7/17/09

Wise Women Friday: Madame Defarge

A Tale of Two Cities, issue 6.Image via Wikipedia

Words of wisdom from the villainous Madame Defarge, knitter and score-keeper extraordinaire in Charles Dicken's A Tale of Two Cities:

Tell wind and fire where to stop...but don't tell me.

I am a bit late to Bastille Day, but I can never remember birthdays either so if this holiday is important to you I beg your forgiveness. I once knew things about the French Revolution. I once knew dates. I once knew names. Now my expertise is reduced to the following facts: Marie Antoinette never promised anyone cake and a revolution supporting the noblest of ideals ended up a terrifying blood bath. Although the details of the Revolution floated like ether out of my brain decades ago, what I do remember is A Tale of Two Cities. I remember Madame Defarge, whose knitting served as an abacus that kept track of all the people and all the sins she would avenge when the Revolution finally arrived. I remember that good-hearted bad boy Sydney Carton switching places with that boring Charles Darnay, and I remember wondering what was wrong with that crazy Lucie! I begged her to choose Sidney, but she'd chosen Charles so many thousands of times already that I just couldn't get through to her. Sigh. Poor Sydney. It was a far better thing he did than he had ever done. And I was just fourteen when I read about it. So, of course, it was the best of times, and it was the worst of times.

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19 comments:

Cafe Pasadena said...

It's good to know you do comics too.
And de historical info was a plus.

pasadenaadjacent said...

I've never read Dickens but I did read "Stiff The Curious Life of Human Cadavers" by Mary Roach. It has a section based on a scientist who was executed during the French Revolution. He had a colleague watch his execution. The condemned scientist's plan was (after the blade passed through his neck) to blink his eyes continuously if he were experiencing consciousness.; and he did blink... several times.

Thats what I remember about the French Revolution

Susan C said...

I'm embarrassed to admit that I've never read A Tale of Two Cities (even the comic version). But I do love Madame Defarge's quote.

Desiree said...

I am forced to admit, as a kid, (teen? does that count?) I preferred Ronald Colman's movie version to the novel.

Jean Spitzer said...

I like your condensed "A Tale of Two Cities" much better than the novel. The Scarlet Pimpernel, with its dash and adventure, was more to my taste.

Petrea said...

I read it. But I don't retain much except the far, far better thing.

PA, John read "Stiff" and warned me I probably wouldn't be able to get through it. It sounds interesting but I think he was right.

My WV is "oyasms." If you don't know what it means, look it up in your Dictionary Schmictionary.

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... daisy... said...

I've read "great expectations" and "a christmas carol" but I will put this book on my anobii wish list! :-) thanks!

Shell Sherree said...

Like Susan C., I confess that I haven't read it. Now I want to. Maybe I can find the comic book version - I'm sure I'd enjoy that!

Margaret said...

Pup: I do like that comic graphic. Thanks again to Zemanta and you!

PA: That is an amazing and freaky story. From now on, that's what I'll remember about the French Revolution too.

Susan, Daisy and Shell: I loved the book at 14, but I wonder if it would resonate in the same way now. It is very romantic and tragic in the way a 14 year old girl might easily love, but a woman might just roll her eyes. But Madame Defarge is a great villain.

Dez: Well, Ronald Colman. Of course.

Jean: But do you remember the Scarlet Pumpernickel starring that great actor Daffy Duck?

Petrea: There is no such thing as oyasm. Is there?

Bec said...

I've been wanting to reread this lately and now I'm especially inspired. Maybe on vacation in August!

Jean Spitzer said...

I don't think I've seen this, but he description of The Scarlet Pumpernickel is hilarious:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Scarlet_Pumpernickel.

Also fascinating: apparently this cartoon was the subject of censorship. Daffy commits suicide at the end, and this portion has routinely been censored, according to the article.

Jean Spitzer said...

Better link: it has the cartoon to watch:
http://www.theclassictoons.com/14/scarlet-pumpernickel/

wv: kitche (everybody's a critic)

altadenahiker said...

Great quote!

pasadenaadjacent said...

You can find Stiff at the South Pasadena Library. Thats where I got it. I'd also suggest listening to Petrea's John. It's kind of like plucking an apple from the tree of good and evil. Once you know this stuff you won't forget it.

Margaret said...

Jean: We actually have a personal copy of the The Scarlet Pumpernickel! But I never knew that the ending had ever been censored. That's fascinating. Thanks for the history lesson.

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Poconoangel said...

Interesting connection I found a while back while researching my family tree. My great-grandfather-Christian Weidanz lived on the border of France in Alsase Lorraine. His 6 other brothers died in the French revolution! He was enlisted in the army, but his parents stole him away with them to the US. Now he is still listed as a deserter. At least he lived and generated a family that trickled down to me!! Interesting!

Margaret said...

Poconoangel: That's an amazing tale. Thanks for finding this older post.