How is the symbol that is Madame Defarge's knitting different from what it represents, while it still shares a similar quality in A Tale of Two Cities?
For example, a wedding ring represents a tangible commitment, but also love, an abstract idea.
A symbol is something that stands for something other than itself.
Madame Defarge’s knitting represents the plot she is crafting to kill these people after the revolution. Like the knitting, Madame Defarge is weaving the plot together. The knitting is a work in progress, just like the plan. She is saving names until the time is right and she can act on them.
Throughout the book, Madame Defarge is rarely seen without her knitting. She often becomes quite focused in it and absorbed by it. It is usually nearby. Even when Madame Defarge is not actively planning the revolution and her revenge, it is never far from her mind.
Madame Defarge knitted with nimble fingers and steady eyebrows, and saw nothing. (Ch 1:1, p. 23)
Madame Defarge is focused on revenge. It is her only goal. Everything else is second to it. She does not see people for who they are. If they are her victims, they are her victims. They have committed a crime, such as Charles, even though their only crime is being of noble family. She knits “with the steadfastness of Fate” (2:7, p. 72). Like fate, she is unstoppable. She is weaving a path to destruction.
Like Madame Defarge’s knitting, the planning of the revolution is taking place in plain sight—it appears to be something it is not.
Knitted in her own stitches and her own symbols, it will always be as plain to her as the sun. (2:17, p. 111)
The revolutionaries seem innocent, like the knitting. In reality they are slowing biding their time, recording names and taking notice until they are in a position to do something about the injustices they see.