I consider characters to be the spirit of entertainment. To m, a good character is what keeps me interested and makes the rest of the story worthwhile. I am here to give my opinion on a particular character that has evoked a more than normal spark of interest from me: Edmond Dantés from The Count of Monte Cristo. Edmond, like so many of us, is a character shaped by the events that fill his life. For him, they are traumatic and drastic enough to elicit a real sense of change; a completely new person rises from the ashes of his former self. Edmond begins innocent and naïve, like the child that he isn’t. It’s rare to find a person so genuine in nature, someone you can trust and who is completely honest.
Edmond is good. For Edmond, this is perfect because he upholds such a pure example of the word. In this world, you cannot boil things down to good and the bad. There are all the areas in between, all the shades of gray that make up the human race. To have a character that so personifies one or the other extreme is typically a sign of dull writing. Real people are not merely good or bad, and we want to see real characters. Not cardboard cut-outs of Mr. Nice battling Dr. Bad-Guy, I think “boring” would be too kind in that instance. So why Edmond? How can a character that is so obviously one-sided possibly be interesting?
I’ll return to those pesky events and their ability to take good people and beat all the nice out of them. Edmond is betrayed and wrongfully imprisoned. He loses everything. And while that would be enough for a weaker character, he is betrayed by his best friend and imprisoned after he was told he could go free. It is from these events that his character is twisted and warped until he becomes the Count of Monte Cristo. It’s a 360 turnaround that finds Edmond on a quest for vengeance against those who wronged him. Revenge is an ugly thing that consumes its victims. The good Edmond is destroyed and replaced by the more devious and cunning Count. And it is the Count who makes Edmond such an interesting character. It’s watching this change from pure to tainted that brings you back to this story.
Edmond Dantés takes his revenge with cunning and skill he hadn’t possessed before. He couldn’t even read when we first enter the story. Edmond was simply the poor son of a clerk just trying to get what he could and live his life. Yes, it was like that way back then, too. The working man underappreciated by the more educated and rich. Some things will never die. When everything he had was taken; the Count was born. The Count was a force of calculating bitterness that savored the defeat and destruction of his former friends. He had every move planned out, like a brilliant game of chess, and it was satisfying to see his enemies fall. And they did fall, one after another the rats scurried into their traps as they were carefully manipulated by Edmond. This brings be back to my original point, that this person used to be genuinely good. He was kind and forgiving, but the horrible events that fell upon him warped that kindness into hatred and rage. And when you’re left in a cell for thirteen years, that hatred has plenty of time to eat away at you.
It is both depressing and fascinating to watch a character that you love change into someone else. As I’ve said before, it’s the transformation that makes the story. The more dramatic the better, as I have come to appreciate, though it is not always the case. Edmond Dantés, though I cringe every time those events play out just perfectly against him, was meant to suffer as he did. He was meant to rise again, wiser and more powerful than before. A superhero who survives the gamma radiation and tries to avenge his fallen parents (I’m no comic book fan, but that’s how I assume it goes). This story was made for the character, not the other way around. And those are the stories where you find the interesting characters. As for Edmond, his is a story that lives on, one that’s remembered. A perfect example of a truly fascinating character, at least, that’s my opinion.