Alexandre Dumas’ novel The Three Musketeers is a rare piece of literary treasure in our modern times. Even during its time, (1844) the novel was considered one of the best novels of its time. Not only was it an adventure novel, it was also a historical novel which gave the 19th century readers a glimpse of France more than 200 years past (1625–1628). If we are to read the novel closely, the author ingeniously injects into the plot the unfairness, abuses and ludicrousness of France’s old monarchical regime (commonly called the old regime).
The plot and setting of Three Musketeers was set in the 17th century for a couple of reasons. The first reason is to be faithful to the real-life characters that Dumas based his fictionalized versions from. Characters such as Charles de Batz de Castelmore d’Artagnan (basis for the character d’Artagnan), Armand de Sillègue d’Athos d’Autevielle (Athos), Henri d’Aramitz (Aramis) and Isaac de Porthau (Porthos) all lived in 17th century France. The second reason is Dumas was fascinated with history, especially the history of King Louis XIV, whose reign was also in the 17th century. The third is the political reason of the author. Because he was born in the transition period of France from monarchism to republicanism, Dumas was able to bear witness to the struggles between the two types of government or rule of the country. Dumas was particularly critical of the monarchy from the old regime as evident in his descriptions and depictions of injustice, abuse and absurdities in the plot of his novel, which point out to the old regime. Because of the abuses of power by the monarchy over the ordinary French citizens, the French Revolution began as the 18th century closed and marked the end of the monarchy. However, in the time of Alexandre Dumas, the political struggle and debates between the republicans and monarchists was still fierce. Thus, this event formed the political ideologies of the author of The Three Musketeers.
Some literary scholars claim that Alexandre Dumas is pro-republican because of his critical depiction of the old regime in his novels and other writings while others postulate that he is pro-monarchy because of his connection with Louis-Philippe, Duke of Orléans, who would later be the restored monarch King Louise Philippe I. Whatever his political and ideological leanings may be, Alexandre Dumas made his novel The Three Musketeers an important piece of fictional, historical and political literature.
What makes The Three Musketeers is a rare treasure? It is because of its mixture of importance and entertainment. We study this novel because it exemplifies a significant progress in historical and popular fiction. Dumas’s ingenuity was shown in his combination of the historical novel and the Romance into a single story. Thus, we could say that the Three Musketeers became one of the standards of a good historical fiction. Dumas avoided the boredom associated with history by making this novel a fast-paced adventure that is fun to read from beginning to end. Adding to the beauty of this novel are the colorful dialogues written in modern conversational prose, which the readers would find more appealing to read. Truly, Alexandre Dumas’ work on The Three Musketeers was well ahead of his time yet does not lose its appeal even in our modern times because of the fun and adventure it brings to the readers. This is one treasure of a book that should be found in our bookshelves.