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Alexandre Dumas

Alexandre Dumas

Alexandre Dumas (1802-1870) was a highly influential French author from the 19th century known for his adventurous and exciting novels including The Three Musketeers (1844) and The Count of Monte Cristo (1844). Dumas's novels focused on many themes such as love, loyalty, and Providence. His novels are still loved today.

Providence refers to a God that is protective and caring by nature. Therefore when characters interact with or ignore providence, they are either going in accordance with God's protective nature or going against it. By going against it, characters will oftentimes have to face the consequences of their actions.

Biography of Alexandre Dumas

Alexandre Dumas, Picardy France, StudySmarterAlexandre Dumas was born in Picardy, France in 1802. Pixabay.

Dumas Davy de la Pailleterie, or Alexandre Dumas, was born in Picardy, France in 1802. His father, Thomas-Alexandre Dumas, was a revolutionary from the French colony of Saint Domingue (modern-day Haiti). Thomas-Alexandre was the son of a French nobleman and an enslaved woman, and only once Thomas-Alexandre was in France was he considered a free man.

Dumas' father died when Dumas was only six years old, so Dumas and his siblings were mostly raised by their mother, Marie Louise, an innkeeper's daughter. Dumas was raised in impoverished conditions, and he was unable to receive a formal education. However, his mother greatly encouraged his love of reading. His mother also told him many stories of his father's heroic deeds and adventures during his time as a general from 1786 to 1801.

Thomas- Alexandre Dumas was the first man of African descent to become a general-in-chief in the French Army. He fought in over 5 wars, including the French Revolution (1792-1799).

When Dumas was 20 years old he moved to Paris to work in the office of Louis-Philippe of France, Duc d'Orleans, at the Palais Royal. It was here that Dumas began his career as a writer.

The Career of Alexandre Dumas

Dumas began his writing career by writing articles for various magazines. He was also a dramatist and his first play, Henry III and his Courts was performed in 1829. He received high praise for his play, and his next play Christine (1830) was equally as popular.

Dumas lived in unsettled times in France. In 1830, a revolution broke out to oust King Charles X and place Louis-Philippe in power as the "Citizen King". Dumas participated in the revolution. During this time many riots broke out by the Republicans who disagreed with Louis-Philippe.

Around 1835, France was settling into a new normal, and along with industrialization and the end of censorship in the press, Dumas could continue his career as a writer—but this time he began to focus on novels.

Alexandre Dumas, picture of Paris, StudySmarterDumas' writing career began in Paris. Pixabay.

His first serial novel, Le Capitaine Paul, was published in serial form in 1838 and was a reworked version of his play by the same name. Dumas collaborated with many of his friends for his next few projects. Between 1839 and 1841, Dumas wrote Celebrated Crimes, which included essays on many people, including Lucrezia Borgia, over eight volumes. He also wrote The Fencing Master (1840) in collaboration with his fencing teacher Augustin Grisier.

Grisier appears in many of Dumas's novels including the famous Count of Monte Cristo (1844). The Fencing Master was banned in Russia by Tsar Nicolas I for describing the Decembrist Revolt through Grisier's account, which was the protest of 3,000 soldiers against the Tsar.

In 1843, Dumas wrote Georges, which is about Georges, the son of a wealthy biracial plantation owner. The story speaks on topics of racial discrimination, which Dumas frequently experienced throughout his life as a biracial writer.

Dumas also wrote with the ghostwriter Auguste Maquet who outlined the plots of Dumas's novels including The Count of Monte Cristo (1844) and The Three Musketeers (1844). However, it was Dumas who wrote the more detailed parts of the book as well as the dialogue. His writing made him successful, but Dumas was known for spending his money lavishly.

In 1851, Dumas fled from Paris after Charles Louis Napoleon Bonaparte was made president of France, ousting King Louis-Philippe. Dumas settled in Brussels for a bit before traveling to Russia, where French was spoken among the aristocracy. After two years in Russia, Dumas went to Italy.

The Kingdom of Italy was established in 1861 with King Emmanuel II in power. Fighting ensued for a united Italy and Alexandre Dumas found himself in the middle of the action, founding a newspaper called L'Indipendente.

Dumas returned to Paris in 1864 full of stories and adventures to tell.

Death and Legacy of Alexandre Dumas

On December 5, 1870, Alexandre Dumas died of natural causes. After Dumas' death, his popularity subsided as literary preferences changed and the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 broke out.

It would not be until the late 20th century that his work would be revived and appreciated once more. Scholars Réginald Hamel and Claude Schopp have worked to restore many of his lost works, including The Gold Thieves (2002) and The Knight of Sainte-Hermine (2005).

