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The Count of Monte Cristo: Lengthy but worth it

January 18, 2021

What makes a book classic? According to my mom, classics are full of exquisite expressions (and will give me some extra points when I go into university). To me, classic books were books that were just old and boring. Really slow paced with difficult language, it is very hard to relate to these novels and their characters. I thought classic books were supposed to be entertaining because a lot of people hold classic books in high regard. So, when my mom came to me with The Count of Monte Cristo, I thought that it would be another tedious classic which would torment me as I plodded through it. The thickness of the book looked like I could work out with it, and the size of the font was so small that I was sure it would make me go blind. However, through reading this book, my perception of classics has changed.

As most people with a basic knowledge of the book know, it follows Edmond Dantes, a simple hardworking sailor turned vengeful count following a fateful event that changed his life. This novel is a classic because it perfected the revenge story. However, Dumas' narrative is quite different from the revenge story that we know nowadays. Unlike movies such as John Wick which involve a lot of childish action scenes involving killing and shooting, he fills it with clever descriptions of the Count's search for the perfect opportunity to take revenge on his foe. Rather than using simple and mindless violence, he uses his wealth, natural charisma, and connections to break them psychologically and harm their social status.

Dumas' tale of revenge is elaborate and broad, yet easy to understand. He writes this narrative through different character’s perspectives, giving detailed backgrounds and activities of multiple characters. By often changing point of view, readers can recognize different character’s motivation and actions through intersecting plotlines. Dumas weaves together Dantes' tale of revenge with flashbacks unraveling the dark tales of the rich and powerful of Paris society. Using this technique, he creates an epic and thrilling tale by giving readers a glimpse into the big picture of the complexity of Dantes' unfolding plan. 

Edmond Dantes himself is portrayed as superhuman. Unbelievably cunning, he does not show emotions or act impulsively. Everything is according to his plan, which is devised to take down his opponents in the worst way they can imagine. To achieve his goals, he is capable of doing anything. He uses his immense wealth to buy four houses in France and bribe officials. He possesses tremendous charisma which helps him step into the high class of Paris society. He can speak multiple languages, possesses the ability to make impenetrable disguises and has great athleticism. Having such a flawless protagonist could have made the story anticlimactic because it would have been too easy for him to do whatever he wants to get revenge. Yet despite his incredible abilities, the story still has tension since the "Goldberg Machine" nature of Dantes' schemes makes it harder for him and more interesting. 

This book will change the perception of those who do not like classics. As you read this book, you will think a lot about the story and its message about the world, which I have come to think defines "a classic." I learned more about human dignity and the result of ignoring it. If you are expecting this book to be filled with thrilling adventures and action, you might be disappointed. However, people who are willing to tolerate a more sophisticated and elaborate approach will find it very rewarding. While this doesn’t necessarily mean you will start thinking all classics are worth reading, it will help you to get rid of the prejudice that you may have had on the genre.

To sum up, I might use a famous line from the story. “All human wisdom is contained in these two words - Wait and Hope.” In this time of chaos and lockdown, I think this line can encourage people to move on. Since I have been studying abroad in a boarding school, I sort of feel like I am Edmond in the "Chateau d'If." Isolated on the island of Australia, I can’t see my mom and other loved ones. Although she will tell me to read more classics when I meet her again, I will be happy to try.

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