TV’s “Revenge”: Links to The Count of Monte Cristo and a Theme of Self-Improvement

Revenge: a modern Count of Monte Cristo?
Revenge –  a great TV show with echoes of Dumas’s The Count of Monte Cristo. From guardian.co.uk

I’m completely addicted to the TV series Revenge shown here on Channel 4 and in the US on ABC. It’s the story of Emily Thorne – real name Amanda Clarke – who returns to the Hamptons intent on revenging those who wronged her and her father many years previously. At the top of that list is Victoria Grayson (Madeleine Stowe), matriarch of the Grayson family and the woman whom her father loved before she betrayed him.

All the revenge involved – seriously, it’s unending – makes the plot understandably linked to Alexandre Dumas’s The Count of Monte Cristo, first serialised 1844-5. In case you are not aware of the plot, here’s a quick summary from Goodreads:

Thrown in prison for a crime he has not committed, Edmond Dantès is confined to the grim fortress of If. There he learns of a great hoard of treasure hidden on the Isle of Monte Cristo and he becomes determined not only to escape, but also to unearth the treasure and use it to plot the destruction of the three men responsible for his incarceration. Dumas’ epic tale of suffering and retribution, inspired by a real-life case of wrongful imprisonment, was a huge popular success when it was first serialised in the 1840s.


Whilst the Abbé Faria becomes Edmond Dantès’s mentor after they meet at the Château D’If jail, Emily meets her mentor, Takeda, after leaving juvenile court. Emily is instructed in combat, like Edmond, and they both learn how to create an unsuspecting, confident facade. Emily learns Japanese, and Edmond is taught by the Abbé three or four popular languages. Essentially, each mentor becomes their student’s intellectual father and guide. Edmond is able to escape the Château d’If equipped with the education of a rich man – including the sciences, history,  mathematics, and languages. Similarly, Amanda attains the physical and mental dexterity required to ensure her safety. Both characters, therefore, are ready to revenge their enemies.

From the 2002 film adaptation of The Count of Monte Cristo

I don’t agree with revenge, but such learning and transformation fascinates me. Education changes the persona of both Edmond and Emily, and it gives them the confidence to face those who have hurt them in the past. Although Emily and Edmond are both involved in nasty circumstances, having a period of time dedicated merely to educating and strengthening yourself sounds quite enviable. I greatly hope I’ll never be taken captive or anything similar, but if I suddenly had dedicated time to learn and improve myself, I would…

  • Learn Japanese. I taught myself some written characters today, and the language seems fascinating.
  • Finish all of Tolstoy’s works.  
  • Learn self-defence. I’m a bit feeble at the moment.
  • Read the Stoics. Doing this has helped me immensely in the past. 

Rather than helping me revenge others, doing the above activities would help me deal with daily challenges more effectively, and feel stronger mentally. Emily and Edmond are excessively focused and almost without emotion, but I believe a gentle stoic attitude can be beneficial. Time to think, reflect, and learn can be incredibly advantageous if you’re trying to overcome pain or mental health troubles, I believe. Replicate Emily and Edmond’s development in a positive way, and not the revenge that follows!

“Life is a storm, my young friend. You will bask in the sunlight one moment, be shattered on the rocks the next. What makes you a man is what you do when that storm comes. You must look into that storm and shout as you did in Rome. Do your worst, for I will do mine! Then the fates will know you as we know you”

Lucy
It's good to meet you! I started Tolstoy Therapy back in 2012 to share my healing journey through anxiety and PTSD with books. I also climb mountains, go on solo adventures, and write over at livewildly.co.