Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Reading The Count of Monte Cristo, Day 23

I've been a bit slack with my updates lately, but not with my reading. Should finish during the weekend, thus avoiding the ignominy of a $1 one week extension of my library loan. Yus!

Progress: Chapter 96 (took me a while to convert from the roman numerals… bring on Chapter C).

Page 1060/1243 (85% complete after 82% of my allotted reading time)

Reading notes

Chapter 67 Some terrible "dialogue" on p.737 when Villefort is "talking" nto Mme. Danglars… Sorry for the over use of sarcastic quotation marks, but the guy tells her things she did which only the reader needs to know. "You bravely returned home, supported by your nurse, while I used a duel as an excuse for my wound." Nuh, you've lost me Alexandre. Just use your narrator who can travel through space and time and see inside the hearts and heads of man. Sheesh.

Chapter 68 Monte Cristo: "I like everybody in the way that God ordered us to love our neighbours, that is, in Christian charity. I only bestow hatred on certain people" (p.747). This seems to directly contradict what the count said to Franz and Albert in Rome some 400 pages ago.

Chapter 69 Quite like this chapter. Villefort seeks out two people who claim to know about Monte Cristo's past, Abbe Busoni and Lord Wilmore, both of whom happen to be Monte Cristo in disguise. Busoni and Wilmore pretend to hate each other, Wilmore is openly seeking revenge on Monte Cristo… "I have already fought the count three times… the first time with pistols, the second with foils and the third with sabres… The first time he broke my arm; the second, he ran me through the lungl and the third, he gave me this wound… So I greatly resent him… Naturally he will die by no hand except mine." (Dramatic irony alert!)

A Lord Wilmore character that isn't actually someone in disguise has a place in a revenge saga, to provide humour and to contrast with the serious, central revenge plot.

Chapter 70 Mercedes interest in Monte Cristo not eating is something that could also be borrowed and built upon. Later we find out that Monte Cristo doesn't eat in the home of his enemy so he will be unencumbered (morally, I guess) when it comes time to exact his revenge.

Chapter 73 Some more bad writing here. Morrel breaks into the Villefort's and the narrator tells us, "Now, most of all, he found use of the internal layout of the house" (p.803). Without actually seeing such a conversation (they may have, I might have skimmed it) it's like saying, "He was lost, but luckily he remembered the magic wand a fairy gave his mother the day he was born."

Chapter 75 More bad writing, unfortunately. The document in M. Noirtier's secret door confessing to the murder of Franz's father contains dialogue:

"'What is to be done, then?' asked the general.

"'I have my own carriage,' said the president." (p.824)

Then on p.826-7 we get full blown speeches and proper narration: "Monsieur d'Epinay became very pale. Once more he looked all around him. Several members of the club were muttering and searching for weapons under their cloaks."

Basically, this stuff blows the realism of the story for me. I can't believe in the document being read out, and therefore the scene presented. Too much of the writer shows through these passages: Dumas the playwright, making things come from people's mouths; Dumas the guy who gets paid by the line.

Chapter 77 I wish I'd been counting the references to the Thousand and One Nights. I think the one on p.846 was the last, but there'd have to be at least a dozen.

Chapter 83 'The Hand of God' Monte Cristo, dressed as Abbe Busoni, describes all the actions of God bringing mercy/justice upon Caderousse, but of course these are all things Monte Cristo did. Later, we get glimpses closer inside the count's head (like when Mercedes asks him not to kill Franz) and we see he really does believe he his an agent of God, or at least an avenging angel… To me that makes him less interesting (because he's either mad or seriously devout) than if he was being ironic here.

When Caderousse dies (stabbed by his treacherous buddy Benedetto) the Count stands over him and says, "One!" Body count! Awesome. Unfortunately he wasn't there to see Morcerf blow his brains out, so I'm not sure if this body count will recur… definitely something a revenge saga should have.

Chapter 86 "Truly generous men are always ready to feel compassion when their enemy's misfortune exceeds the bounds of their hatred." (p.953)

Chapter 89
'Night' A modest title for one of the most anticipated chapters in the book: Mercedes tells the Count of Monte Cristo that she knows he is Edmond Dantes.

Chapter 92 "Haydee experienced all the emotion of a daughter reunited with a dear father and all the delirium of a mistress greeting and adored lover. And Monte Cristo's joy, though less expansive, was no less great… For some days, Monte Cristo had realised something that for a long time he had dared not believe, which is that there were two Mercedes in the world, and he could be happy once more."

Apart from the creepy father-lover aspect of Haydee and the count's relationship, I think it verges on sexism to allow Monte Cristo a second Mercedes (circa 20 years old) when the original Mercedes is still alive (and her husband has just shot himself). Sure, back in those days old fogies could marry young girls, but all the pairing off in this novel has been of people roughly the same age. I know it's retarded to say the count and Mercedes should shack up and live happily ever after and want the mother of all revenge sagas, but there you have it: I'm retarded.

Chapter 95 "We beg [the readers] in consequence to step back in time with us and to transport themselves… to the finely gilded drawing-room…" (p.1032) This is an example of the time-travelling narrator I mentioned earlier. But it's worth noting that there has been decidedly less of the intrusive narrator in the latter chapters, perhaps because the degree to which Monte Cristo is stage managing the action has become more and more apparent. In the beginning, however, when it was just fate controlling things, we needed a more dextrous narrator.

No comments: