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ATOTC, Book the Second, The Golden Thread (and other thoughts)

February 11, 2012

The Golden Thread

I’m liking the contrast between Miss Manette and Madame Defarge as the two Fate-like figures. On the one hand, Miss Manette serves to connect her father to the “Past” and “Present beyond his misery” (86). On the other hand, Defarge knits her victims’ deaths; she spins the stars that seal the fates and fortunes of the peasantry’s oppressors. One is Grace, the other Justice. I like that Madame Defarge cuts men down not by cutting their thread but by creating it, and that Lucie does not hold the golden thread but is the thread itself. She is woven into “the peaceful tissue of the life of her home” (232).

Madame Defarge certainly fits the bill of the classical Fates as portrayed in “Hercules”. She has witch-y air about her, though not in an evil way. She just comes across as one of the more dangerous and powerful children of the Revolution. And didn’t the Fates share an eyeball in the Disney film? I can see Madame Defarge popping her eyeball out and sharing it with her friend “The Vengeance”.

Recalled to Life

But to get back to Lucie. The young Miss Manette is the Golden Thread (the thread of light that stands in contrast to much of the novel’s darkness) of the recalled to life theme as well (I think). On the darker side, we have the Revolutionaries violently taking the Bastille and recalling its prisoners to life. And then we have the elder Jerry turning resurrection man (yes! resurrection men!), and the younger Jerry wishing to become a resurrection man himself one day. Yet, as we have already seen with Msr Manette, Lucie has the power to “recall to life” in a more lovely way. Even Mr Carton, who cannot have her, is recalled to life by “her beauty springing up anew” [springing up anew/ recalled to life…on and on] (156).

Victorian Dichotomies / Historical Novel

I wanna say that this more “Victorian dichotomy”, but I guess it isn’t Victorian. This is something I keep forgetting, at least when the novel is not dealing with actual historical events. I just keep imagining a Victorian setting. But anyway… one more contrast between Lucie and Madame Defarge: the footsteps. Lucie is a passive character, in this regard, as she sits by “listening to the echoing footsteps of years” (209). Madame Defarge is an active participant in these marching, charging footsteps (‘cos Summer’s here and the time is right for fighting in the streets).

I’m glad that I can’t remember anything from reading this one in high school, because I am actually getting excited to see where this is going.

Dickens, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities. New York: Signet Classics, 1980.


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  1. Yes, I saw the Hercules movie last night (on VHS) and thougt of Madame Defarge. Your observations on the knitting helped me to better understand the knitting and all that went along with it. Thank you for the clariication.

  2. I had not thought to compare Manette and Defarge until I have just read your post. The contrast is now a bit more obvious that you point it out. I’ll have to pay more attention to that, because I think it could play out in an interesting way. Also, I completely agree with Miss Manette being the golden thread with the power to “recall to life.” And, I too found Jerry’s new “occupation” to be humorous!

  3. Do you find Lucie to be too passive? (I keep expecting her to say or do something more–but I haven’t finished the book.)

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