When I was 18 years old I fell in love wtih The Count of Monte Cristo. I was so drawn in that I finished the 1200+ page novel in two weeks, and then read it again. There is something about the book that draws all of its readers in. No subject is left untouched; There is religion and atheism, love, happy marriages, broken families, homosexual relationships, scandalous love affairs, secret love affairs, young love, old love, politics, history, mathematics, chemistry, potions, magic, greed, kindness, justice, mercy, swordplay, death, internationality, and any other 17th century subject you could possibly think of. There is something about The Count of Monte Cristo that draws us all in. It is what Alexandre Dumas does best.
The novel invokes our sense of justice. We want to believe that he is right. We see the injustice done to the innocent and wonderful Edmond Dantes and we wait impatiently for justice to be served. Yes! we say as Danglars loses his family and watches his fortune slip away. Finally! we shout as Villefort's scandal is exposed and his utter hypocrisy uncovered. And then we jump with triumph as Ferdinand, the worst of them all, is exposed for the liar and thief that he is and loses his wife, son, and money, all won by fraud in the first place. Then we feel happy at the mercy shown to those who deserve it. We sigh with contentment as the Count aids Valentine's escape and helps the two lovers elope. We applaud the Count as he saves M. Morrell from financial despair in return for the kindness that was shown to him years ago. We see the justice and mercy of God in the Count's actions, and it isn't until the end that we realize that the Count of Monte Cristo, a mere ghost of the person once called Edmond Dantes, is trying to accomplish the impossible: He is trying to be God.
The religious implications in this novel coincide greatly with my own personal beliefs. I am an active Christian, and the religious parallels I found between this novel and the Bible are fascinating to me. As Christians we are taught to love our enemies, bless those who curse us, do good to them who hate us and pray for them which despitefully use and persecute us.
The Count doles out mercy and justice as he sees fit, and as readers we cannot help but agree with him. After all, he is in the right, isn't he? But what does he have in the end? Money? Love? Hope? Happiness? He leaves France with all the money in the world, a girl who loves him ardently and who he has some affection for, but in reality he leaves with nothing. He is hollowed out by his choices. He spent years of his life focused only on vengeance, and what is left when that is gone? He has changed his name and personality so many times that I doubt he even knows himself anymore, and he becomes a ghost of the strong, loyal man once called Edmond Dantes. Vengeance, hatred, and bitterness were his death.
"Hatred is blind; rage carries you away; and he who pours out vengeance runs the risk of tasting a bitter draught."
Is this sentiment not echoed in the words of John?
"He that saith he is in the light and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now."
-1 John 2:9
As it turns out, The Count does taste that bitter draught. Casualties occur in his plan of revenge that he had not planned for. And he never found true happiness after all. It is impossible, after all, for a human being to take the place of God.
It is likewise impossible to find happiness in hatred. Darkness will never be light.