Ms. Slack and Ms. Leaverton
29 October 2018
The Inevitable Force of Violence
In Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities, the motive of violence is to further deepen the meaning of the novel and provide us with an insight on Dickens’ opinions. The scene of the grindstone, the storming of the Bastille and the unfortunate death of Madame Defarge all represent Dickens’ ideals that violence can only lead to more violence. Dickens also shows through these scenes that an uprising of the oppressed in France was inevitable. Years of scarce harvest lead to disruption in France as the upper-class enjoyed their position in society while the poor suffered greatly. The people were divided into three social classes known as estates that would soon cause an uproar. Dickens’ novel inspects the complex relationships between the political and social consequences of the revolution. He uses death and violence to show how fear often controlled people and pushed them to achieve their goals during the time of the revolution.
Having all these forcefully repressive acts upon them, the people reacted in an incredibly violent act known as the storming of the Bastille. The Bastille contained all the political enemies of the French monarch and was a symbol of their oppression. The people struck out in an uncontrollable frenzy, striving to prove their power. Dickens describes this scene metaphorically as “a raging sea,” (307) “dreadful sea rising” (302) and “a whirlpool of boiling water.” (305) These metaphors give the reader an image of the chaotic upheaval that Dickens is describing. The storming of the Bastille is seen to be the beginning of the French revolution. The revolutionaries in Dickens’, A Tale of Two Cities killed and be headed seven guards as well as the governor of the Bastille, De Launey. Defarge is at the center of the incident coordinating the strategic aspects of the attack and Madame Defarge, leading the woman in a terrifying array of bloodlust further proving Dickens’ point that an uprising in France is inevitable.
The grindstone scene evokes an image of the barbarous, bloodthirsty and murderous revolutionary. The stone is used as many come to sharpen their already bloody weapons to prepare to fight again. Dickens’ all too vivid depiction of the grindstone displays a mob of savages, “red hue was red in their frenzied eyes,” “wildest savages in their most barbarous disguise.” (373) The imagery serves to reflect the horrors of the revolution and its effects upon the citizens who come across as bloody and relentless. “Great grindstone, Earth, has turned when Mr. Lorry looked out again, the sun was red on the courtyard.” Dickens is making a bigger picture comment about how everything will fade in time, and that the earth will grind away all that seems important.
Madam Defarge is just one example of someone who was taken over by the revengeful mentality of the revolutionaries. Madame Defarge was bent solely on revenge, not knowing where to draw the line and uses the Revolution as a gateway to do so. Dickens’ point of violence can only lead to more violence is perfectly represented in the actions that she’s chooses to take during the Reign of Terror. “Tell wind and fire where to stop but do not tell me.” (487) With these words, Madam Defarge is solely recognized as a sheer force of nature. Although Madam Defarge functions in the plot by being the center of the rebellion, she also contributes to the latter end of the plot when Lucie Manette returns to France and is targeted by her. Madam Defarge’s death by a bullet from her own gun, while in a frenzy to murder Lucie Manette symbolizes Dickens’ belief that the sort of vengeful attitude embodied by Madam Defarge ultimately proves to be a self-damaging one. “Madame Defarge’s eyes followed her through this fast movement and rested on her when it was finished.” (522) Madam Defarge’s malicious behavior illustrates Dickens’ view that the Revolution took her humanity away. The desire for vengeance runs so deep that it ended up clouding her judgment and ultimately ending her life.
Dickens strategically places these violent events to persuade the reader of his view that there were sever social and political consequinces because of the uprising. The scenes depicted link together into a chain of death, violence and destruction. These scenes, the Grindstone, storming of the Bastille and the death of Madame Defarge all represent a bigger picture idea that Dickens is trying to prove. Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities clearly shows a message that the result of violence is, a continuous chain of violence until that chain eventually exhausts itself.