Dumas was incredibly influential in the genre of historical fiction and adventure books. Even the American author, Mark Twain, was greatly inspired by Dumas.

Dumas reportedly had over 40 mistresses and fathered four children. One of his children, Alexandre Dumas fils, would go on to become a great French playwright and author.

Alexandre Dumas fils is famous for his novel La Dame aux Camelias (1848) which he converted into a play of the same name in 1852.

Literary Works by Alexandre Dumas

Alexandre Dumas, Map and compass, StudySmarterDumas is known for his adventure novels. Pixabay.

Alexandre Dumas is the author of many novels, dramas, and non-fiction works that are full of history and adventure. He was able to tap into the imagination of the reader and fill their minds with vivid tales.

The Three Musketeers (1844)

The Three Musketeers begins with D'Artagnan arriving in Paris to become a King's musketeer. After speaking with Captain Treville, he doesn't get a spot among the elite circle of musketeers. However, he does befriend the three musketeers: Athos, Porthos, and Aramis. The novel follows the adventures of these four heroes throughout the late 17th and early 18th centuries. The Three Musketeers is considered a historical romance and adventure novel and speaks on certain injustices that could be found during the reigns of Kings Louis XIII and Louis XIV.

All for one, one for all— that is our motto, is it not?" (Chapter 9)

This is one of the most famous quotes from The Three Musketeers that speaks on loyalty. Together they must all stand united to achieve their goals, because divided they will never make it.

The Count of Monte Cristo (1844)

Edmond Dantes is about to have it all. He is about to be made captain of a ship, marry his beloved Mercédès, and help his elderly father out of poverty. However, on his wedding day, Dantes is falsely imprisoned by three jealous men, Villefort, Fernand, and Danglars who accuse him of aiding the return of Napoleon. While in prison, Edmond meets Abbe Faria who tells him of a great fortune hidden on the island of Monte Cristo. Dantes escapes and finds the treasure. He names himself the mysterious Count of Monte Cristo. The adventure novel follows the Count of Monte Cristo as he slowly and deliberately takes his revenge.

“I . . . have been taken by Satan into the highest mountain in the earth, and when there he . . . said he to me, ‘Child of earth, what wouldst thou have to make thee adore me?’ . . . I replied, ‘Listen . . . I wish to be Providence myself, for I feel that the most beautiful, noblest, most sublime thing in the world, is to recompense and punish." (Chapter 49)

In this quote, the reader is provided a glimpse into Monte Cristo's mindset. Monte Cristo aligns his mission of revenge with both an act of God and an act of the Devil. He acknowledges that while his motivations are justified, his actions may cause harm.

The Black Tulip (1850)

Alexandre Dumas, Black Tulip, StudySmarterThe Black Tulip is a historical fiction novel by Alexandre Dumas. Pixabay.

The Black Tulip is set during the Tulip Mania of the Netherlands in 1672 when Johan and Cornelis de Witt fought against William of Orange. In the city of Haarlem, a prize of 100,000 francs has been set to whoever can grow a black tulip. Cornelius Van Baerle immediately takes on the challenge but his neighbor Isaac Boxtel grows jealous and plots how he will stop Van Baerle from winning the competition. The novel is considered a historical novel and a piece of Romantic poetry. It contains themes such as providence and faith.

A man is always endowed by Heaven with too much for his own happiness, and just enough to make him miserable." (Chapter 5)

This quote speaks on the humbling of man before God. It holds the message that if one becomes too greedy with the good blessings they may receive, then they will realize how miserable and unsatisfied they are. This leads to a never-ending cycle of greed and dissatisfaction.

Alexandre Dumas Writing Analysis

The literary works of Alexandre Dumas belong to the Romantic genre and the Historical Fiction genre of literature.

Romanticism was a literary movement of the 19th century that focused on the individual, the sublime, and the emotional and subjective responses to nature.

Historical Fiction is a genre in which the plot of the story is set in a historical time period and mimics the speech, social norms and customs, and traditions of that time period.

Dumas' writing style is distinguished by his emphasis on an exciting and fast-moving plot. Dumas was able to achieve this by fitting a lot of plot into short passages so that the story moved along quickly, mirroring the fast-paced action of an adventure. It is also a way of increasing the plot's intensity.

Dumas also placed heavy emphasis on dialogue between characters, which not only helped the plot move along quickly but was an exciting way to reveal information to the reader, without blatantly stating the information. It also helps the reader understand the relationships between characters.

Many of Dumas' novels followed the themes of alienation, loyalty, ambition, love, Providence, and social class.

Quotes by Alexandre Dumas

Alexandre Dumas was known for his impactful words and messages in his adventurous tales.

