Their famous cry of “one for all and all for one” has echoed throughout the centuries and created a stir in both the worlds of literature and Hollywood. Considering all of the blood-pounding drama that today’s readers have come to associate with the three musketeers, it is no surprise that another book written about the three friends, “The Man in the Iron Mask,” was made into movies in 1939, 1977 and 1998, and is considered a piece of classic literature.
The first chapters of the novel revolve around one of the former musketeer’s, Aramis, plot to replace King Louis XIV with his imprisoned and unknown twin, Philippe. Despite the title of the novel, and the rich development that occurs in the first chapters, Philippe’s only real purpose is to jump start the plot. The man in the iron mask spends much of his time in prison, and is soon forgotten by the reader.
In the rest of the novel, Dumas expertly weaves the now older musketeers into a story of grim reality. Aramis and Porthos are forced to flee for their lives when Aramis’s plot is discovered. Athos’s son Raul leaves France with the intention of dying in Africa in order to escape the grief he feels as a betrayed lover. D'Artagnan, the only musketeer who remains in the king’s service, is forced to choose between his friends and his king.
In “The Three Musketeers” the heroes are strong and unstoppable. In “The Man in the Iron Mask” they are vulnerable and often desperate. Yet, despite the sobering story line, the novel is an excellent piece of literature. It is well written, engaging, and full of suspense. The turn of every page may lead to victory or crushing defeat. Characters escape certain death and their grand escape plans are foiled. The plot is unpredictable, and the storyline is realistic. The characters are very static. None of them are limited to a single dimension. The king is portrayed as a man who should not be trusted with power, yet he is never viewed as evil. Other characters change to fit whatever situation they are in. The stupid, selfish Pathos that the reader is first introduced to acts selflessly and wisely, while the strong Athos is reduced to nothing.
“The Man in the Iron Mask” is a great story, with powerful underlying themes. However, when compared to other classics, the novel falls short of having true literary merit. While enjoyable, there are many other novels which convey the same themes of human vulnerability without such a sobering, and often depressing, plot. There is nothing wrong with the novel, but in the time it takes to read the depressing story, an avid reader could finish two other books that also portray the vulnerability of mankind without producing as many tears.
|< Prev||Next >|