Comparisons between Les Mis and Monte Cristo

Discussion on any 19th century written works by authors other than Hugo.
humanracer
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Comparisons between Les Mis and Monte Cristo

Postby humanracer » Sat Sep 06, 2014 6:39 pm

I have just finished reading The Count of Monte Cristo and noticed that there are a lot of similarities between that novel and Les Misérables. Of course Hugo's novel is much better written and says a lot more about French society but I cannot help but think Hugo borrowed some plot elements from Dumas.

If you haven't read The Count of Monte Cristo I would urge you read no further as part of the enjoyment of the novel comes from the plot twists and cliffhangers that end almost every chapter. Even knowing minor spoilers will ruin your enjoyment of the book.

Anyway here is a list of similarities between The Count of Monte Cristo and Les Misérables:

Both have a main protagonist (Jean Valjean/Edmond Dantes) who is unjustly sent to prison, and after spending a significant amount of time serving their sentence (Valjean 19 years/Dantes 14 years), regains their liberty.

Both protagonists later acquire a huge fortune and use it to help others in need.

Both protagonists are haunted by their past.

Both protagonists have to pretend to be a corpse in order to get out of a difficult situation.

Both protagonists end up accidently falling into the sea (well Dantes is thrown in) but rather than drown they see it as a opportunity to escape from the authorities.

Both protagonists learn valuable life lessons from a fatherly figure with high morals (Myriel/Faria).

Both protagonists end up taking on multiple identities and disguises.

Both stories cover the period in French history from the Hundred Days to the July Monarchy of the 1830s.

Both stories generally present republicans in a good light and royalists in a bad light.

Both stories feature a romance between two people who have had no physical contact with each other (Marius/Cosette and Maximilliant/Valentine) and who make overly romantic gestures towards each other. This romance is often criticised by readers of each novel as being too cliché, with the female (Cosette/Valentine) being seen as too submissive.

Both stories feature an innkeeper engaged in illegal activities (Thenardier/Caderousse) who is also an atheist.

Both stories feature an antagonist who serves the law (Javert/Villefort).

Both stories have a strong female character who suffers after losing her partner (Fantine/Mercedes).

Both stories feature a character who can be interpreted as being gay or asexual (Enjolras/Eugenie)

Both stories feature a simple but kind hearted gardener.

Both stories feature a character who is ashamed of his father's connection to Napoleon (Marius/Villefort).

Both stories feature the tragic death of a young boy.

Both stories feature the suicide of an antagonist.

Both stories use Paris as the location for the denouement.

Both stories feature a wedding or a potential wedding in the denouement.

Both stories have a happy, but bittersweet ending that is at odds with the tragic endings of the authors other works.

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Re: Comparisons between Les Mis and Monte Cristo

Postby CC21106 » Fri Oct 14, 2016 2:41 pm

Wow. That's a lot. Now I have to reread Monte Cristo. As I remember the ending was much more of a downer than LM.
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Re: Comparisons between Les Mis and Monte Cristo

Postby 23623 » Mon Oct 17, 2016 10:50 pm

Gosh this was exactly what I thought while reading Monte Cristo! During my reading I just couldn't help thinking how similar it is to LM. Before I read the novel I vaguely knew that MC is a story about vengeance but that was all. The first time the similarity occurred to me was Edmond's escape. I thought Valjean was the only top escape artist in France but apparently he learned all the skills from his master! :mrgreen: Then I started seriously looking into the similarities between MC and LM...and my next (pretty obvious) observations were that Caderousse is basically Thenardier and Faria is the Myriel to Edmond. Villefort and Javert share no similarity besides their profession though. I don't think Mercedes and Fantine are really similar either. It didn't occur to me before but now I see that Enjolras and Eugenie are kind of similar (not in terms of sexuality though, I see they're both rebels against conventions). And one last thing I guess probably no one's going to agree...Noirtier and Valentine strangely remind me of Valjean and Cosette. To be honest I find the love between the grandfather and the granddaughter far more touching than any other relationship in the novel (Maximilien and Valentine, Edmond and Mercedes/Haydee, etc). Noirtier is absolutely one of my favorite characters in MC. 8)
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Re: Comparisons between Les Mis and Monte Cristo

