Six Degrees: From Roderigo to Fernand Mondego
Last week in our Six Degrees saga, Jenelle Schmidt helped us see the connection between King Solomon’s Mines and Othello, both excellent works. This week we’ll continue in the classics as we take a look at one of the most heart-wrenching tales of destiny and revenge ever crafted, The Count of Monte Cristo. This novel also happens to be one of my all time favorites. It has more plot twists than a german pretzel on a bad hair day!
One of the characters Jenelle mentioned from Othello was Roderigo, a man who lets his desire for another man’s wife rule his decisions. Because of this, he ends up siding with Iago, the evil plotter Jenelle highlighted in her article. And in Monte Cristo, there was a character who similarly allowed his lust to dominate him, a character named Fernando Mondego. The difference between Fernando and Roderigo (their names almost make them sound like they could be brothers) is that Fernando actually needs no outside urging to fuel his plotting, he removes his rival and steals his lady all by himself.
And who is the man in Fernando’s way? Edmond Dantès, who later becomes the titular character of the novel, the Count of Monte Cristo himself. When you read the novel it’s hard to believe that anyone could have a rougher lot than Edmond, at least through the first part of the novel. Not only does he lose the love of his life to another man, but he is unjustly thrown into prison and forgotten for many years. However the crucible of suffering he undergoes transforms him from a simple, honest sailor into a veritable tour de force of vengeance. Indeed, as Monte Cristo he goes to incredible means to punish those who have done him wrong.
Meet the victims…er, characters
Most of the characters in Monte Cristo do not fair so well. Dantès acts as a personal judge and jury against those who destroyed his life. But not all who cross his path earn the guilty verdict. The gallery of characters the Count alternately blesses and curses would be enough to fill several pages, but I’ll highlight a few.
Probably my favorite character in the book (other than Dantès) was Mercédès. Orginially betrothed to Edmond, she is as good hearted as she is beautiful. She only ends up marrying Fernando because she thinks Edmond is lost to her forever. In some ways she is even more tragic than Edmond because she ends up heartbroken and alone at the end, while Edmund, after he has spent all his vengeance, rides off into the sunset and a new life.
Baron Danglars is Mondego’s partner in the plot to frame Edmund. He is conniving and greedy, much like Mondego, and ruins Dantès’ life for his own selfish reasons. During the years Dantès is in prison he becomes rich and powerful, but in the end the Count’s machinations find him out and he ends the novel in ruins.
Abbé Faria is Edmund’s only friend in prison. Functioning as Edmund’s mentor and second father, it is he, more than anyone, who is responsible for the humble seaman’s transformation into the globe-trotting, worldly-wise, insanely wealthy Count of Monte Cristo. Not only does he provide Edmund with an extensive education while they are in prison together, but he tells him the location of his vast fortune which Edumund appropriates and uses to carry out his schemes after escaping from prison.
Monsieur Morrel is Edmund’s former boss. He is one of the most noble characters in the novel. He does his best to free Edmund from prison, knowing he is innocent, but alas his efforts prove in vain. His loyalty is rewarded, however, when Dantès escapes from prison and returns to rescue his friend from financial disaster.
Gérard de Villefort is the ambitious lawyer who is responsible for sending Dantès to prison. He does not at first bear Edmund any ill will and seems interested only that justice be served. However, when realizes that he can exploit Edmund’s predicament to his advantage, he sacrifices the life of an innocent man to rocket his career into the stratosphere. Like many characters in this novel, he seems all too willing to use people to further his own ends.
Bertuccio is Dantès’s steward. The Count trusts him implicitly, sending him to buy whatever he needs to carry out his plans. He is resourceful like his master, but that is not the main reason Dantès takes him into his service. They have a mutual desire to see Villefort destroyed and Bertuccio proves instrumental in seeing the Count’s plans come to fruition. He is like a chess piece which Dantès moves about the board, never toppling the opponent directly, but setting up his master for checkmate after checkmate in the tangled plots he weaves.
And that is an extremely brief look at one of the most complicated novels I have ever read. My head was practically spinning by the time I finished this novel. Of all the books I have read, this is the one that most closely resembles an onion. There are so many layers to it, you will never get to the bottom of it. Kind of like the Six Degrees of Kool Books series. What will the next onion layer be? You’ll have to wait until next week to find out!