Live, then, and be happy, beloved children of my heart, and never forget, that until the day God will deign to reveal the future to man, all human wisdom is contained in these two words, 'Wait and Hope'" (The Count of Monte Cristo, Chapter 117).

In this powerful excerpt from The Count of Monte Cristo, Dumas reminds the reader that we cannot control everything that may happen in our lives, so it is better to be hopeful for a good life and to wait patiently for the good things to come.

Love is the most selfish of all the passions" (The Three Musketeers, Chapter 11).

What do you believe Dumas meant by this line from The Three Musketeers?

Sometimes one has suffered enough to have the right to never say: I am too happy" (The Black Tulip, Chapter 33)

In this quote from The Black Tulip, Dumas is reminding the reader that although almost everyone has suffered in some way, some are unlucky enough to have only known suffering and not happiness. It speaks to the theme of Providence and God.

Alexandre Dumas - Key takeaways

  • Alexandre Dumas was born in Picardy, France in 1902 to a famous revolutionary father and an innkeeper's daughter.
  • Dumas' father died when he was young, and his mother did everything she could to encourage Dumas to read. He moved to Paris in 1822 to work for the Duc D'Orleans. This is when his writing career began.
  • Dumas is known for his adventure novels and historical fiction. He is most famous for The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo.
  • Dumas belongs to the Romantic genre of literature as well as the Historical Fiction genre of literature.
  • Dumas's writing style is unique for its heavy emphasis on action-packed plotlines and long stretches of dialogue.

Frequently Asked Questions about Alexandre Dumas

Alexandre Dumas was half Black. His father was the son of a white French nobleman and an enslaved woman in Saint Domingue.

Alexandre Dumas was a 19th-century French author of many adventure novels and historical fiction novels such as The Three Musketeers

Alexandre Dumas died of natural causes in 1870. 

Alexandre Dumas wrote many books including The Count of Monte Cristo, The Three Musketeers, and The Black Tulip.

Alexandre Dumas was born in 1802.

Final Alexandre Dumas Quiz

Question

Where was Alexandre Dumas born?

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In Picardy, France

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Why did Dumas move to Paris at the age of 20?

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To work in the office of Louis-Phillipe of France, Duc d'Orleans, at the Palais Royal 

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What was Dumas' first play called?

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Answer

Henry III and his Court  (1829)

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What was the name of Dumas' first serialized novel?

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Answer

Le Capitaine Paul (1838)

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Why did Alexandre Dumas flee Paris?

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In 1851, Dumas fled from Paris after Charles Louis Napoleon Bonaparte was made president of France, ousting King Louis-Philippe. 

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When did Dumas die?

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In 1870

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What two novels were discovered long after Dumas' death and published in 2002 and 2005?

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The Gold Thieves (2002) and The Knight of Sainte-Hermine (2005) 

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What genre of literature did Dumas belong to?

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Romanticism and Historical fiction

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What was unique about Dumas' writing style?

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His heavy emphasis on action-packed plotlines and long stretches of dialogue. 

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What themes can be found in Dumas's works?

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Many of Dumas's novels followed the themes of alienation, loyalty, ambition, love, Providence, and social class. 

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What genre is The Black Tulip?

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Historical Fiction

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What are the names of The Three Musketeers?

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Athos, Porthos, and Aramis

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Who is the main character in The Count of Monte Cristo?

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Edmond Dantes/ Count of Monte Cristo

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Who wrote The Three Musketeers?

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Alexandre Dumas

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Who is the protagonist of The Three Musketeers?

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d'Artagnan

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Why does d'Artagnan come to Paris?

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He wishes to make a fortune as one of the King's Musketeers. 

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How does d'Artagnan meet the three musketeers?

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He accidentally bumps into each of them while chasing a theif. 

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What are the names of the three musketeers?

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Athos, Porthos, and Aramis

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What genre does The Three Musketeers belong to?

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Historical Fiction and Adventure Fiction

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What time period is the The Three Musketeers set in?

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Between 1625 and 1628 during the reign of King Louis XIII of France

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What point of view is The Three Musketeers? 

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Third-person omniscient

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What is a key characteristic of Dumas' writing style in The Three Musketeers? 

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Dumas was known for his heavily condensed and action-packed plot lines. 

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Why does Dumas condense so much of the plot into one paragraph?

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To give the story a fast-paced and exciting tempo

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What is an important symbol in The Three Musketeers?

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Jewelry

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What does jewelry symbolize in The Three Musketeers?

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A secret affair or deception

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Why does Dumas use so much imagery in the novel?

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Imagery allows the reader to see the action of an adventure novel more vividly, making it that much more exciting.  

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What are two of the main themes found in The Three Musketeers?

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Friendship and love

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When was The Three Musketeers published?

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1844

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