Who Is Madame Defarge in "A Tale of Two Cities"?


Quick Answer

Madame Defarge is the antagonist in the story of "A Tale of Two Cities" who detests the French aristocracy. Her hatred is focused particularly on the Evremonde family, and she seeks revenge for the rape and murder of her sister, committed by two of the Evremonde brothers.

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Full Answer

The book is set during the French Revolution and Defarge is described as a tricoteuse, one of the many women who would take their knitting while they watched public executions in Paris. Charles Dickens writes of her sitting in her husband's wine store, knitting. While watching visitors, she would insert the names of her intended victims into her patterns.

Defarge wishes to see the Evremonde brothers die, but her gaze of hatred is not fixed solely on the ones that destroyed her family. After discovering that the Marquis Evremonde has a surviving nephew named Charles Darnay who has a wife and child, Defarge deems them guilty by association. While she is considered a villain, she is also portrayed as a victim. She loses her family because of the exploitation of the peasant class by the French aristocracy. Dickens does not let the reader feel hatred for the antagonist, but reminds the reader of the injustice she has suffered in the past, as she mutters contempt for the aristocracy with others like herself.

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