Note: I had meant to post this several weeks ago, when I finished the book, but I kind of forgot about it. Anyway, Jordan really wanted a post, so here it is. :D
The Count of Monte Cristo is one of those books that spawn a great deal of thought and reflection. For example, every once in a while, I would have to put down Nineteen Eight-Four and pause, to think through and absorb what I had just read. For The Count of Monte Cristo, most of these reflections revolved around the overriding topics addressed in the book: wealth, and more importantly, revenge. It has taken me a long time to finish this one, as it weighs in at just under 1100 pages. However, I am finally done, and I think another look back is due.
The thing that constantly bugged me throughout the entire book was Dantès’ view on revenge. He considered it (quite literally) his God-given right to exact his vengeance on those who once wronged him. However, I honestly cannot agree with that view of justice. As a wise man was once reported to say, “An eye for an eye and the whole world goes blind.” Dantès did not seem to understand the concept of forgiving and forgetting. He was understandably maddened at what those people did to him, but by carrying out his plans for payback, he ended up making many more suffer as he had suffered once. It annoyed me so much that he could not see the harm caused to others by his actions. However, at the end, to my relief, this conflict between his intentions and the greater good are resolved, but I shall not give away exactly how. :)
Another constant source of annoyance for me was his manner of spending money. The entire society portrayed is extremely frivolous, but Dantès is even more so. He buys some horses for double what they are worth, and when he understands that the previous owner’s wife wants them back, he sends them to her for free, and each is adorned with a large precious stone. He owns at least three houses in France alone, let alone Italy, his semi-residence on Monte Cristo, and I think there was one in Belgium or something. Oh yeah, and he bought the building his father’s apartment was once in, so make that four in France. And I just remembered the houses belonging to his aliases . . . it is pretty much insanity: he is one freaking person!
How can he live with that sort of frivolity? His own father died of starvation because he was too proud to ask for money from his friends. And this same person spends millions, hundreds of millions of francs on his revenge. It is true, some of his money is spent in helping those who helped him, but it is far outweighed by his revenge expenditure. I felt a stab in my heart every time they described how much he spent, because I could not help but imagine how that money could have been better spent. There are these things, perhaps less common in the 1800s, but still decidedly present, called hospitals. Orphanages. Hell, even the church, which did and does still do good works, would have spent that money better than the Count. Even the ending holds little redemption for him in this sense, at least in my eyes.
Finally, I would like to present a short quotation from The Count of Monte Cristo.
The blood mounted to the temples of Debray, who held a million in his pocket-book; and, unimaginative as he was, he could not help reflecting that the same house had contained two women, one of whom, justly dishonoured, had left it poor with 1,500,000 francs under her cloak, while the other, unjustly stricken, but sublime in her misfortune, was yet rich with a few deniers.
Is that not beautiful? It is an amazing juxtaposition, one I would never had noticed without the author’s help. The first woman also goes back to my point about the sheer decadence of the characters at the time, with so much money so ill-spent.