Rereadings: The Mark of Zorro
After reading The Prisoner of Zenda and being a little disappointed, I decided it was high time to go back and read the book that started my love of pulpy, historic adventure novels: Johnston McCulley’s The Mark of Zorro. If you’re ever looking for a quick, wholly satisfying, and righteous adventure story, Zorro has it all.
Many have commented on its similarities to The Scarlet Pimpernel (which came out some years earlier), but Zorro is in many ways far better. McCulley skips the sentimentality and often Radcliffe-like romance of The Scarlet Pimpernel in favor of more adventure and danger.
Zorro as a hero is just the right mix of Robin Hood and Captain Bluebeard, both charmingly fighting for those who have been wronged but often doing so in a more brutal than winking way. Our heroine, Lolita, is a wonderfully spirited character who manages to be her own woman without being anachronistic about it. She has the bravery, the skills (such as horseback-riding), and the sentiments of an upper-class woman in nineteenth-century California, making her more believable and more interesting than many adventure novel heroines. And Don Diego is never anything short of hysterical: as an unendingly and needlessly exhausted Don, he is the perfect disguise for Zorro (or visa versa?).
Rereading the book made me realize that McCulley’s story may just be the pinnacle of adventure novels for me. It really sets the perfect tone and balances flawlessly between adventure, romance, and social consciousness. I loved every part of it and I highly recommend giving it a go as we head into the new school year. It’s invigorating just gallop along the pages with Zorro!