REVIEW: The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
When d’Artagnan goes to Paris to become a Musketeer, he embarks on a swashbuckling adventure with the legendary Porthos, Athos, and Aramis. If they wish to trump the nefarious Cardinal Richelieu, it’s got to be “all for one, one for all.”
Some time ago Robin posted an article about books that influenced you, that changed you. I remember thinking that I was having trouble coming up with the books that I felt made me a better person. It was easy for me to come up with the many excellent books that I loved, the stories and characters I remembered, but I was not sure that I ever read a book which taught me a direct life lesson.
But then I thought some more and I realized that The Three Musketeers definitely was one of those books. I saw a Soviet movie based on the story when I was very young – probably as young as five — and read the book a couple of years later. The friendship that the Musketeers and D’Artagnan shared made a deep impression on me, and I decided that this is how I should be treating my friends in real life – to go the extra mile for a friend, etc.
I have lost count of how many times I reread this book over the years, along with its sequel, Twenty Years After, and I brought them with me when we came to live to the US. Because New York apparently did not have bookstores. That’s my story and I am sticking to it!
I am not even sure I need to summarize the plot, because so many people have seen the movies even if they haven’t read the books (although don’t get me started on most of the movies).
In the foreword the author tells us that the book is based on “The Memoirs of Sir D’Artagnan” – I wonder whether Dumas really did want to add some non–fictional authenticity to the book, or if he was he just having fun with the fictitious memoirs, but does it really matter?
A young Gascony noble named D’Artagnan comes to Paris because he wants to cover himself in glory as a Musketeer. His father gives him a recommendation letter to De Treville, a childhood friend, who became the Captain of Musketeers for King Louis XIII.
Almost right away our D’Artagnan gets involved in an adventure. He could have lost his life, but instead all that he lost was the letter to De Treville, an escapade in which a dark-haired man and a beautiful woman take their parts. As you can imagine, when our young man finally meets De Treville, it is not easy for D’Artagnan to make De Treville believe him and allow him to join the Musketeers. De Treville offers to put in a word for D’Artagnan for admission into some kind of academy for young nobles, but this is not how D’Artagnan planned to start covering himself in glory.
During the meeting with De Treville D’Artagnan sees the man who stole his recommendation letter from him and runs after him. In the meantime D’Artagnan has also managed to annoy Athos, Porthos and Aramis for different reasons, and all three of them call him out to fight duels (at the same place but at different times). D’Artagnan of course accepts their challenges, but he does not think he will survive the duels – he thinks one of the Musketeers will eventually kill him.
A spoiler for those who have not seen any of the movies or read the book: D’Artagnan survives, because instead of his dueling with each of Three Musketeers, all four of them get into a fight with soldiers who serve Cardinal Richelieu. From that moment on, these four guys become inseparable.
The adventure that D’Artagnan had become involved in – initially not very much by choice — becomes an adventure for all of them. Intrigues, deadly fights, love (although unhappy love, mostly) – this book has it all. And it has friendship, because they really do mean it when they say “one for all and all for one”. If friend asks you to go to a foreign country on a deadly errand which you may not come back from alive, you go, just because friend asks for your help. But then when the errand is successful because your friends had your back to the point that they were ready to die for you, then you go back and find your friends and rescue them from whatever situation they got themselves into because they were helping you.
This was just one example of what the Musketeers were ready to do for each other – and I do not think it is a spoiler to reveal that eventually D’Artagnan becomes a Musketeer too.
The book is a wonderful romp – the main characters were wonderful companions in my childhood and they have stayed with me through my adult life, but I want to note that they are not really romantic heroes. In some ways they are really flawed people. For example, all three Musketeers have servants, and when D’Artagnan gets one his friends tell him that the way to deal with his servant (if he asks for a raise or wants to leave) is to beat him so he will never think about doing that again. I believe D’Artagnan does it once and that is enough to teach his servant not to do that, but beware if stuff like this may upset you. And Athos beats his servant once because the servant speaks when he should not – Athos requires his servant to not talk except in an emergency and mostly speaks with him in gestures.
Another thing: as much as I love Athos, I did not like how he had treated his former wife in the past. I cannot be more specific in case there are people who do not know the plot. Note, though, that I am perfectly okay with everything his former wife got in the present, I think she deserved that and so much more, but what happened in the past did bother me.
I said that I love the book because of the friendship the main characters share, but another reason why I love this book so much is because of what happens between D’Artagnan and Rochefort at the end. I love that each awards the other the utmost respect despite being on opposite sides.