Friday, 15 August 2014

Scaramouche: All the World's a Stage, and He is Scaramouche

When I first took up the book Scaramouche, I was expecting something like Monte Cristo or at least Captain Blood, with far far away adventure and a ship or two. Instead, I got French Revolution.

Andre-Louis Moreau was an ordinary lawyer under the care and provision of his godfather, Quintin de Kercadiou, Lord of Gavrillac. He didn't really care about politics, or about the world in general, despite his appetite for books and philosophy. However, everything changed when he met first hand, for the first time, the ugly face of injustice.

Andre-Louis had a friend, with quite a different opinion from him, named Philippe de Vilmorin. He had keen eyes for injustice and zeal for change and revolution. He, like many other in that era, particularly disliked the Privileged few, the aristocrats. One morning, Philippe went to Andre-Louis' place, asking him for help. A peasant had been shot to death for hunting in Marquis de La Tour d'Azyr's property, and he left a poor family. Philippe wanted the Marquis to at least take care of that family. But because the Marquis had a reputation of heartlessness, Philippe expected Andre-Louis' godfather to ask it of his friend.

The business ended badly. The young man was provoked into a duel, and, being a seminary student and unskilled in fencing, he died in the hand of Marquis de La Tour d'Azyr.

That's where the story starts. Andre-Louis stubbornly demanded justice, and being turned away by the legal sense of it, he sought justice elsewhere. Like an Antony, he spoke to the people with Philippe's voice, regardless his own belief in politics, and swore chaos and destruction in his heart for the Privileged, his friend's murderer among them.

Being an activist is not a small matter. He ended up being hunted and had to change his identity. He joined a band of travelling actors, took the name Scaramouche, and disappeared. He later learned fencing, and led a school. Later on, he went back to politics, again in the hope of bringing de La Tour d'Azyr to justice.

Let me tell this plainly. This book is not about the even arms of justice. It's not like Monte Cristo where justice was served brilliantly (at least from Dantes' point of view), or Captain Blood, where people got what they deserved (again, from his point of view). Rather, it's about men's search for it, men's struggle for it, despite the vagueness and the imperfection of the people that define it. Andre-Louis never gets his justice. There's no such thing as retaliation. There's no such thing as revolution for the better government, no such thing as perfect society. None. And that's how the story ends.


Andre-Louis feels like the younger brother of Captain Blood. The character, the view, the change, are pretty much the same. Their tastes for women are also similar. Aline is pretty much another Arabella, but younger and not so harsh. So, yeah, everything's pretty predictable.

Quentin de Kercadiou is charming. He's a very loving godfather, only he doesn't show it much. He cares so much about his family and friends, although limited affection for anybody beyond that important circle. His love for Andre-Louis under the mask of anger and stubbornness is also touching. And because Andre-Louis loves him all the same, it becomes even sweeter.

The word Scaramouche echoes throughout the book, as Andre-Louis calling himself Scaramouche, for being a smart clown that always runs right before everything turns real bad. A fitting name.


Whether I like it or not, is hard to say. But I don't think I will read it again seriously other than to skim it for fun. The plot is pretty, how do you say it, inconclusive, not because it's unfinished, but because it doesn't finish exactly like it should. Like I said, no justice or retaliation, no significant reformation, not even hollistic reconciliation. It's just 'The End'. Ta-da.

But surely I'm glad to finish another Classic Club homework.

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed reading your review (and glad to see you on Blogger again!). Scaramouche is on my reading list, though I may have mixed feelings about it as well if it ends abruptly.