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A Tale of Two Cities

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The Effect of Madame Defarge on the Theme of “A Tale of Two Cities” “In revenge and in love woman is more barbaric than man is” (Friedrich Nietzsche). Revenge is the action of inflicting hurt or harm on someone for a wrong suffered at their hands. In the novel “A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens, the French Revolution is the result of the peasants’ desire for revenge. This desire of theirs is initiated by Madame Defarge due to her longing for revenge against the aristocrats, specifically the Evremondes. Essentially, in this novel, the characterization of Madame Defarge develops the theme that often an individuals’ desire for revenge prevails over their humanity and leads to the fate of others. To begin with, the actions of Madame Defarge help to establish the theme of revenge. As Madame Defarge visits Lucie and her daughter to supposedly comfort them, she “[stops] in her work for the first time, and [points] her knitting-needle at Little Lucie as if it were the finger of fate” (Dickens 316). Dickens portrays the revengeful Madame Defarge as she does not pity even a little child. This is an evident example of her desire for revenge overpowering her humanity. She decides the fate of Little Lucie as she points her knitting-needle at her, which is a symbol of fate. Furthermore, as the Defarge’s take the Mender of Roads with them to see the king and the Queen, Madame Defarge was “knitting all the way there” (Dickens 203). This repeated action of Madame Defarge knitting symbolizes fate. This is because she is putting the names of those who are to be put to death in her register meaning she decides the death of people. During the attack of the Bastille, Madame Defarge stayed very “immovable”, but “suddenly animated, she put her foot on his neck, and with her cruel knife –long ready- hewed off [the officer’s] head” (Dickens 259). This makes the lack of humanity in the character of Madame Defarge more conspicuous. It displays her violent and viscous character. All in all, Madame Defarge’s actions enhance her desire for revenge. Unquestionably, Madame Defarge’s dialogue is also an aspect of developing the theme. For instance, when the Defarge’s are informed about the marriage of Charles and Lucie, Madame Defarge says, “‘… if [Charles] does come, while we live to see it triumph – I hope, for her sake, Destiny will keep her husband out of France’” (Dickens 216). This portrays the lack of care Madame Defarge has for the aristocrats. Madame Defarge does not care who Charles Darnay is, for her he is an aristocrat and if he comes to France, he will die. Moreover, during the attack of the Bastille, Madame Defarge informed her husband, “[y]ou shall see me at the head of women…” (Dickens 253). This illustrates Madame Defarge’s strong desire for revenge and that she is one of the most powerful revolutionaries. Furthermore, Defarge question his wife to when the revolution will end to which she replies, “[a]t extermination” (Dickens 400). By this, Madame Defarge means when all the aristocrats are exterminated. Monsieur Defarge is starts to feel sympathetic towards the revolutionaries; whereas, the desire for revenge is still in Madame Defarge prevailing over her humanity, Essentially, Madame Defarge’s dialogue portrays her never ending desire for revenge. In conclusion, Madame Defarge is a very essential character in the novel “A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens. Madame Defarge’s actions display her violent and negative nature which initiates the revolution. Equally important, her dialogue portrays her power and lack of human qualities as she decides the fate of others through her knitting. Essentially, Madame Defarge establishes the theme that humans’ desire for revenge over powers their humanity.

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