The Count of Monte Cristo

Alexandre Dumas

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About the Author: Alexander Dumas was born in 1802 at Villes-Cotterets. He received very little education but when he entered the household of the future king, Louis-Philippe, he began to read veraciously and then to write. In 1839 he began writing novels dealing with the wars of religion and the Revolution, but he is most remembered for his historical novels, The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers

Some reflections on The Count of Monte Cristo by Daisaku Ikeda

July 24 is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Alexandre Dumas, the famous French author of such well-known works as The Three Musketeers and The Count of MonteCristo. Victor Hugo was born in the same year, on Feb. 26. Two towering figures in French literature came into this world just five months apart. When Dumas was asked who he would like to be other than himself, his answer was “Hugo.” The two shared a deep bond of friendship.

The novel opens in France in 1815, during the turmoil of the Hundred Days, Napoleon’s brief final return to power. The hero, Edmond Dantès, is a navigator and a fine, honest,trusting young man. He is skilled at his profession — expecting soon to become captain of his own ship — and is about to be married to his sweetheart. But as the 19-year-old Dantès is poised to set sail into a happy future, he is suddenly accused of the serious crime of being a Bonapartist spy and thrown into prison. He is the victim of betrayal by colleagues who envy his good fortune and an unscrupulous, self-serving local magistrate.

“By subjecting his youthful hero to this excruciating ordeal, Dumas made him grapple with a desperate life-or-death struggle. When we experience suffering in life, both mental and physical, we become stronger. That is why if young people wish to become great human beings, they must not seek an idle or easy life.” - Josei Toda (1900-1958)

Dumas has Dantès make the observation that a person can increase in strength and honor by struggling with adversity and thereby convert all trials and hardships intoprosperity. Dantès falls from a state of heaven to the depths of hell. Though innocent of any crime, he is imprisoned in the forbidding island fortress of the Château d’If.

Dantès emerges from the darkness of despair when he finds a mentor and father figure in the aged Abbé Faria, who is imprisoned in the adjoining cell. They forge an indestructible bond, and the abbé shares his vast learning with his youthful disciple. After revealing to Dantès the secret of a fabulous treasure hidden on the island of Monte Cristo, however, the abbé dies.

Though overcome with grief, Dantès remains undaunted. Alone again, he is determined to survive and embarks on a new challenge. He does not give in to despair. Blazing afresh with an ardent desire for life, he vows, “I desire to live, I desire to struggle to the very last.”

His resolve is driven by the ever-present wish to avenge the wrong done to him by the despicable villains who sent him to prison. His thoughts turn also to precious friends to whom he is forever indebted and whom he hopes to one day repay for their kindness. Gratitude to the good and virtuous — this, when all is said and done, is the path of integrity and good faith for leading a truly human life. By switching places with the dead body of the abbé, Dantès manages to make a daring escape from the Château d’If.

Dantès, seeking to exact redress for the terrible injustice of false imprisonment that had been perpetrated against him, turned into a ruthless avenger.

Free for the first time in 14 years — and with the enormous treasure bequeathed him bythe abbé — Dantès, calling himself the Count of Monte Cristo, soon makes his appearance in Parisian society. In the intervening years, the enemies who have caused him such suffering have acquired wealth and station, and become established in the world. Dantès, with brilliant strategies and seemingly infinite wealth at his command, sets out to unmask the hypocrites, putting his plans for revenge into motion. He does not turn back until the last wrong has been righted.

Dantès says to a young man: “I have two friends, who in this way never depart from me; the one who gave me being, and the one who conferred knowledge and intelligence on me. Their spirits live in me.” He is saying that he lives each day carrying on a dialogue with his father and his mentor.

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