Professor Julia Jackson
April 28, 2009
Culture and The Count of Monte Cristo
The Count of Monte Cristo was written by the French author Alexandre Dumas and was published in 1844. It has been a popular book in numerous different countries since its original publication and is now one of the highest selling books of all time. It is highly regarded by many literary critics and often referred to as a timeless piece of literature because it has been a main staple on bookshelves all over the world for more than 150 years. Dumas was inspired to write the story after reading a similar story written by Jacques Peuchet. The two stories had very similar plots in that they both were about a man that had been wrongfully convicted and his plot for revenge. This paper will focus on the culture of the setting portrayed in the novel and will compare it with the history and culture of France during 1815-1838. Dumas was a very talented writer and was able to portray the setting of the novel almost perfectly to the actual culture and times in which it takes place. Alexandre Dumas was raised by his mother after his father passed away when he was only three years old. When he was a child, Dumas’ mothers told him the stories of his father’s brave military acts during the reign of Napoleon I of France. These stories sparked his interest in the government, politics, and the continuous fight for power in France. After the restoration of the monarchy in 1822, Dumas moved to Paris and began to work at the Palais Royal in the office of the Duke of Orleans. He became familiar with the inner workings of the monarchy and was able to use this to help portray the culture more accurately in his works. It is difficult to notice any differences between the actual culture of the time and the culture portrayed by Dumas in the novel. He grew up during the First Empire of France, the Restoration, and the July Monarchy periods and can portray them exactly as they were really were as a result. Dumas paid attention to details with respect to historical accuracy in his writings, and this is the main reason why he is able to portray the culture of the setting in his novel so closely to the actual culture of the people in France at that time. The novel can be viewed as a history book with a fictional tale added in to it. “Culture is a broad word including habits of thought, feeling, and behavior that were invented by humans, taught to other humans, and passed down to descendants, but not practiced among all human groups. It is often entwined with racial identity, ethnic category, and geographical background” (McMahan 845). The story takes place mostly in France and Italy but also in others areas throughout the Mediterranean region. The story begins in 1815 after the fall of the First French Empire under the rule of Napoleon Bonaparte and just prior to the famous Hundred Days. The story ends in 1838 while France was under the reign of Louis-Philippe of France. The 23 years the book spans are some of the most significant times in the history of France. After Napoleon’s defeat at the Battle of Nations in 1913, he was forced into exile on the island of Alba the following year. The Bourbon Dynasty was restored to the French throne in 1914, and this marked the beginning of the period known as “The Restoration”. The Restoration period was characterized by strong conservatism and the re-establishment of the Roman Catholic Church as an influence in French politics. The restored Bourbons had the support of the old aristocracy, who had been dispossessed of their lands by the revolution, but they did not have the allegiance of all the people. Many wanted the Emperor to return, and there were conflicts between royalists and Bonapartists. This is reflected in the early part of the novel. Villefort's father, Noirtier, is a Bonapartist and a former Girondin (the Girondins were a political faction during the French Revolution), whereas Villefort is content to...