Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Book Twenty - The Count Of Monte Cristo - Part One

Napoleon fascinates many people. I am not one of them.

He was a brilliant tactician and all, but I’m not terribly interested in military tactics except in terms of how they relate to the people involved, and most everyone agrees Napoleon was a tyrant. Well, he’s got, like, a complex named after him and stuff. I know the guy went to Egypt and found the Rosetta Stone and did some other great things, but he tended to destroy anyone in his way. Of course, dictators do that or they aren’t dictators for very long. However, it seems I am unable to escape this man. I read all about him in War And Peace, naturally, and here he is again. So, Napoleon's rule in a nutshell –

Strong centralized government (see propaganda), spies, no freedom of expression or the press.

Freedom of religion, but the church was under state control. He granted this freedom as a way to manipulate both the people and the church. Quite shrewd, actually.

The Napoleonic Code with its vast influence contains the following examples: an individual’s career should be determined by his ability and not his birth; protection of private property; workers had no collective bargaining; women declared inferior by law. (Because, you know, the way they treated us didn’t get through our poor little heads and we needed to see it in writing.)

Public, secular education for men.

He developed infrastructure. He helped business leaders with tariffs and loans while helping the poor by keeping the cost of bread low. Popular with both industry and the populace? My, my, how many politicians throughout history have envied him?

He sold us “Louisiana” for a terrific price. Ostensibly, he sold it to thwart England - as you know, the enmity between the English and the French goes way back - but I think he also just needed the money.

Napoleon is known by his first name. You have to have an unusual name and be really famous for that to happen, like Cher.

I'm intrigued by the book so far, and I especially like Edmond. I fear this doesn’t bode well for him, as Dumas must have a reason for ingratiating Edmond to the reader so early in the novel.

Able was I ere I saw Elba.

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