Postby CC21106 » Mon Oct 17, 2016 11:03 pm

I just downloaded a 99 cent version on Kindle. It is in the pipeline now. Still working on W&P as well as LM.
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Re: Comparisons between Les Mis and Monte Cristo

Postby humanracer » Sat Oct 22, 2016 3:04 pm

_23623_ wrote:Gosh this was exactly what I thought while reading Monte Cristo! During my reading I just couldn't help thinking how similar it is to LM. Before I read the novel I vaguely knew that MC is a story about vengeance but that was all. The first time the similarity occurred to me was Edmond's escape. I thought Valjean was the only top escape artist in France but apparently he learned all the skills from his master! :mrgreen: Then I started seriously looking into the similarities between MC and LM...and my next (pretty obvious) observations were that Caderousse is basically Thenardier and Faria is the Myriel to Edmond. Villefort and Javert share no similarity besides their profession though. I don't think Mercedes and Fantine are really similar either. It didn't occur to me before but now I see that Enjolras and Eugenie are kind of similar (not in terms of sexuality though, I see they're both rebels against conventions). And one last thing I guess probably no one's going to agree...Noirtier and Valentine strangely remind me of Valjean and Cosette. To be honest I find the love between the grandfather and the granddaughter far more touching than any other relationship in the novel (Maximilien and Valentine, Edmond and Mercedes/Haydee, etc). Noirtier is absolutely one of my favorite characters in MC. 8)


I like Noirtier too. It's a shame the character is underused, or not present at all, in most of the adaptations.

If you are looking for another great French romance novel to read, you could do worse than try the latest translation of The Mysteries of Paris by Eugene Sue. It has a lot of similarities to MC and LM and no doubt inspired them. In fact later in the novel Sue actually cites an example of a man who is jailed for breaking the window of a baker and stealing a loaf of bread. The story beings when a young prostitute is threatened by a former convict. A mysterious man named Rodolphe intervenes and saves her. The convict, having accepted that he has been defeated, apologies and befriends the man. The three go to a bar where they eat and get to know each other. The prostitute is named Fleur de Marie but she goes by the nickname Songbird. She has experienced horrific abuse after being abandoned as a child. She even had her tooth pulled out (sound similar?). The convict is nicknamed the "slasher" and you can probably imagine had done things far worse than steal a loaf of bread. Rodolphe sees himself as an "avenging angel" and seeks to reward the good and punish the wicked. The three of them embark on some adventures and this is just the first part of the novel. Later we are introduced to the poor but noble Morel family, a pious lawyer named Jaques Ferrard who is actually corrupt and a rapist, a wicked stepmother who is a serial posioner, a sinister priest, a femme fatale, a Scottish Countess in the disguise of a man, and criminals with beastly features go by such names as The Skeleton (more than just a nickname) and The Owl. These are only just some of the characters that fill this massive novel. We also have discussions of loans for unemployed workers, conditions in female prisons and male prisons, the use of poor people in medicial experiments, the difficulty of getting a divorce and the pyschological affect that child abuse has on the victims. There is also a great love story between two characters called Rigolette and Germain which is much better than Marius/Cosette and Maximillian/Valentine. Add to all of this a thrilling plot with lots of cliffhangers. You should give it a go.

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Re: Comparisons between Les Mis and Monte Cristo

Postby CC21106 » Sat Oct 22, 2016 8:53 pm

humanracer wrote:If you are looking for another great French romance novel to read, you could do worse than try the latest translation of The Mysteries of Paris by Eugene Sue. ...

This book is available free on Project Gutenberg. However, not the new translation since it has to be out of copyright to be on PG.
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Re: Comparisons between Les Mis and Monte Cristo

Postby 23623 » Mon Oct 24, 2016 8:40 pm

*High five* Glad to see another Noirtier fan! Seriously, the world needs more Noirtier love. He definitely deserves the Best Grandpa In Literature Award. (Sorry Valjean but unless I'm mistaken, you're Cosette's father. :mrgreen: ) In fact all the major Villeforts are really interesting characters and that's why I like their story arc best in MC. I haven't seen any Monte Cristo adaption but I've heard about the Wildhorn musical. I'm a Wildhorn fan but I have to admit the adaption is really, really terrible. I'd like to see some good movie adaptions though, if there's any.

