I have been quite under the weather recently, suffering through a dreary head cold and an awfully runny nose. However, while recovering in bed during the last several days I have had the opportunity to drink plenty of hot tea and read none other than The Count of Monte Cristo. Actually, I have finished the book only two nights ago and I’m still processing my thoughts and feelings regarding the book. I feel like I haven’t been on such an adventure since I read The Lord of the Rings trilogy a few years ago. Despite the differences between these books, they share a common depth so often present in the works that move and touch us the most. Themes of suffering, sacrifice, and the limits of human (or hobbit) character are as thoughtfully explored as those of redemption, true happiness, and purpose.
There are many memorable chapters and passages within the pages of The Count of Monte Cristo, and yet a few stand out at the moment. Eventually, the reader comes to Mercédès’ ball, whereupon she notices The Count (whom she alone recognizes as her Edmond of so long ago) refusing to eat any food that is offered to him. She takes him to her greenhouse, where she offers him grapes and I believe a peach as well, urging him to enjoy himself. When Edmond refuses, she feels crushed. The plot here is really of less significance than the feeling Dumas seems to conjure up so well with his writing. The reader feels the ache, the loss, the tension between the two former loves, and truly the food becomes a symbol for something much greater, that is perhaps of forgiveness, acceptance, and the bond between the two characters. I just thought Dumas so cleverly used cultural conceptions regarding the sharing of food to subtly articulate the deeper occurrence taking place.
Additionally, the whole evolution of Edmond’s character is just fascinating. As I have before mentioned, his character begins as a naïve sailor on the cusp of all the success and happiness he could possibly wish for, but through his disillusionment he becomes hardened, and years of surviving false imprisonment and betrayal shape his perception of himself into that of Providence (and consequently, menacing angel), where he believes his role is one of punishing those who so wronged him. Later, Edmond is once again disillusioned, though finally redeemed, as he comes to terms with his own wrongdoings, emptiness, and longing, all while the possibilities of true love and loyalty unfold before him. A powerful book all around — check it out from your library if you haven’t already read it.