Study Guide

The Three Musketeers Mortality

By Alexandre Dumas


"My faith!" replied D’Artagnan, recognizing Athos, who, after the dressing performed by the doctor, was returning to his own apartment. "I did not do it intentionally, and not doing it intentionally, I said ‘Excuse me.’ It appears to me that this is quite enough. I repeat to you, however, and this time on my word of honor--I think perhaps too often--that I am in haste, great haste. Leave your hold, then, I beg of you, and let me go where my business calls me."

"Monsieur," said Athos, letting him go, "you are not polite; it is easy to perceive that you come from a distance." D’Artagnan had already strode down three or four stairs, but at Athos’s last remark he stopped short.

"Morbleu, monsieur!" said he, "however far I may come, it is not you who can give me a lesson in good manners, I warn you." (4.5 – 4.8)

These two are well on their way to fighting a duel. In the world of The Three Musketeers, it’s perfectly reasonable to risk your life because you didn’t like the way someone apologized for bumping into you.

Now, we must have badly painted the character of our adventure seeker, or our readers must have already perceived that D’Artagnan was not an ordinary man; therefore, while repeating to himself that his death was inevitable, he did not make up his mind to die quietly, as one less courageous and less restrained might have done in his place. (5.2)

According to the narrator, a man’s attitude toward life and death determines if he is an ordinary man or an exceptional man. Does this hold true in the rest of the novel?

"Is the King accustomed to give you such reasons? No. He says to you jauntily, ‘Gentlemen, there is fighting going on in Gascony or in Flanders; go and fight,’ and you go there. Why? You need give yourselves no more uneasiness about this."

"D’Artagnan is right," said Athos; "here are our three leaves of absence which came from Monsieur de Tréville, and here are three hundred pistoles which came from I don’t know where. So let us go and get killed where we are told to go. Is life worth the trouble of so many questions? D’Artagnan, I am ready to follow you." (19.122 – 19.123)

First of all, Athos’s response reflects his emotional character—he doesn’t exactly value life the same way Porthos does. Secondly, this is a pivotal moment in the novel as D’Artagnan’s friends place their lives in the hands of the young Gascon, without even knowing why.

"Madame," said Athos, passing his arm under that of D’Artagnan, "we abandon to your pious care the body of that unfortunate woman. She was an angel on earth before being an angel in heaven. Treat her as one of your sisters. We will return someday to pray over her grave." D’Artagnan concealed his face in the bosom of Athos, and sobbed aloud.

"Weep," said Athos, "weep, heart full of love, youth, and life! Alas, would I could weep like you!" (63.206)

And then we never hear about Constance again. This reflects the cavalier nature of life and death in the novel. Also, this passage is striking for Athos’s admission that his feelings about life have changed.

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