First Impressions and Timing Issues

Dr. Doyle's Blog

It matters a lot, sometimes, what age you are when you first read a particular book.  Most of the time, though, the bit that matters isn’t whether or not you’re old enough for it.  Those of us who are members of the siblinghood of compulsive readers spend a lot of our early years reading books that are, according to the gatekeepers, “too old” for us, and most of us benefit from the mental stretching exercises involved.

I do think, though, that it’s possible to come to some books too late.  Once you’ve acquired the taste for deconstruction, for examining the underpinnings of a work – teasing out its buried contradictions and unexamined assumptions, and speculating on the untold stories and the differing viewpoints of secondary and minor characters – it’s hard to look at a book with the open and receptive eye of a new reader.  Texts instead become things…

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One Response to First Impressions and Timing Issues

  1. jamesdmacdonald says:

    To be entirely accurate, Mercedes’ fallback boyfriend Ferdinand was not the mastermind of the plot.

    The mastermind role goes to the envious supercargo, Danglars, who wrote (with his left hand!) a letter denouncing Edmund Dantes as a Bonapartist as Danglars sat with Ferdinand and the drunken tailor Caderousse, before crumpling up the letter and tossing it in a corner, saying “Good thing no one is going to take that letter, smooth it out, put it in an envelope addressed to M. le Procureur du Roi. #1 Frame-up Street, Marseilles, France 13006, and mail it, because if they did you’d get a super-hot girlfriend,” before leaving.

    Edmond’s dickishness doesn’t just extend to those who have done him wrong; he’s a dick to those who stood by him. Take the kindly and supportive ship owner, Morrel. When it looks like Morrel is ruined and is preparing to take his own life to preserve his honor, Edmond doesn’t pop up to say, “Hey, no worries. I got this one,” a month ahead. No, he waits ’til the last last lastiest last moment to save the old man’s honor and life. If cross-town traffic had been unexpectedly heavy that afternoon so the news of the fortune-saving arrived fifteen seconds too late (or the old man’s watch had been five minutes fast) what would Edmond have done then? Said “Oops”?

    Or take Maximilian. What would it have cost Edmond to say, “Hey, your girlfriend’s fine. I got her stashed in a Motel Six across town laying low because the heat is on. Hang loose for a month while I expose her would-be murderer so she’ll be safe and you two crazy kids can get married for realsies. Now go see a movie or something.”

    As for Mercedes — she should have gotten a job in a cigar factory. There, the corporal of the guard, Don Jose, and a toreador named Escamillo would both fall in love with her. Ferdinand, Don Jose, and Escamillo would fight a three-way duel as an aria turned into a duet, a trio, then an quartet filled with many high-soprano trills. When the duel concludes with the deaths of all three of her suitors, after face-palming, Mercedes would move to New Orleans there to open a gumbo restaurant. Andy Jackson would fall in love with her gumbo and make her White House Gumbo Chef. When Edmond Dantes escaped from jail and arrived, covered with riches and filled with thoughts of revenge, seeking her, no one in Marseilles would know where she had gone.

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