La Mort est mon Métier


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Robert Merle

Monsieur Ernest Defarge may be one of the most complex characters in the entire novel.  He is a fierce Revolutionary, but also seems terrified of his wife.  He is both loyal to Dr. Manette and willing to exploit him.  Monsieur Defarge’s complexity helps demonstrate that circumstances can impact behavior and helps highlight the fact that most people are neither completely good nor completely bad, but a mixture of the two. 

In many ways, Monsieur Defarge exemplifies the perfect Revolutionary.  He is not seeking revenge against the aristocracy, but truly seeking justice for the people.  He helped them understand the extent of their exploitation by adducing Manette as an example of how the aristocracy could destroy a man, not necessarily by killing him, but by turning him into a shadow of himself.  Defarge also manages to organize the Revolutionaries (the Jacquerie) so that they can plan the Revolution.  He is there at the storming of the Bastille and is one of the men who help free the prisoners who have been held there. 

Defarge’s principles are interpreted as weakness by some, including his wife.  While he participates in renouncing Darnay, though he certainly seems to understand that Darnay should not be condemned because of who his ancestors are, despite the fact that he is an aristocrat.  His principles are not strong enough to keep him from denouncing Darnay.  However, he draws the line at denouncing Dr. Manette, Lucie, or Lucie and Darnay’s daughter.  Darnay does not succumb to the same blind class hatred as many of the other Revolutionaries, including his wife.

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