Guest post by A. Lampard.
“The Man in the Iron Mask,” by Alexandre Dumas, is a continuation of Dumas’ classic, “The Three Musketeers.” The story takes place in France, where the three musketeers have retired, and d’Artagnon remains in his majesty’s service. Unknown to d’artagnon, his two friends, Aramis and Porthos, seek to remove the current king of France, Louis XIV, and put his twin brother, Philip, on the throne. While the plot is underway, d’Artagnon must decide where his loyalty lies: with his most trusted friends or his King. Dumas’ use of heartbreak, loyalty and conflict in “The Man in the Iron Mask” creates a narrative that fascinates the reader, but ultimately leaves them hanging.
The “The Man in the Iron Mask,” has gaps in its storyline. The first gap consists in Raoul’s (Monsieur de Bragelonne and son of Athos) heartbreak.[i] Raoul’s fiancée, Mademoiselle de La Valliere, appears to have fallen in love with Louis XIV, and him with her. Raoul’s lover seems to have then left him for the corrupt king, leaving the young man drowning in depression and heartache. The result of this action causes Raoul to long for death, however his overall role in the narrative is unclear and mostly unresolved.
The second gap, concerns the futures of Monsieur Fouquet and (particularly) the prisoner, Philip. Fouquet’s role is mentioned once in the epilogue long after his being captured. However, his role is not spoken of again. Philip is not mentioned or acknowledged in the book after his arrest. His future seems to imply that he will continue to be mistreated and left to rot in prison. Unfortunately, a drastic plot twist causes him to be arrested, which dulls down the intrigue of the story. The outcome of their fates is anything but complete, as information concerning their futures is left out, and the story ends.
Porthos’ death was the worst part of the book. One of the most painful experiences in “The Man in the Iron Mask” is his death. Porthos’ death removes a boisterous cheerfulness that brightened the story. Good Porthos’ kind heart and humor banished the dark atmosphere of the book. After “the Death of a Titan”[ii] (as Dumas put it) the story seems overly burdened by its incessant despair and gloom.
“The Man in the Iron Mask” is not as much a swashbuckling narrative as “The Three Musketeers.” The themes constantly present in the story are despair and sadness, which contrast deeply with its predecessor. “The Three Musketeers” is an incredible story full of danger, intrigue, and drama, leaving the reader enchanted. The same cannot be said of “The Man in the Iron Mask.” The plot of this story isn’t nearly as adventurous or mysterious as one would hope, leaving the reader to wonder about the ending.
The lack of swashbuckling heroism and adventure, which was constantly present throughout “The Three Musketeers,” was disappointing. Despite this, “The Man in the Iron Mask” did have some good parts. For example, when two hundred men heard they were fighting two of the legendary, four musketeers, and were struck with both terror and enthusiasm. The dull story-line isn’t affected by this though, which still leaves the reader in confusion about how Dumas ends his story.
In conclusion, “The Man in the Iron Mask” is often tedious, dull, and leaves the reader hanging. Unnecessary changes throughout it slow down the story. There are frustrating gaps in the story-line, such as: Philip and Fouquet’s futures, and what Raoul’s overall role in the story was. In addition to these gaps, there is the death of Porthos, which causes all humour to disappear from the book. Dumas seems to have lost his flair for the adventure and boisterous, in “The Man in the Iron Mask” he isn’t at his best.
[i] Please note that I have only read ‘The Three Musketeers’ and ‘The Man in the Iron Mask.’
[ii] “The Man in the Iron Mask,” Chapter 50 (‘The Death of a Titan’) – Dumas calls Porthos a ‘Titan.’
(Disclaimer: no remuneration of any kind was received for this review.)