A Tale of Two Cities: Madame Defarge

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Madame Thérèse Defarge
When terrible things happen to good people there are two paths that can be traveled: forgiveness can be offered, or vengeance can be pursued. Madame Defarge from Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, takes the latter of these two options and religiously lives by it, seeking revenge on the cruel heartless aristocracy plaguing France with famine, poverty, and oppression; however, the reasons behind her malice force the reader to understand why she performs such hateful acts during the French Revolution. Madame Defarge, though intelligent, is consumed by her hatred and has transformed into something just as bad, if not worse, than the members of the aristocracy.

Madame Defarge will stop at nothing to see the French nobility suffer and, although she is not very educated, she is extremely clever. The plan devised to knit the names of the condemned into the register shows just how bright this woman actually is. She sits with her fatal knitting needles in hand seeing all, and she documents everything “in her own stitches and her own symbols, [which] will always be as plain to her as the sun” (Dickens 174). Nothing escapes Madame Defarge’s watchful eye, and everything she does ensures that she gets one step closer to the revolution and her revenge. She knits seemingly irrelevant pieces of information into her register and uses it against her enemies to enact her revenge. To outsiders Madame Defarge comes across as the innocent wife of a wine shop keeper, but in reality this extreme revolutionary would not blink an eye before she sawed off the head of an aristocrat. Truthfully, if Ms. Pross had not put an end to her personal reign of terror, Madame Defarge would not have ceased until every last aristocrat was exterminated.

The source of Madame Defarge’s bitterness towards the nobility stems from her turbulent childhood when the Evrémonde brothers killed her entire family, including her pregnant sister and peasant brother. Madame Defarge...
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