To be honest I don't think I've read any love story that isn't cliched. But in cases of LM and MC there are more problems than just being cliched. The stories seem to be Marius- and Valentine-centered as Cosette and Maximilien haven't done anything notable besides loving Marius and Valentine. :roll: And thank you very much for your recommendation, humanracer! I may try this novel after I finish "The man who laughs".
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Re: Comparisons between Les Mis and Monte Cristo

Postby CC21106 » Wed Nov 02, 2016 6:05 pm

23623 wrote:*High five* Glad to see another Noirtier fan! Seriously, the world needs more Noirtier love. He definitely deserves the Best Grandpa In Literature Award.


Noirtier is the best character in the book. Edmond is too perfect, too capable, too rich. He doesn't ever doubt himself except after that one terrible incident at the last. Besides that, everything he does works out exactly like he wants. He's like a superhero. The villains have no redeeming qualities that might make for conflict.

If Jean had stayed vengeful and hateful, he wouldn't have lasted six weeks in the free world. And he's more interesting because even though he turns good very early on, he remains capable of selfish and even evil thoughts. "Jean Valjean tore up his shirt, bandaged the young man’s wounds as well as he was able and stopped the flowing blood; then bending over Marius, who still lay unconscious and almost without breathing, in that half light, he gazed at him with inexpressible hatred."

Got to say, the villains in LM also don't have any redeeming qualities.
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Re: Comparisons between Les Mis and Monte Cristo

Postby 23623 » Wed Nov 02, 2016 10:55 pm

CC21106 wrote:Noirtier is the best character in the book. Edmond is too perfect, too capable, too rich. He doesn't ever doubt himself except after that one terrible incident at the last. Besides that, everything he does works out exactly like he wants. He's like a superhero. The villains have no redeeming qualities that might make for conflict.

If Jean had stayed vengeful and hateful, he wouldn't have lasted six weeks in the free world. And he's more interesting because even though he turns good very early on, he remains capable of selfish and even evil thoughts. "Jean Valjean tore up his shirt, bandaged the young man’s wounds as well as he was able and stopped the flowing blood; then bending over Marius, who still lay unconscious and almost without breathing, in that half light, he gazed at him with inexpressible hatred."

Got to say, the villains in LM also don't have any redeeming qualities.

Exactly. Noirtier is definitely the best in MC! In fact the only characters I like in MC are him, Eugenie and Valentine. I only like Edmond before he starts his revenge. After that he quickly becomes one of my least favorite characters. :roll: I don't approve of the idea of revenge to begin with. Hate him even more when he becomes basically invincible.

Totally agree with you about Valjean. Besides Marius I also secretly suspect that he might have some *cough* thoughts about Fantine and Cosette. :twisted: Don't think the villains have no redeeming quality though. I always consider Mme Thenardier's love for her daughters as a redeeming quality. The Thenardier family is dominated by M. Thenardier. The other family members are more or less manipulated by him. In this sense she also seems like the lesser evil of the two.
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Re: Comparisons between Les Mis and Monte Cristo

Postby CC21106 » Thu Nov 03, 2016 1:54 pm

23623 wrote:...I don't approve of the idea of revenge to begin with.

Me either.
23623 wrote:I always consider Mme Thenardier's love for her daughters as a redeeming quality. The Thenardier family is dominated by M. Thenardier. The other family members are more or less manipulated by him. In this sense she also seems like the lesser evil of the two.

Yes, I overlooked that about Mme Thenardier, though her love for her daughters seems to have lessened by the time of the later action. She doesn't do anything to improve their lot or even keep them under control--how old is Éponine? 16? I guess that also makes the point of the book that the very poor can't do anything to improve their situation. Marius's education opens doors for him even when he's dog-broke.

Éponine is the only other complex character that I see in the book. She loves Marius (and more than "a little bit" no matter what she said), but still wants him to die at the barricade so Cosette can't have him and she, Éponine, will be united with him in death. That's no way to act! Others have pointed out that she has a carnal relationship with Montparnasse, which I haven't picked up on in the book at all--maybe I am naive. If that is the case that's why she has to die: fallen women in 19th century literature with very few exceptions have to redeem themselves by dying. I can't think of examples at the moment but there are plenty. It gets irritating. There was one in Dickens who didn't, Emily in David Copperfield, but she moved to Australia.
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I have actually made bullets like they're doing in my avatar. Then loaded the gun with a ramrod, and shot it. But I'm not feeling real good about guns right now.


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