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The theme of pollution of power in a tale of two cities
Firstly, the characterization and actions of the Marquis serve as a classic example of how power corrupts one’s moral identity. In “Monseigneur in Town,” Marquis Evremonde stormed off from Monseigneur’s reception, only for his speeding carriage to strike a child on the road. In response to his crime, the Marquis coldly blamed the father, exclaiming, “It is extraordinary to me that you people can not take care of yourselves and your children… How do I know what injury you have carried out to my horses?… I would ride more than any of you very willingly and exterminate you from the earth” (Dickens 111-12). This quote demonstrates the haughty, insensitive manner of the Marquis, prioritizing the safety of his horses more than the life of an innocent kid. Birthed into the Evremonde family members of nobles, he lacked compassion for the peasants although assuming they could merely abandon a life of poverty for a greater a single. For a man with considerable influence, the Marquis undoubtedly did not value the lives of the reduced class. As a result, Marquis Evremonde represents the French aristocracy and their unanimous disregard for the citizens. Furthermore, as revealed in Dr. Manette’s secret letter, the Marquis and his brother took advantage of their aristocratic energy to conceal Dr. Manette soon after he learned of the heinous crimes they committed against a peasant girl and her brother. Soon after intercepting Manette’s letter to the Minister, “the two brothers… identified [him] with a single gesture… and [he] was brought to [his] living grave,” the Bastille where he would be wrongfully imprisoned for 18 years (Dickens 329). For that reason, the Evremondes used their status and inheritance to commit atrocities such as these, which would later dictate the infamous Evremonde family members. The French peasants feared the nobility for their recklessness with the authority they have been so privileged to hold. Overall, the Marquis embodies the elite French class in A Tale of Two Cities in his corruption of energy and subsequent injustices they perform on the decrease classes.
Whilst Dickens credits the upper class as the main abusers of energy, Madame Defarge’s actions also distinguish her as an individual overtaken by the temptations of authoritative control. Powerful-willed and bloodthirsty for the downfall of the Evremondes, revenge fueled Madame Defarge’s mission to finish the nobility with a chop of the guillotine. As the younger sister of the peasant girl and boy slain by the Marquis, Defarge vowed to avenge them by ending the Evremonde line. Nonetheless, her rage consumed her as Madame Defarge targeted those with any connection to the Evremondes, like Lucie Manette and her daughter, as “it was nothing at all to her, that [Darnay’s] wife be made a widow and his daughter an orphan that was insufficient punishment, simply because they were her all-natural enemies and her prey, and as such had no right to live” (Dickens 359). Hence, as a leader of the French Revolution from St. Antoine, this influence in deciding who lives and who dies (or rather, whose name is knitted and whose is not) engrossed her to replace any morality of her conscience. She would only hold satisfaction in murdering all of the Marquis’ descendants, regardless of their connection to the crime against her sister. Carrying the blood of the Evremonde family and marrying an Evremonde was enough for Madame Defarge to mark them down. When Lucie pleaded for Madame Defarge to side with Darnay, she bluntly rejected her plea, arguing, “The wives and mothers we have been used to see… have not been significantly deemed?… All our lives, we have noticed our sister-females endure, in themselves and in their kids, poverty, nakedness, hunger, thirst, sickness, misery, oppression, and neglect of all types?” (Dickens 267). Ironically, Madame Defarge failed to reflect on her actions which can be compared to the horrific injustices of the Marquis himself. In each cases, one who yielded authority utilized it to commit crimes, as a result tearing apart families and destroying the lives of numerous. In the end, regardless of Madame Defarge’s firm stance against the nobility, her control on the Revolution corrupted her just as it did to the Marquis.
Departing from the incidents with the Marquis and Madame Defarge, the notion of the insidious nature of authority also applies to those who do not abuse their sovereignty themselves, as in the case of Charles Darnay. Born as an Evremonde, yet renouncing his title and association with the infamous Evremonde household, the family’s reputation preceded Charles Darnay, and consequently led to considerably suffering throughout his lifetime. As Dickens emphasized how his ancestors polluted the easy life he attempted to reside, “Drawn to the Loadstone Rock” describes Darnay’s reflection on the prospective benefits of returning to Paris: “He knew really effectively, that in his horror of the deed which had culminated the bad deeds and bad reputation of the old family house… He knew that extremely well, that in his really like for Lucie, his renunciation of his social spot, even though by no means new to his own thoughts, had been hurried and incomplete” (Dickens 238). This quote shows that Darnay could not escape from his family’s history, even when it threatened the lives of his wife and daughter. Furthermore, this connects to Shelley’s assertion regardless of his divergence from the Evremonde lineage, the atrocities linked to the household he was born into nonetheless haunted him, and this was a direct result of the effective position in society Darnay inherited. One more instance is when Monsieur Defarge denied Darnay his rights, ignoring their mutual connection with Dr. Manette and Lucie. The two argued about Darnay’s motives for coming to Paris: “‘I have come right here voluntarily, in response to that written appeal… Is that not my right?’… ‘Other people have been similarly buried in worse prisons, ahead of now.’ ‘But in no way by me, Citizen Defarge.’ ‘I will do nothing for you. My duty is to my country and the Men and women. I am the sworn servant of both’” (Dickens 251). As shown in this quote, Defarge judged Darnay on the Evremonde title rather than on his morals and relationship with the Manettes. As a result, even when Charles Darnay abandoned his name to reside separate from his relatives, energy nonetheless polluted his life and ruined his chances of living a peaceful life with his family members. Darnay himself was not corrupted by energy, but nonetheless, it devoured him and these around him thanks to the notorious Evremonde title.
The venomous nature of power is demonstrated by substantial characters in A Tale of Two Cities: the Marquis, Madame Defarge, and Charles Darnay. Sovereignty can overtake one’s morals and taint one’s reputation, regardless of no matter whether they had been corrupted themselves or by these connected to them. The 3 characters all encountered the unethical final results of abusing power, straight and indirectly, via their roles in Dickens’ novel. However, Dickens and Shelley both instill a sense of self-reflection in their readers some use privileges to uphold their morals while other folks patronize those around them with this energy. In the end, those who perform the latter suffer as a result, just as the Marquis, Madame Defarge, and Darnay all paid for their actions and their family’s actions with their personal lives or the life of one more.
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