What does it indicate about Dumas’s focus in storytelling that the tale of intrigue, the diamond brooch, occupies Part I of his novel, whereas the climactic Part II is not concerned with a political matter, but simply with the Musketeers' fight against Milady?
Dumas wrote novels set in history, not novels of history. He delighted in the opportunity to mingle his characters with historical characters and, occasionally, to provide some new explanation for a historical occurrence. But history was always a background to his story. So it makes sense that the more historical story, directly involving historical figures and an actual historical event, should be the introduction to the true meat of Dumas’s story, a personal tale of brutal chase, capture, and vengeance upon Milady by the Musketeers.
Examine all of the innkeepers presented by Dumas. Are there any common traits, if so, what? How might you explain Dumas’s presentation of these people?
To answer this question, remember that Dumas did borrow certain elements of characterization from the Romance. The innkeepers are a good example of this--they are broad, and are treated very unfairly. It is alright for the main characters to treat them severely, and they are all depicted as comic relief--slavish, greedy, and dim. Throughout the book, often for this purpose, comic relief, Dumas does occasionally rely on stock characterizations to carry a scene. One should be aware of this, and look for the differences between these characterizations and Dumas’s more careful build of his primary characters.
Goethe wrote "Romanticism is disease." What are the dangers and pitfalls of Romanticism and how much does Dumas fall into them?
Like any form, Romanticism has strengths and weaknesses. Its strengths, which Dumas plays well, are its ability to transport a reader away from everyday concerns, and the way it affords the author the opportunity to tell a truly huge story, in emotional and narrative terms. The major corresponding disadvantages are that the breadth of Romanticism often kills detail, the emotionality of Romanticism often kills rationality, and that the eventfulness of Romanticism often kills true drama. Dumas manages to avoid this latter problem almost completely; it was his unique genius to be able to write astonishingly paced stories that never lag, and that vary enough never to seem repetitive in their adventurousness. Still, the first two pitfalls--lack of detail and excessive reliance on emotionality--do cause the story to stumble. Even the main characters are not, specifically speaking, well developed. Dumas’s best characters are those that we clearly identify and understand, or that we very explicitly don't understand, and are waiting to.
Pick one event in the novel, and discuss how it shows the potential for chivalry to become inhumane. Do you think Dumas includes this as a criticism of chivalry? Or that this is an inherent flaw in chivalry, which one accepts part and parcel with the whole?
We are clearly meant to sympathize with the Musketeers' decision to execute Milady. However, given the tone of the novel's end, how ambiguously do you think we're supposed to feel about this action, especially on the part of our heroes?
Is Cardinal Richelieu, ultimately, a sympathetic or unsympathetic character?
Considering both the political climate of Dumas’s time and of his characters' time, how might his decision to make Milady British (or appear British for much of the story) have strengthened her character? This might take some research.
We've discussed how Dumas’s Romantic narrative tends to meander rather than develop in sections. Develop an argument that supports this type of plot, putting together its merits as compared to what we would think of as a standard plot structure.
Pick a passage from any Balzac, Dickens, Dostoevksy, Wharton, or Hemingway novel, and compare that with any passage in Dumas. What differences are immediately evident? What similarities? What assumptions about life and events inform each work's presentation of the world?
Dumas’s father was a Napoleonic General who was dismissed from the army, which then refused Dumas’s family any aid after his father's death. How might these early life experiences have affected Dumas’s writing?
What writers today would you say write books that fulfill the role in our society that Dumas’s work did in his?
In accordance to that fact that Athos is always melancholy, we actually do know the source. During the book, while Athos and d'Artagnan get drunk, we discover Athos had an ex-wife, which turns out to be Milady. Later, we find that Athos did not know that Milady was a criminal when he fell in love with her. When he learns of her past, he believes that he hangs her.
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