A reader's guide to The Count of Monte Cristo

Updated Saturday, 1st October 2005
Alexandre Dumas's classic 1844 adventure novel The Count Of Monte Cristo tells the story of Edmond Dantes, who is accused of treason, imprisoned, and later seeks his revenge.

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Alexandre Dumas (1802-1870) was hailed as one of the pioneers of the Romantic movement in France, and was an advocate of personal liberty and social equality. He was versatile, penning popular plays and travel literature as well as novels. At this time, astute authors could garner rich pickings: newspaper serializations were in great demand, so prolific writers like Dumas made the most of the public’s thirst for melodramatic plots.

The Count of Monte Cristo was inspired by a case reported in police archives, and is grounded in historical events. It has been said that Napoleon Bonaparte is a key player in the book, even though he does not actually appear! The text tells the story of Edmond Dantes, who is accused of treason, imprisoned, and later seeks his revenge. He sees himself as an agent of Providence, meting out justice, but he has an important lesson to learn.

Alexandre Dumas sculpture

Incidentally, interesting links have been drawn with the Arabian Nights and Romeo and Juliet. There have been many screen adaptations of the novel, and readers are welcome to comment on these. Some reviewers of Stephen Fry’s The Stars’ Tennis Balls pointed out that he had ‘borrowed’ from The Count of Monte Cristo, and that many of the names of his characters are anagrams of their counterparts in the Dumas story. Again this could provide an angle for discussion.

Dumas aimed for excitement and adventure in his fiction, so prepare to buckle your swashes...

 

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