I first read the Count of Monte Cristo when I was seven. Abridged, naturally, and definitely translated, since I still do not know how to read French. The point being, though, that when I read it, Edmond Dantes’ actions seemed perfectly acceptable to me. So what if he did not get the original girl at the end? The bad guys still got kicked hard, and god, he was rich.
The second time I read the book was when I was eleven. Four years translated to around two hundred book pages and definitely flowerier language. Now, though, the first seeds of moral rectitude had grown into strong young saplings, and, while the girl was still not a concern, the coldness of the Count’s actions, and the abhorrence of death had effects on my views on the book. No longer was Dantes a hero one could unreservedly admire. I would not learn of this term till I heard of Wolverine (mind you, I did know of Batman, but he is still a borderline case), but I had had my first encounter with an anti-hero four years ago, and recognised him for one in sixth class.
Another six years would pass before Wikipedia (see the geek links on the right) opened another portal in the deep recesses of knowledge, and I studied the psychological and sociological interpretation of a great many books I had read, including Alexander Dumas Jr.’s magnum opus. And I watched the movie, which I hated. He got the girl in the movie. And he ate the cake too. Oh, and the girl bit did bother me by now. Here is a perfectly willing lady, ready to go the mile to set things right, offering to assuage the pains brought about by another, but no, Mr. Dantes has to remain aloof and uptight, and make a complete ass of himself. He spends money on killing people and driving them mad! As Spock would put it, most illogical.
I still do not know if I am an idealist or a pragmatist. My own contention has been that my ideals have been pragmatic, and this philosophy of mine always prodded me to censure the Count. But much deeper, in a place where the Eye of Sauron alone could delve, there was the faintest feeling of satisfaction. It was a vestige from my reading at the age of seven. Maybe. Regardless, this part of me always believed that justice had been long overdue, and though I did not particularly condone this form of justice, the feeling of something right being done did counterbalance my compunction.
As for the girl, who, if you will recall, was a lady of thirty something now, I simply felt if she had been willing to let go and marry the guy who did her paramour in, and would be as easily swayed to the dark side, then she had lost the right to be delivered honourably. In a sense, the Count’s brutal brand of justice appealed to me. There were no means here to consider. They had been done away with early in the story. But the ends, ah. The ends were still to be tied.