him a much greater depth and breadth of knowledge; and socially, with his access to great wealth. Perhaps the greatest change is psychological, however; from an idealistic youth he has become a grimly intense man, near-obsessed with his plans to repay those who have done him both good and ill in kind.

The story then follows Dantés' efforts, first and more briefly to reward those who tried to help him, then an extended campaign to gain vengeance on those who had him imprisoned. Using his new persona he is able to ingratiate himself with his enemies, where he engineers a number of subtle schemes, all with the object of visiting poetic justice on the heads of those he hates. He sees himself a sort of avenging angel, doing God's work in his own revenge.

However, matters are more complicated than Dantés anticipates. The family of one of his enemies is connected to the family of one of his benefactors, so his dual campaigns of reward and punishment come into conflict. Seeing his vengeance begin to go farther than he had truly intended, Dantés takes steps once more to balance matters. Though his revenge on his former foes is completed quite thoroughly, he makes restitution to those caught up in the resulting chaos, thereby applying his own standards of justice to himself as well. In the process, he comes to terms with his own history, and is able to find some forgiveness both for his enemies and for himself.

Screen adaptations

The story has been adapted to many screen versions, including several movies and numerous TV series. It has been estimated that this story has been filmed once every eighteen months from 1920 on. Notable versions include:

  • The Count of Monte Cristo (1908), silent film
  • The Count of Monte Cristo (1913), starring James O'Neill
  • The Count of Monte Cristo (1934), starring Robert Donat
  • The Count of Monte Cristo (1974), starring Richard Chamberlain
  • Le comte de Monte Cristo (1999), French edition, starring Gerard Depardieu
  • The Count of Monte Cristo (2002), starring James Caviezel[?], Guy Pearce, and Richard Harris.

Read it! The Count of Monte Cristo at Project Gutenberg (http://promo.net/pg/index)



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