Saturday, January 15, 2011

One for all, all for one!

I know, you've all been dying to read my illustrious opinion of The Three Musketeers. I shall now elaborate: I present, for your reading enjoyment, my Saturday Evening Post! *groan*
     Moving along...Dumas has certainly earned his reputation as one of the greatest novelists of all time. (I can't complain about Lord Sudley's translation either, although it's not the most recent.) D'Artagnan was dashing; Athos, inscrutable; Porthos, hilarious; Aramis, kind of a pansy. I certainly did not expect to laugh so hard or so often while reading The Three Musketeers, but Dumas pokes fun at human weaknesses and tendencies in a most delicious manner.  He was also very good at mixing plot-driven action with dialogue passages.
     Regarding the differences between the children's abridged version and THE REAL DEAL,  the kids' version did a good job of portraying the characters and their personalities, and it didn't dumb down the plot in terms of addressing human issues like jealousy, revenge, manipulation, ambition and courtly love...but it left out the entire siege of La Rochelle!   Several subplots and minor adventures were also cut, surely to shorten the story, but I suppose the siege was dropped because the editors decided that the underlying religious conflict is beyond a child's understanding (and the siege wouldn't make sense without it).  Let's face it, the intricate theological arguments driving the Huguenot/French Catholic conflict cannot be summed up by "eenie meenie minie moe, papal authority's gotta go" or "one fish, two fish, sacramental eucharist". Dumas doesn't give much background or explanation before presenting the siege.  He rightly assumed that his audience was familiar with the religious and political situation of the time, but if you don't know popes from puritans, a five minute rendezvous with Lady Wikipedia will give you enough info to properly enjoy this novel.
     I highly recommend The Three Musketeers to anyone who likes plot-driven novels.  We see many conventional plot devices in the first half of the novel, but in the second half, the single character of Milady takes over and drives the plot in a very unconventional way. Although the characters are not one-dimensional, we do not see much of their internal struggles or dialogues, and at the end of the book the characters themselves seem mostly unchanged by their experiences. Perhaps Dumas believes that people remain fundamentally unchanged by their environments. Perhaps he just likes to spin a tale.

Favorite character: Athos
Femme fatale: Milady de Winter
Guy you want to slap: Monsieur Bonacieux
Bad guy who wasn't bad enough: Count Rochefort
Funniest scene: the breakfast bet. or Athos locked in the cellar. or D'Artagnan's would-be duel with Athos. or Porthos' dinner with the Coquenards. or Aramis' dialogue with the Jesuit and the priest...
There was a lot of: food, wine, women, swordplay, melodrama, Catholicism  (Dumas, he's so French)
There should have been more: positive strong female characters (to balance the negative strong female character)
This book makes you glad you don't have to: wear tights, faint when surprised (women), carry a purse (men), duel everyone who smirks at you, flog a servant, hide in a convent, flatter the royal family, be branded for a felony, retrieve jewels from the English
This book makes you want to: insult people thoroughly, send secret letters, order monogrammed handkerchiefs, spend your significant other's money (hey, they're good for it!), gamble until you've won your opponent's horse, avenge somebody


bren j. said...

Hilarious stats. I almost want to read it now. :)

andria said...

I LOVE The Three Musketeers! Seriously, I count it among my favorite books and recommend it to people frequently. The problem with recommending it, and with people knowing I have an English degree, is that everyone seems to just assume that it's "serious literature" and no one gets how hilarious it is. It's infuriating.

Athos forever!