Finished the abridged Count of Monte Cristo not too long ago (abridged…yet still 600+ pages…and I’m flummoxed to find a complete unabridged work, as there are two major plot threads I remember that are missing…) and the following questions popped into my head, as I am wont to do after reading a novel and reflecting on it. Of course, it doesn’t help that this is one of my all-time favorite movies (the James Caviezel version) and I inevitably compare the two after every viewing.
Western literature begins (arguably) with the Iliad – your basic tale of revenge. It is continued in the Odyssey, which sees the revenge killing of over one hundred of Penelope’s suitors. Ok, so the theme of ‘revenge’ is popular in Western literature: it is found at the core of innumerable medieval romances and epics, Shakespearean plays, Elizabethan drama, and our aforementioned Dumas novel – from its inception to the latest NYT bestseller.
On the silver screen, film noir and westerns are notorious for this style of plot. So you have to ask…why is revenge so popular a plot? Is the avenger – in this case Edmond Dantes – a ‘stand-in’ for the reader, where Dantes avenges the slights and injuries we all suffer? If you hit the lottery for $100 million, would YOU avenge yourself against those who have harmed you?
Or…would having all that money – and the nascent power that comes with it – be its own revenge against whatever indignities you have suffered? Would it be enough to assauge all that pain?
If you had the resources, the means, and the will…would you follow the path of Edmond Dantes – and would you end up with his same fate? (Note that Dumas’ original work, Edmond’s fate is much different than that of the movie(s) – the ‘hero’ doesn’t actually ride off into the sunset with his reunited woman and boy. He actually loses Mercedes, though he is able to provide Maximillian Morrell – his old boss’s son – reclaimed wealth and his true love, but at cost to both.)
Anyway, something to think about. Most likely, I’ll be thinking on how to work this ‘timeless classic plot device’ into my next work somehow.