Allie of Literary Odyssey is always hosting the most exciting readalongs. This one is focused on Alexandre Dumas’ wonderful The Three Musketeers. The following post is the first of the two, and it covers chapters 1-29.
I have to say that I grew up on the Musketeers movies, and know the general story by heart. Nevertheless, I have never read the book, not to mention any other Dumas novels. When I was in junior high, one of my best friends became obsessed with French culture and literature. At that time she swallowed pretty much any Victor Hugo and Alexandre Dumas that was available in translation. Later on she started learning French and reading these authors in original all over again. She kept bugging me to give Dumas a try, but I would always put it off for later. Well, not this year. This time I decided to crack open my leather-bound Easton and cross one of the most famous Dumas works off my list.
Am I ever glad I did! I haven’t been this entertained by a book in a long while! I literary burst laughing out loud at every page. The novel is full of humor and action, and intrigue! Even though the story is not new to me, I found myself practically glued to it. The pages flew by, and I never felt like I had to try hard to keep my focus, like it happens with some other classics. Dumas is joking about some serious subjects, like the uncertainty of the 17th century, frivolous behavior of the nobility, and immoral actions of drunkenness and gambling. The author opens his book with a humorous outlook on the political atmosphere of France, which instantly hooked me:
In those times panics were common, and every city registered such events in its archives. There were nobles who made war against each other; there was the King, who made war against the Cardinal; there was Spain, which made war against the King. Then, in addition to these concealed or public, official or unofficial wars, there were robbers, mendicants, Huguenots, wolves, and the servants of nobles, who made war upon everybody. The citizens always took up arms readily against thieves, wolves, and servants – often against nobles and Huguenots – sometimes against the King – but never against the Cardinal or Spain.(p.1)
See what I’m talking about? When it came to characters, I fell in love with them right away. D’Artagnan is extremely hot-headed, rash and picks a duel with every stranger. However, he is also passionate about becoming a Musketeer, and loyal to his friends. It seems that for Dumas he is embodiment of youth, and through his young charm D’Artagnan’s rashness is soon forgiven. Even though the plot mainly focuses on the Gascon, we soon learn more about the three musketeers who quickly become his friends. Athos is the oldest one, and is considered the leader of the group. He is quiet and stoic, and many admire him, but he seems to carry a deep secret about his past. Porthos is a big fellow whose heart is just as big as his voice. He might not be an expert in strategizing, but he is always there to help his friends in need. Finally, Aramis is an abbe in a musketeer uniform. He wishes to return to church and serve God, but his friends constantly coerce him into staying with the King’s service.
I love how Dumas portrays his heros’ actions that sometimes border on immoral in an entertaining way. For example, after revealing his secret to D’Artagnan, Athos goes on a crazy gambling binge that costs both men their horses. The scene is so hilarious and vivid, I could see D’Artagnan’s facial expressions changing from shock to horror, to relief, to horror again. Athos stakes his friend’s prized possessions like it’s the most natural thing, and D’Artagnan is mortified, but unable to do anything about it. Porthos takes advantage of a tavern host, eating and drinking his entire provision, and staying in his room for almost two weeks without paying, but threatening to kill anyone who would dare to doubt his noble word to pay later. The four friends are constantly broke (even though they manage to receive large sums of money from the strangest sources), but drink and gamble on loan without the slightest idea about tomorrow. Yes, they do some questionable things, but they never do them without good intentions and kind heart.