The Count of Monte Cristo
Published in 2001
1. THE AUTHOR AND HIS/HER TIMES:
A lexandre Dumas was born in 1802 in the village of Villers-Cotterêts, fifty miles northeast of Paris. His father, Thomas-Alexandre Dumas, had been a general under Napoleon, though in 1799 the two men had a falling out and never reconciled. Thomas-Alexandre never received the pay due to him as a former officer, so his family was left poor. In 1806 the elder Dumas died, and his wife and two children struggled to keep afloat. Despite the problems that Napoleon caused to the Dumas family, Alexandre remained a lifelong admirer of the former emperor. Indeed, there are strong democratic leanings evident in Dumas’s literary works.The younger Dumas was not a good student, but he had excellent handwriting. When he moved to Paris in 1823, hoping to make his fortune as an author, his lovely handwriting earned him a job as a minor clerk. Dumas spent six years as a clerk, during which time he wrote plays, conducted torrid love affairs, and lived beyond his means, until, in 1829, he had his first dramatic success, with Henry III and His Court. This play thrust Dumas into the limelight as one of the forerunners of the emergent French Romantic movement, which emphasized excitement, adventure, and high emotion in an attempt to rebel against the conservative climate of the Restoration period that followed the French Revolution.Like his Romantic colleagues, Dumas believed in the principles of social equality and individual rights, and he tried to infuse his dramatic works with these principles. Dumas went further than writing about his beliefs, however. He took an active role in the Revolution of 1830, helping to capture a powder magazine at Soissons, and he was appointed organizer of the National Guard at Vendée. Encountering strong local opposition, Dumas gave up the position, refusing to act against the wishes of the majority.Returning to the literary community of Paris, Dumas continued to write popular plays, sticking to historical works that he filled with melodrama. He also began to write travel literature, which led to a walking tour of southern France in 1834 (a tour that would later be put to use in The Count of Monte Cristo). In the late 1830s, Dumas began writing novels, as much for financial gain as for artistic reasons. It had become common for cheap newspapers to run novels in serial form, and if a writer was adept at writing quickly and melodramatically, as Dumas was, the financial incentives were enormous. Dumas was so good at this sort of writing that he sometimes had three or four serial novels running simultaneously. His writing soon made him the most famous Frenchman of his day, and ALLEN 2
he gained renown throughout the Western world. In 1844, the same year he published The Three Musketeers, Dumas began the serialization of The Count of Monte Cristo. He continued writing prolifically for most of his life, publishing his last novel, The Prussian Terror, in 1867, three years before his death. Dumas also found the time to live like one of his dashing, dramatic, reckless heroes. He was constantly engaged in love affairs, foreign adventures, and exorbitant spending. He was also a generous man, granting money and gifts to virtually anyone who asked. Dumas’s self-indulgent lifestyle and excessive generosity eventually took a toll on his finances. By the time he suffered a stroke in 1870, he was far from a rich man, despite the fact that he had earned millions of dollars in his lifetime. He died in December 1870 at the home of his son, the novelist Alexandre Dumas the younger. 2. FORM/STRUCTURE, PLOT:
A t the age of nineteen, Edmond Dantès seems to have the perfect life. He is about to become the captain of a ship, he is engaged to a beautiful and kind young woman, Mercédès, and he is well liked by almost everyone who knows him. This perfect life, however, stirs up...