Why Is The Count of Monte Cristo So Compelling?
The Count of Monte Cristo is a story of vengeance that arguably started and defined its own subgenre. After the novel was released, its narrative was imitated to varying degrees of similarity and success. One such example is Ben-Hur. Considering how the horror genre only started rolling after the arrival of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, you will notice the similarity with The Count of Monte Cristo.
Alexandre Dumas created a timeless classic due to the nature of the story, and it manages to stay relevant even today. According to the author himself, the whole revenge plot sprung from a real-life story circa 1807. This is not surprising, since most people have found themselves wanting for revenge, and such a story deals with our basic instincts and human nature as a whole. Such a plot transcends time and also has something to offer to everyone.
The author cleverly centers attention on a protagonist with exaggerated qualities. He performs extraordinary feats, and readers subconsciously project onto him their own ideal self. The Count excels in everything, be it love, vengeance, tenacity, intelligence, or wealth, and he is armed with the power of anonymity, not unlike the modern superheroes (Modrzejewska 23-25). But he is facing a dilemma on its own: the vengeance that comes in aspects both positive and negative. As fulfilling as it may be, it can leave a person empty and desolate. The pendulum of his mind swings from the idea of himself being the “tool of God” to seeing revenge as an obsession that forces him to waste his time on bringing misfortune to the world. It would take certain willpower to stop at the right time and return to a normal life.
This novel first came out as a regularly published series, and once it was finished, it was published as a full-fledged book. A smart move for its time, this contributed to the novel’s popularity. Essentially, this created an effect comparable to a modern TV series, giving the readers the breathing room for discussing and speculating about the events to come while waiting for the future installments.
Modrzejewska, Krystyna. La Condition Masculine Dans La littérature française. Wydawn. Uniwersytetu Opolskiego, 2005.
Wallace, Lew. Lew Wallace: an Autobiography. Charleston, South Carolina: Nabu Press, 1906.
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The Count of Monte Cristo Essay: Edmond Dantès’s Transformation
In 1844, Alexandre Dumas created a masterpiece of world literature: The Count of Monte Cristo. Although the novel is considered an adventure, the author managed to develop a decent psychological portrait of the main character with an increased focus on the theme of transformation. The novel remains topical even now, as it is always exciting to observe the evolution process of an individual. This essay deals with the analysis of Edmond Dantes’s transformation from a naive man to an aristocratic count aimed at tracing all his changes, figuring out possible causes and results.
To begin with, it would be appropriate to give the definition of transformation, as it shows the relevance of the concept to the process under consideration. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, “transformation” makes reference to “the action of changing in form, shape, or appearance; metamorphosis.” In the essay, transformation is defined as the development of the character.
At the beginning of the novel, Dantes appears as a young, naive, ingenuous man, head over heels in love, with rosy dreams and expectations. Actually, it is his artless mind that can be blamed for all his trials and tribulations. He can even be considered as a weak person. While incarcerated, he loses hope and decides to commit suicide. By a fortunate accident, however, he meets another prisoner named Abbé Faria, and that is where Edmond’s path to becoming the count of Monte Cristo begins. We define it as the first stage of transformation, where the truth is the trigger. As Faria helps Dantes to understand the reason behind his imprisonment, the realization of being betrayed by his friends and being a victim of fraud wakes him up to reality. It is obvious that changes are inevitable under such circumstances, because we always learn a lesson from tough times in our lives. At that moment the soul of the character hardens, and he decides to take vengeance. His hatred becomes an engine for the desire to live. Though hatred is a destructive emotion, it is helpful for surviving in prison. Faria passes all the knowledge he possesses to Dantes. Communication with the old man affects not only his mind but also his character. As a result, he becomes smarter, more flexible, and develops attention to detail.
After Faria’s death, Edmond escapes the prison in a body bag. That action may be considered as an allusion to a Virgilian journey to another world. “At this moment, Dantès felt himself being thrown into a huge void, flying through the air like a wounded bird, then falling, falling, in a terrifying descent that froze his heart … it seemed to him that the fall lasted a century” (Dumas 186). This is evidence of his symbolic death. From that moment, Edmond Dantes as we know him no longer exists. He becomes free and acquires the opportunity to be whoever he wants; there are no more walls around him, no restrictions, no boundaries. And he indulges in trying on different masks, which represent different features of his personality.
Naming himself Sinbad the Sailor, he reveals his courage, leadership skills, and desire for adventures. He develops that image after the discovery of the treasures of Monte Cristo, so on this stage his transformations are influenced by money. It provides him with confidence and power, and he feels more influential and manages to unite smugglers and gain authority among Italian gangsters. Living in such conditions makes Dantes inventive and cunning, as those traits are crucial while dealing with untrustworthy people. Also, traveling to different countries and dealing with a lot of new people broadens horizons, enhances communication skills, and develops the ability to see things in people.
All of these skills he uses successfully, disguising as a priest and a bank agent to fulfill his plan for revenge. And all his masks, in the end, merge into one well-developed personality that hardly resembles the naive person he used to be before all the misfortunes he faced. Driven by a slakeless vengeance, he follows the plan he elaborated paying no attention to how high the price may be. The Count of Monte Cristo appears to be an unmerciful, provident man who would never discard his aims or alter his mind. Bringing his plan into action, he transforms not only himself but also the environment.
The count converts everything around him into a theater: all his enemies are now only puppets in his hands, and he is in control of all their actions, their lives belonging to the master. He finds pleasure in playing with his offenders’ lives. By changing masks, playing different roles, and setting up various situations, he fulfills the role of trickster. Also, playing the master, he sees himself as the Divine Hand, the one whose mission is to bring justice to the world. And now we approach the last stage of Dantes’s transformation. The commitment of revenge, eventually, opens his eyes to the number of lives taken unnecessarily, and he understands the devastating and blinding power of hatred. The man that we see at the end is not the count of Monte Cristo; it is definitely someone else. That person realizes that he is standing at the beginning of his path to become a man of wisdom. He leaves the past behind and embarks on the new journey to himself.
The transformation of Edmond Dantes is a symbol of the evolution of every person, as it shows all the different changes that happen throughout life. Taking a look at this character, it is apparent that the process of transformation has no end, because the more we live, the more we learn and evolve.
Dumas, Alexandre. The Count of Monte Cristo. The Gutenberg, 2002.
“Transformation.” OED Online, Oxford University Press, December 2018, www.oed.com.