‘The Count of Monte Cristo’ by Alexandre Dumas, also known as Alexandre Dumas Père, is both a classic and compelling story about two men who end up in an intense cellar fight… and something about candlelight and someone getting bricked into a wall. At least that’s my recollection as of my eighth-grade English class. Apparently, the subtext and inspiration for the story are pretty dark. The French author, Alexandre Dumas, who also penned ‘The Three Musketeers’ uses the story as a revenge story for his father because it’s based on a true story.
The real Count of Monte Cristo is who Alexandre’s real-life father should have been, in his eyes. The book is his father’s adventure story, had he met a better fate. The plot goes as such: Edmond Dantès, a charismatic young man, is betrayed by his jealous friends. He is thrown into prison but manages to escape and becomes wealthy.
Behind The Characters
This is how his father’s life went, according to ‘The Black Count’ by Tom Reiss. Thomas-Alexandre Dumas (yes, father and son share the same name) was born in 1762 in Haiti, to a French count and Black woman who was a slave. People of biracial descent weren’t often protected; at the age of 14, Dumas (Sr.) went to France to enlist in the French Empire’s army. He was well-liked with a great personality and work ethic. He moved through the ranks quickly as the French revolution got started.
Alexandre Dumas (Sr.) carried himself differently from how the revolutionary Army was known to be. In fact, he was once under fire for being “too nice” when he captured enemies. Even without unnecessary brute and forbidding his men to plunder villages, he still won most of his battles and was excellent in battle. He was even called, by the Austrians, the “Black Devil.”
Dumas worked his way up to fighting next to Napoleon. The Word was, Napoleon started to see Dumas as a threat in his path to becoming emperor. Dumas was too charismatic and good looking. So, after the French invasion of Egypt in 1798, Napoleon let Alexandre be taken as a prisoner of war in Naples and sent him to rot in prison. The part about Napoleon being jealous is similar to Abbé Faria and Fernand Mondego’s situations in the book. In ‘The Count of Monte Cristo,’ Duma’s father’s character was imprisoned in the real-life French island prison, Château d’If, located in Marseille.
Dumas wasn’t released for two years, 1808, when his wife Marie-Louise petitioned for him to be freed in real life. Shortly after his release, the pair had their son, Alexandre Dumas (the author). Dumas’ health started failing him. He’d been partially blinded in one eye, temporarily deaf, and partially paralyzed in his body from his time in prison. He died of stomach cancer when his son was only 4 years old. His family was left in poverty because the French government didn’t pay out his war wages. And later, when the Nazis occupied France, they toppled the one status erected of him in Paris.
Some say there is ideation from Dumas’ tale drawn from Pierre Picaud’s real-life story and a book compilation by Jacques Peuchet. Picaud was a shoemaker who was imprisoned wrongfully on treason charges when a group of men wanted to steal his wife. He came into a large sum of money and sought revenge on the men who imprisoned him. Another real influence was the character Abbé Faria, who was a real-life monk who studied hypnotism. If you want to learn more, read The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo” available on amazon.