Wednesday, February 4, 2009

With Darkness as an Ally (Part 2 of... This Many! *holds up hands*)

So when last we met, I vanished to brood for a little while. Brooding commenced, I arbitrarily decided to begin with Antiheroes in Literature. First up:

Edmond Dantès, the Count of Monte Cristo.

I love this character. He starts out in this serial novel by Alexandre Dumas as a friendly, candid young sailor who is poised to see the culmination of his few hopes and dreams at the tender age of 19. At this point, his major weakness is pure naivetee, and is totally incapable of seeing the jealousies of the few others close to him. Send to an island prison for a crime he was certainly not guilty of, Dantès survives there for fourteen years only through the chance meeting with the abbé Faria. And though this surely saves his life, it sets him on the path of vengeance, for the abbé keenly sees that which Dantès did not, and the true injustice is revealed. The years they are together, Faria schools the young man in science, math, and language and on his deathbed reveals the secret of a treasure buried at the island of Monte Cristo which Dantès is poised to inherit if he can only recover it. Faria dies, and Dantès escapes the prison, finds the treasure, and assumes the mantle of the Count of Monte Cristo. From the anonymous translation and abridgment I have of The Count of Monte Cristo, published in 2004 by Barnes and Noble, Inc.:

"... daily would he [Faria] expatiate on the amout, holding forth to Dantès on the good a man could do to his friends in modern times with a fortune of thirteen or fourteen millions. Dantès' face would darken, for the oath of vengeance he had taken would come into his mind, and he was occupied with the thought of how much harm a man could do to his enemies in modern times with a fortune of thirteen or fourteen millions."

I think that passage gives one an appropriate insight into what is to come for those that wronged our protagonist. For in the coming pages the Count seeks to utterly shatter the lives of Messrs. Danglars, de Villefort, and Mondego. He is not bloodthirsty but is still cruel in every blow he deals to these men who have risen so high at the young sailor's expense. There are times it is even difficult to remain sympathetic to Dantès, especially considering his treatment of the woman he once loved more than anything. And yet I love the complexity of the plot that is woven, the deep thought and planning that crumbled mighty men, and the transformation of a man who began wanting nothing more than to marry, care for his father, and captain a trading ship.

In the end, once the chain of events has progressed too far to undo, the Count begins to glide back into a more heroic vein, saving the young lovers and hoping against hope that he may be granted at last some personal happiness.

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