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The Underworld

Alexander Dumas' Count of Monte Cristo

Representations

The System

Famous Crime

 

 

 

 

In his book True Stories of Immortal Crimes, Mr. H. Ashton Wolfe describes the process by which myth and reality merge. Coming across the documentation for the basis of Alexandre Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo, he says:

"As I scanned the reports of the old, famous story, I felt as I imagine a man would feel who suddenly, unexpectedly, encounters a fabled monster -a mermaid, or a unicorn. I realized that I had never believed the tale. Yet here, on ancient, rough, linen paper, and written in the clear and mincing hand of police officials who lived more than a century ago, were the names, dates, and statements... " (Wolfe, 16)


(Picture from cadytech.com)

This fabulous tale of Edmond Dantes, a man falsely imprisoned who extracts his revenge in dramatic and gory ways, weaves in and out of every social class and setting, from Dantes budding courtship of a young lady, to his long, harsh imprisonment and bloody revenge. Dantes undertakes several identities in the course of the book, which makes the story that much more exciting.

The figure of the terrible Count was very popular, and this tale has been retold in various mediums, including film and comic illustration. That the story originates from facts about a man named Pierre Picaud, and that these bloody facts would have been published at the time shows us the proximity of violent crime to the daily life of France.

• On the one hand, people were pressed up against aspects of crime in their lives and homes, so tales like these may have been more realistic and terrifying than they seem to us. Whether readers made these characters into heroes or villains probably had much to do with their place in society, but good or bad these figures would be familiar and realistic.

• On the other hand, their adaptation for fiction may have made the stories appear all the less true,explaining Wolfe's original disbelief (expressed in the quote above) in their validity.