Alexandre Dumas – The Man In The Iron Mask

I have finally completed the large three-part sequence dubbed Ten Years Later, written by Alexandre Dumas. It is the third installment in his Musketeer saga, in which the four heroes have become old men, something that is also reflected in their behavior in the story. Due to the large size of Ten Years Late, it being originally a serialization published weekly, it is usually cut into three parts: The Vicomte De Bragelonne, Louise De La Vallière and The Man In The Iron Mask (1847). Now that I have completed them all I can conclude that the separation into three is the best. Smaller parts could be possible, but especially the last two parts shouldn’t be read too long after each other as there are some minor events in Louise De La Vallière that echo on in The Man In The Iron Mask. I read The Vicomte De Bragelonne over a year ago and I never felt I was missing on much.

In The Man In The Iron Mask the four musketeers take full presence again after staying mostly on the background in Louise De La Vallière. There is a change in pace compared to the previous novel which main characters were young and with mind filled with silly dalliances. The four musketeers are no longer acting on impulse and always on the action. There is much reflection and deliberation. The characters hold on to their great past and this affects their behavior and reactions. They have regrets and ambitions they would like to fulfill before their end. This novel is much more serious and looks more into their psychology. Dumas also had the intention to make this the final story and he thus works towards a conclusion, spending much time with the characters individually.

Compared to the first two parts The Man In The Iron Mask has much less story. The main premise which has been adapted to the screen so often is relatively short and the surrounding events are stretched out to a great extend. There is a long foreplay and afterplay. Perhaps this is what makes it more easily adaptable compared to the other stories which have too many threads or lack a central theme. The story contains also rather little real action. There is one sequence which is more tragic than heroic.

The musketeers have become old men and it shows. On this part Dumas has shown over the series true character development. He held on to their core characteristics. The accompanying behavior is reflected in their station in life and their past experiences. This has changed gradually throughout the story and the conclusion shows this as well.

Now that I look back I can only say that the fame of the Musketeer saga is quite justified. Of course it is not perfect as Dumas wrote with great speed and not great accuracy. Many scenes seem extended to create the most drama and effect he can obtain. However this is not bothersome. It creates an atmosphere of its own. The many characters are quite distinct. One gets to love or hate them as Dumas intends. After 160 years the story still stands. They are not easily accessible due to the style which is so different from contemporary prose. One needs to hang on and get used to its rhythm and then you will not be able to let go.

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