Lessons from The Count of Monte Cristo
Updated: Aug 19, 2022
It took me two years to finally pick up The Count of Monte Cristo. Mind you, I watched the movie and was familiar with the plot.
So I didn't think I was missing much.
One of my closest friends read it and told me it was good. However, when I looked at the page count (1,242), I thought it would be a long read.
So I put it off.
Then, out of the blue, I decided to pick it up. Again, seeing the book's length, I predicted a slow read. I figured I would read 5-10 pages daily. Giving me a year or so to finish.
Once I read page one, I couldn't put it down. I addictively read the book whenever I could. Other books I was reading were put on hold.
The novel had some magical trance over me.
Alexander Dumas created a masterpiece. The story, the characters, the emotions, all of it and more was so beautifully put together. I couldn't believe such a novel could exist.
Mind you, I read profound novels.
Such as The Brothers Karamazov, Musashi, L'Etranger, Ancient Greek plays, etc. Excellent pieces of work. Yet, The Count of Monte Cristo was the only work I had ever craved for more until the last page. This is a novel I wished someone had recommended to me when I first started reading fiction.
And if you're thinking about getting into fiction, start with The Count of Monte Cristo.
And if you're hesitant, let me convince you.
In this article, I'll show you the exciting lessons I learned from the book. Hopefully, this will persuade you that it's worth picking up. And don't worry, no spoilers!
Lesson #1: Rebirth is always possible
One of the themes I noticed in this novel was a rebirth. The most obvious is the naive 18-year-old Edmond Dantès turning into the Count of Monte Cristo.
What's fascinating about the rebirth is that you can see Edmond as a regular hard-working Joe. He has no unique talents. Yet you see him become mature, sophisticated, fascinating, mysterious. And many other adjectives. Keep in mind that this rebirth was not random. Edmond chose to kill his naive self and become something more than he could have imagined.
This brings me to you.
The Count of Monte Cristo shows that we can all have our rebirths but only if we are willing to. We all have what it takes. And in the novel, there are other examples of characters going on to recreate themselves. Again, they have no unique talents. But they share the same thing with Edmond: they are willing to change themselves into something better and nobler.
If you adopt the same mentality, then your transformation will be inevitable. Mind you, it's not easy. It wasn't easy for Edmond, but he still pulled through.
So with you, you need to decide who you want to become. Write it down and meditate on it. And once you have a clear idea, you work relentlessly towards it.
There is no expiration date on your rebirths.
You can start today, regardless of your background. And another thing you can become irrespective of your history is becoming cultured.
Lesson #2: Becoming worldly
Reading how Edmond gained a worldly experience was something that caught my eye. After prison, Edmond spent time in different parts of the world, taking in the culture. On top of that, he studies various things, from shooting, chemistry, religion, etc. Plus, he takes part in watching plays and rubbing shoulders with bandits.
The aristocrats in the novel, although they had a life of privilege from the get-go, are not as sophisticated as Edmond. Yes, they have done some travelling and go to plays. Things expected from their class. But none of them have the same zest as Edmond.
Whenever you read about the Count of Monte Cristo in the novel, you can tell he is above the petty aristocrat. He is exceedingly knowledgeable about topics below and above his social standing. As a result, he is a man that carries a gravitas that even the aristocrats are carried away by him.
How does this apply to you?
Start and learn a variety of things in life instead of following the expected hobbies of your time. And when I say usual pursuits, I mean Netflix, sports, and video games.
Break out of the stereotypical mould, and choose to be more worldly. Maybe that involves travelling, trying new hobbies, learning something new, etc. Whatever it is, go find it out and get deep on it.
You don't need permission or a degree to learn new things. For instance, I do not have an arts degree. Still, I know too much about existential philosophy, psychology, and military history. So when I have conversations with people, I shock them with the things I have studied on my own time.
Again, that is a small example.
You can do so much more to gain countless experiences of life, which will all add to your growth as a person. Most people will be on their phones, binge-watching stuff and news. You will be a worldly person that will intrigue all you meet.
And while it's nice to look cool in front of others, you must remember that it's okay to get angry at people who cross the line.
Lesson #3: Righteous indignation
One of the biggest lessons I got from this book was righteous indignation. What this means is that it is appropriate getting angry at someone.
