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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

A Tale Of Two Cities Week: Guest Post By Ally

In A Tale of Two Cities there are two main female characters. The first is Lucie Manette, the gentle and sweet daughter of imprisoned Doctor Manette and the love interest of Charles Darnay and Sydney Carton. The second is the main villainess of the story, Therese Defarge, known in the book as Madame Defarge, who harbors revenge against Charles Darnay for a deep, dark secret in her past. We often notice the contrasts between the characters – Lucie is characterized by light and purity, and Madame by darkness and violence. This extends to even their physical appearance, with Lucie’s golden hair and Madame’s dark countenance. However, I was recently struck how, despite their many differences, they have very, very similar pasts. There is only one thing that makes them different – how they responded to the circumstances in their lives.

Both women had difficult childhoods, losing their families at a very early age due to tragic circumstances Рdue to the Evr̩monde family, no less. They were both innocents who suffered injustice for no reason; both had their lives ripped away in a moment. And yet Lucie became a beautiful, loving young woman and Madame Defarge became a woman filled with hate.

Doctor Manette may forget,
Doctor Manette may forgive,
But this one survivor
Will never let Evrémonde live!
All those years in the dark,
All those years biding time.
This was hidden away
Till the moment was right,
Till the time came to pay…
Out of sight, out of mind!

How did they get to that point? Defarge didn’t start as a bitter, hateful woman. What was the difference?


It rested in the choice they made – the choice whether to harbor bitterness against the men that ruined their lives, to plot and desire revenge, or to forgive and show love to those who hurt them. Lucie Manette went one day, and Madame Defarge went another.

Bitterness is a sneaky, subtle parasite that starts deep inside and slowly begins to erode away at your heart, like a weed. It spreads and changes you until you’re no longer the same person, and you end up hurting many people in the process. Hebrews 12:15 says “Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled.”

And that’s the scary thing about bitterness. Madame Defarge wasn’t born a sadistic, violent person without natural feeling. She became that way, slowly over time. Slowly the bitterness grew and grew until she was completely consumed by it, until it had taken over her personality, her morals, and her entire worldview.
I’m not saying that it is easy to just forgive someone, or that you should not allow yourself to feel initial pain of hurt, rejection, and betrayal. Forgiving doesn’t mean that it still won’t hurt or that you have to *like* the people who have hurt you, especially if it’s a traumatic thing they’ve done. It just means letting go and letting God take care of it, instead of holding on to what they have done to you – accepting that what’s past is past and moving on with your life.

Instead, if you allow yourself to hold onto the hurt, it consumes your life. You become obsessive over it, and soon it controls you. You become the very thing that hurt you.

Lucie, despite her past, did not allow the tragic circumstances of her childhood to control her. She could have hung on to her victim status. No one would have blamed her if she had let it change her forever. And yet she was so sweet and kind, even to those who personally hurt her family, and even to Madame Defarge.
Don’t ever think that you cannot possibly become like people such as Madame Defarge. Don’t ever think that you are above that. I’m sure that a young Therese never thought that she would become the woman who ruthlessly killed and tore families apart. It all began when she allowed that root of bitterness to grow in her heart.

Is the mightiest sword
Forgiveness of those you fear
Is the highest reward
When they bruise you with words
When they make you feel small
When it's hardest to take
You must do nothing at all.

- Helen Burns, “Jane Eyre”


Miss Jane Bennet said...

Wow...just wow. Great post, Ally!!

Renee Ferre said...

I mostly agree, the only thing I can point out is that while Mme. Defarge had all the knowledge of the horrific things her family suffered, and clearly suffered some of them personally, Lucie only found out when she was a young adult. So while I agree that forgiveness can change everything and certainly made a huge impact, there is a difference between how a person who has grown up with memories of a brother killed and a sister raped, and a girl who hears about the horrors secondhand when she has the maturity and intelligence to handle them.

Anonymous said...

Hello there! I just discovered your blog through a friend, and I just want to say how lovely it is to read your posts! It was fun to find people as excited as fictional characters as I am :D I thought I'd mention something. Right now there is a petition going to get the full broadway production of "A Tale Of Two Cities" released on DVD. We need 100 signers, and it has been really hard to promote this. If you could take the time to sign, and post about this, I would be most grateful! Thank you and please share. God Bless


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