Study Guide

The Man in the Iron Mask Family

By Alexandre Dumas

Family

He was a man of great taste in elegant stuffs, embroideries, and velvet, being hereditary tailor to the King. The preferment of his house reached as far back as the time of Charles IX; from whose reign dated, as we know, fancies in bravery difficult enough to gratify. The Percerin of that period was a Huguenot, like Ambroise Pare. (3.1)

This demonstrates the importance of heritage in King Louis XIV's court.

If there be one saying more true than another, it is this: great griefs contain within themselves the germ of their consolation. This painful wound inflicted upon Raoul had drawn him nearer to his father; and God knows how sweet were the consolations that flowed from the eloquent mouth and generous heart of Athos. (25.28)

If Raoul hadn't been dumped, he might not have spent so much time with his dad.

Philippe did not raise his eyes towards Heaven, nor stir from the spot, where he seemed nailed to the floor, his eye intently fixed upon the King, his brother. He reproached him by a sublime silence with all his misfortunes past, with all his tortures to come. Against this language of the soul Louis XIV felt he had no power; he cast down his eyes, and led away precipitately his brother and sister, forgetting his mother, sitting motionless within three paces of the son whom she left a second time to be condemned to death.

Philippe approached Anne of Austria, and said to her in a soft and nobly agitated voice, "If I were not your son, I should curse you, my mother, for having rendered me so unhappy." (24.84 – 24.85)

Clearly this family has strange dynamics. We speculate 1) that Louis does not love his mother, 2) that Louis is capable of feeling guilty about locking up his own brother, and 3) Philippe takes it easy on his mother.

As for Athos, he was too well acquainted with that tender but inflexible soul; he could not hope to make it deviate from the fatal road it had just chosen. He could only press the hand of the duke held out to him. (27.91)

It is a testament to the quality of Athos's character and his ever-present dignity that he doesn't create a giant scene when his only son wants to go into the war go die.

"I have given you reason to think that life has but one face; because, sad and severe, alas! I have always cut off for you- without, God knows, wishing to do so- the joyous buds which incessantly spring from the tree of youth; so that at this moment I repent not having made of you a more expansive, dissipated, animated man." (33.40)

Here Athos critiques his own parenting, saying that he didn't let Raoul have enough fun. Is that really the issue here? If Raoul was more fun, would he be alive by the end of the novel?

"I feel fatigued; it is the first time, and there is a custom in our family." (45.17)

Dumas uses Porthos's family to explain why the man's strength might falter.

"Sire," continued Pélisson, "the accused leaves a wife and a family. The little property he had was scarcely sufficient to pay his debts, and Madame Fouquet since the captivity of her husband is abandoned by everybody. The hand of your Majesty strikes like the hand of God. When the Lord sends the curse of leprosy or pestilence into a family, every one flies and shuns the abode of the leprous or the plague-stricken." (54.58)

King Louis did not realize his actions may affect the innocent. Does this demonstrate he is a bad king?

"I have lived without having any children" (55.9)

Porthos's lack of children, as well as friends' similar lack of children, signals that the values, ideals, and way of life they uphold will perish with them.

"What is the matter?" asked his father, tenderly.

"What afflicts me is the death of Porthos, our so dear friend," replied Raoul. "I suffer here for the grief you will feel at home." (56.26 – 56.27)

Athos and Raoul are so close that they really can communicate across time and space.

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