In the West, anger is something that we are told to repress for in-person interactions. However, most people suppress their anger indefinitely, rarely allowing it to seep.
But this is wrong.
Aristotle, the daddy of all western philosophy, mentions that the mature person is the one who can display righteous indignation. And to give Aristotle back up, The Art of War says severity is one of the five traits of a great leader. Severity, as in, people will be punished for breaking the rules.
For Edmond Dantes, he gets betrayed by his friends and other acquaintances. And he goes about getting his just revenge. Instead of turning the other cheek, he teaches people a lesson to not unjustly treats others.
And the funny thing, Edmond is not cruel in his quest for revenge. He just dishes out appropriate punishments for the culprits.
So the next time someone disrespects you, whether it be a friend, lover, or family. You have to show a little bit of that killer in you and let them know they crossed a line.
Yes, it will seem uncomfortable.
But people will come out respecting you or your standards more. And if they choose not to appreciate either of them, you can justly cut them out of your life.
We can't live our lives in kumbaya.
We have to accept that conflicts will occur. We have to admit that we can be angry at others. We can assume that there will be consequences when lines are crossed.
I'm not saying to go on a crusade like Edmond, but it's okay to be angry and enact boundaries with others.
However, all this and the other two lessons will not resonate with some of you. Heck, some of you will say that none of this applies to me
But it does.
The most probable reason you feel this is that you are not taking yourself seriously.
Harsh, I know.
But if you treated yourself with a little more respect, you would accept the challenges of fulfilling your potential.
You would continually improve yourself.
You would explore all that life has to offer.
You would hold people to your standards.
However, when someone has a defeatist attitude, they give up their personal power. And rely on luck and the randomness of their lives. Instead of thinking they can become something magnificent, they feel they have to be born with privilege, money, confidence, etc.
Yet, the defeatist attitude is all about not taking yourself seriously enough. For instance, I gained much more muscle mass when I started taking working out seriously. More so than all my previous attempts at working out (which included hiring a personal trainer.)
When I took my fitness journey seriously, then that's when things started to change for my body. The same thing with therapy; once I accepted myself seriously, I was able to resolve all my deep-seated issues.
Remember, you will get more out of life when you take yourself more seriously. It's not complicated.
So do not adopt the defeatist attitude.
Be willing to embrace a rebirth.
Be willing to embrace new worldly experiences,
Be ready to embrace conflict.
By now, you will feel a little inspired by all these lessons inspired by the Count of Monte Cristo. However, there is one thing we need to be wary of if we choose to enact these lessons.
Giving up in the process
Change is hard. It was hard for Edmond Dantes and will be hard for us. And during this process of change, a lot of people give up.
Heck, Edmond almost gave up at times. But you have to remember that this is normal.
We all want to quit when things become challenging. But these are just feelings or random thoughts. When you recognize that, you can keep going. You don't have to believe every emotion or thought that goes through you.
Life will always be challenging, regardless of whether you're quitting. So we might as well become something great rather than leave.
In The Count of Monte Cristo, you will read Edmond's intense negative emotions, yet he pulled through it. If he can do it, why not us.
I know this novel is fiction, but the human spirit is true with fiction. And when reading fiction, we must embrace that human spirit that shows us what human beings are capable of.
Alright, let us wrap this up with a summary.
Lesson 1: Rebirth is always possible, regardless of your past or background.
Lesson 2: Becoming worldly. Go try things, travel, and study your interestest. Do not follow the predictable moulds in modern society.
Lesson 3: Righteous indignation. You can be appropriately angry when people cross the line. This will show self-respect and command respect from others.
Some people will think these lessons will not apply to them. Only people who do not take themselves seriously will believe this. Take yourself seriously and be active in your self-creation.
A common mistake in following these lessons is giving up in the process. Life is hard for all, whether you quit or not. So might as well trudge on and become something great in the process.
Who would have thought a novel could teach so much.
As a recovering self-help addict, I found more helpful information in fiction than non-fiction.
And The Count of Monte Cristo showed me how to become a fully formed adult without explaining or saying it. Something about examples that say so much more than what can be put down on paper.
As you go in life, I hope you find examples to help you become something magnificent. And if you don't have any examples, start with Edmond Dantes. He will show you more than you can imagine.
Until next time,
The Charismatic Nerd