Madame Defarge's most famous quote in "A Tale of Two Cities" comes from Book III, Chapter 12, where she says, "Then tell Wind and Fire where to stop, but don't tell me." Once the French Revolution breaks out, Madame Defarge is a leading force in the Reign of Terror.
Madame Defarge lost her whole family when she was a child, and the anger and grief that these losses created makes her a dangerous foe in the novel. She wants her revenge, not only on the d'Aulnais family that caused her family's death, but also on the entire French noble class. While she remains patient, biding her time until the opportunity for revenge comes, she is anything but calm once the chance arrives. The way in which she oversees the re-arrest of Charles Darnay demonstrates her shrewdness and her cruelty. Her knitting is a symbol of her patience and her anger, as she works so slowly to knit the names of each of her enemies.
When the French monarch brings in foreign troops to fight the rebels in Paris, Madame Defarge makes a sage observation on the ineffectiveness of such a strategy: "The starving people of Paris might wait a long time before rising up to fight French soldiers; but against hired, foreign troops ... any day ... any hour," showing the delicate situation in the French capital.
When Miss Pross confronts Madame Defarge, who is in search of Charles' wife and child, Madame Defarge tries to intimidate her: "Pig, get out of my way or I'll break you into pieces." This doesn't intimidate Miss Pross, who resolves to put up a fight long enough to let the two fugitives get far away from the Revolution.