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A Tale of Two Cities
by Charles Dickens
Madame Defarge Timeline and Summary
Madame Defarge owns a wine shop with her husband. It’s in Saint Antoine, a poor neighborhood in Paris. Defarge walks into his store, where his wife sits knitting. She’s as strong and steadfast as he seems to be. She sure doesn’t stop knitting, for one thing. She coughs and rolls her eyes. Defarge seems to know what she means. Apparently they have a secret language worked out. Today, it means that Lucie Manette and Mr. Lorry have arrived. Madame Defarge watches as Defarge takes them to Doctor Manette. She knits. Five years later: Folks are coming into the Defarges’s wine shop as early as six in the morning. The mender of roads tells them all about the man who killed the Marquis. He also tells them of the poverty in the area—a crime in itself. They agree that the perpetrators of this crime should be "registered" in their records as people who should be destroyed. Jacques Two pauses to ask if anyone will ever be able to steal the group’s register. Defarge scoffs. Madame Defarge keeps the register in her knitting. No one could decipher it even if they knew what it was supposed to be. Madame Defarge learns from her husband that they have a spy who’s on the police force. Apparently, the police have hired a new spy to ferret out revolutionaries (or Jacqueses, as we like to call them). This new spy is English. His name is Barsad. Madame Defarge says that he’ll need to be registered in her knitting. Defarge describes the guy’s physical appearance. Nodding, Madame Defarge takes it all down. She’s pretty pleased at her husband’s ability to get such good information. As the two enter the empty wine shop, Madame Defarge asks her husband why he seems so down and out. Defarge sighs, then says that change seems to take such a long time. Too long, perhaps. Madame Defarge stares at him sternly. Then she begins to lecture him. In case we haven’t mentioned it, she’s something of a force of nature. She manages to slap him back into shape pretty quickly. OK, she doesn’t actually slap him. But she does point out that he’s being feeble and just a bit cowardly. Sure, revolution takes a long time to prepare. But they’ll have helped bring it about—even if they’re not alive to see its effects. The next morning, Madame Defarge sits at her seat. She’s knitting. Of course. Beside her knitting lies a rose. A man walks into the shop. Madame Defarge picks up the rose and slides it into her cap. As if someone’s issued a secret sign, the shop falls silent. People slink out the back exits as the new customer comes up to the counter. Madame Defarge makes polite conversation with the newcomer. The guy’s eyes dart everywhere, but he can’t seem to come up with anything out of the ordinary. Madame Defarge thinks to herself that the man should stay around another minute longer. That way, she’ll be able to knit his entire name, John Barsad, into her register. Defarge walks in. He glances at his wife, then greets the new customer. The new man hails him cheerfully as "Jacques." Defarge looks confused. His name is Ernest, not Jacques. He would thank the visitor to use his name. It’s more than enough for him. Between the two of them, the Defarges trick the spy. The spy does manage to get one good blow in, though. He mentions Doctor Manette. Madame Defarge quickly says that they never see nor hear from the doctor. Smiling, the spy says he knows. In fact, the doctor is in England. Interestingly, his daughter is about to marry a man whose original name is… well, not Darnay. In fact, he’s taken his mother’s name. In French, it would be D’Aulnais. When the spy asks if anything is the matter, she says that it would be better for the daughter of Doctor Manette if her husband-to-be never returned to France. Revolutionary fervor builds. The Defarges’s wine shop remains the center of all the revolutionary activity. As all the Jacqueses get ready to go to war, Madame Defarge rallies the women. Together, they storm the Bastille. Outside, the crowd has captured the governor who defended the Bastille. They’re supposed to wait for Defarge to emerge so they can march the governor back to the wine shop. As the guy passes through the crowd, however, he gets beaten and knifed. Madame Defarge, shouting triumphantly, steps on him and cuts off his head. A week after the Storming of the Bastille, Madame Defarge sits at the counter of her shop. Another woman, the short, plump wife of the grocer, sits with her. In the past week, this woman has taken on a new name: she’s now called "The Vengeance." Defarge tells them that Foulon has been taken. Madame Defarge and the Vengeance run through the town with the news. Soon an entire crowd has gathered outside the house where Foulon has been taken. Madame Defarge rushes into the house to see the old man bound up in ropes. She begins to clap as if she’s just seen a great play. Defarge rushes up to Foulon and "folds him in a deadly embrace." We’re guessing that means he kills the guy. Madame Defarge tries to strangle him with his ropes. 1792: After Charles Darnay is captured, Madame Defarge goes to see Lucie and her child. She scares them with her coldness. Frantic, Lucie asks for her to protect her husband because he’s the doctor’s son-in-law. She begs for pity as a wife and a mother. Madame Defarge stares at her coldly and says that the wives and mothers of France have been suffering for a very long time. She leaves without ever promising to help. On the morning of Charles's trial, Madame Defarge sits in the front row. When Charles is re-arrested, Sydney Carton goes to the Defarges’s wine shop. Madame Defarge serves him. She’s surprised by how much he looks like Charles. She and Jacques Three begin discussing when the revolution will be over. Defarge notes that the violence will have to stop somewhere. The question, of course, is where. Madame Defarge has an answer to that: they’ll stop when all of the aristocrats are exterminated. Defarge doesn’t quite agree. After all, they all saw how Doctor Manette suffered when his son-in-law’s verdict was read. Come to think of it, Madame Defarge is not so sure that Doctor Manette is a true patriot. Madame Defarge snaps at her husband. She’s been watching Lucie. In fact, all she has to do is lift her finger... and Lucie’s life would be over. Madame Defarge goes on an angry tirade. As she says, she was with Defarge when he found Doctor Manette’s letter. Moreover, she is the younger sister of the woman who was raped and kidnapped. She’ll never stop pursuing her revenge against the Evrémondes. Her listeners are fascinated by the deadly heat of her wrath. Even Defarge stops trying to talk her into being merciful. Later that night, Madame Defarge is holding a council—without her husband. She’s decided that he’s too soft. He doesn’t understand what it takes for a revolution to succeed. Madame Defarge admits that she cares nothing about Doctor Manette. He can live or die… she doesn’t mind either way. Lucie and her child, however, must be exterminated. All of the Evrémonde race must die. Madame Defarge swears her two companions to secrecy. Her husband can’t know about their plans. Now Madame Defarge calls over the wood-sawyer and makes him promise that he’ll testify that Lucie was exchanging traitorous signals with the prisoner Evrémonde. Happy to help the revolution, the guy agrees. Confident that Lucie will be pretty angry at the Republic right now (after all, her husband’s being executed), Madame Defarge decides to pay her a visit. Perhaps she can get Lucie to say something that will curse her whole family to death. The Vengeance can’t get enough of how marvelous Madame Defarge’s plans and revolutionary fervor are. Madame Defarge stalks through the streets. She’s a cold, cold woman. She cares nothing about love—only about vengeance. Sort of like her friend. She meets Miss Pross, who's alone in the house. Miss Pross and Madame Defarge say some nasty things to each other. Neither can understand the other, but they seem to communicate pretty well, just the same. At the very least, they each hate the other. Madame Defarge throws open all the doors in the house but one: Miss Pross guards the last door herself. Realizing that Miss Pross isn’t planning to move anytime soon, Madame Defarge lunges at the door. Miss Pross grabs Madame Defarge around the waist and hangs on for dear life. They claw at each other; Madame Defarge lunges for the keys at Miss Pross’s waist. All of a sudden, Miss Pross sees Madame Defarge draw something out of her dress. She grasps Madame Defarge’s hand. A loud blast goes off. Madame Defarge dies.