A Tale of Two Cities Questions and Answers
by Charles Dickens

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How are Monsieur Defarge and Madame Defarge involved in the aftermath of the accident in A Tale of Two Cities?

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Greg Jackson, M.A. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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This incident occurs in Book 2, Chapter 7. While recklessly and wantonly riding his carriage through town at high speeds, Monsieur the Marquis delights at seeing the peasants jump frantically out of the way. Then his carriage comes to a sudden stop when it strikes and kills a young child. The Defarge couple is there to witness the whole incident. They see the anguish of the dead child's father, the timidness and submissiveness of the crowd, and the callousness of Monsieur the Marquis.

Monsieur Defarge attempts to comfort the grieving father by telling him that it is better that his child died young and quickly than to have lived a life of misery that is the plight of the French peasantry. This seems to please Monsieur the Marquis who calls Defarge a philosopher and condescendingly gives him a coin for his wise words. Monsieur Defarge throws the coin back at the Marquis as he rides away. When the Marquis turns back, Monsieur Defarge is gone, but Madame Defarge is there, engaged in her usual activity of knitting. She is the only one in the crowd who dares look the Marquis in the eyes.

We see an important moment for the Dafarges in this scene. When confronted head-on with the callousness of the aristocracy, they do not flinch or look away in fear. They comport themselves with dignity and even subtly challenge the Marquis' authority. This can be seen as a prelude for their roles as organizers of the revolution that is soon to come.

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Kristen Lentz eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Your question refers to the accident caused by the Monseigneur the Marquis when his carriage ran over the small child on the streets of Paris.  The father of the child, overcome with grief, turns to a tall man for comfort who tells him:

"Be a brave man, my Gaspard! It is better for the poor little plaything to die so, than to live. It has died in a moment without pain. Could it have lived an hour as happily?" (Book 2, Chapter 7)

The Monseigneur is impressed with this response, calling him a "philosopher."  The tall man, of course, is Monsieur Defarge, and his wife is on the scene too, looking on coldly and knitting furiously.  When all the other men were cowering before the Marquis, Madame Defarge did not avert her eyes but rather looked on steadily at the callous Marquis.

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