The Count of Monte Cristo
The Count of Monte Cristo (French: Le Comte de Monte-Cristo) is an adventure novel by French author Alexandre Dumas (père). It is one of the author’s most popular works, along with The Three Musketeers. He completed the work in 1844. Like many of his novels, it is expanded from plot outlines suggested by his collaborating ghostwriter Auguste Maquet.
The story takes place in France, Italy, islands in the Mediterranean, and in the Levant during the historical events of 1815–1838 (from just before the Hundred Days to the reign of Louis-Philippe of France).
The historical setting is a fundamental element of the book. An adventure story primarily concerned with themes of hope, justice, vengeance, mercy and forgiveness, it focuses on a man who is wrongfully imprisoned, escapes from jail, acquires a fortune and sets about getting revenge on those responsible for his imprisonment. However, his plans have devastating consequences for the innocent as well as the guilty.
The book is considered a literary classic today. According to Luc Sante, “The Count of Monte Cristo has become a fixture of Western civilization’s literature, as inescapable and immediately identifiable as Mickey Mouse, Noah’s flood, and the story of Little Red Riding Hood.”
Background to the plot
Dumas wrote that the idea of revenge in The Count of Monte Cristo came from a story in a book compiled by Jacques Peuchet, a French police archivist, published in 1838 after the death of the author. Dumas included this essay in one of the editions from 1846. Peuchet told of a shoemaker, Pierre Picaud, living in Nîmes in 1807, who was engaged to marry a rich woman when three jealous friends falsely accused him of being a spy for England. Picaud was placed under a form of house arrest, in the Fenestrelle Fort where he served as a servant to a rich Italian cleric.
When the man died, he left his fortune to Picaud whom he had begun to treat as a son. Picaud then spent years plotting his revenge on the three men who were responsible for his misfortune. He stabbed the first with a dagger on which were printed the words, “Number One”, and then he poisoned the second. The third man’s son he lured into crime and his daughter into prostitution, finally stabbing the man himself. This third man, named Loupian, had married Picaud’s fiancée while Picaud was under arrest.
In another of the “True Stories” Peuchet describes a poisoning in a family. This story, also quoted in the Pleiade edition, has obviously served as model for the chapter of the murders inside the Villefort family. The introduction to the Pleiade edition mentions other sources from real life: the Abbé Faria existed and died in 1819 after a life with much resemblance to that of the Faria in the novel. As for Dantès, his fate is quite different from his model in Peuchet’s book, since the latter is murdered by the “Caderousse” of the plot. But Dantès has “alter egos” in two other Dumas works; in “Pauline” from 1838, and more significantly in “Georges” from 1843, where a young man with black ancestry is preparing a revenge against white people who had humiliated him.
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