The Isle d’If with Chateau d’If near Marseille, France, as seen from Notre Dame de la Garde, Marseille, France. PHOTO CREDIT: Jan Drewes. This photo is licensed under the the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license.
“They wound their along the passage and at last they came to a door; the commissary knocked on it thrice with an iron knocker, and it seemed to Dantès as if each blow had been aimed at his heart. The door was opened, the gendarmes gave their hesitating prisoner a push forward, Dantès crossed the formidable threshold, and the door closed behind him with a loud bang. He now breathed a different air, a thick and mephitic air. He was in a prison.”1
In Alexandre Dumas’s The Count of Monte Cristo, Edmund Dantès arrives home in Marseille from the Island of Elba with an incriminating letter from Napoleon Bonaparte, completely unaware of its contents. The only thought in his innocent mind is to be reunited with his father and his fiancé Mercédès. However, he is betrayed by someone he thought to be a friend and brought in for a confusing and misleading questioning. It is immediately obvious that Edmund is innocent; but because of the fear and ambition of three cunning men, he is soon thrown into a dark cell at the Château d’If to remain silent and forgotten forever. In this prison, Edmund lives for fourteen years, at first contemplating suicide, and then starting to enact a plan of revenge that will bring down the three guilty men who put him there.
The Château d’If was a prison (previously a fortress) on the island of If, made famous by The Count of Monte Cristo. The surrounding water and remote location made it almost impossible to escape, a fact apparent in the novel as Edmund’s escape is long-wrought and extremely intricate. The Château is no longer used as a prison and today is open to the public who wish to reach it by boat. It had been made a popular tourist destination by such works as the film The French Connection and the novel The Count of Monte Cristo.
1Dumas, Alexandre. The Count of Monte Cristo. New York: Penguin, 2001. Print.
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