What character does the temptress archetype fit in The Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens?Please include textual evidence and analysis

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In literature, the temptress is often described as an intelligent but unscrupulous woman with seductive charms who exploits men and directs them into dangerous situations.  While there does not seem to be a female character who directly fits this type in A Tale of Two Cities, if this role must be assigned to one character, it can only be Madame Defarge.  For, it can be argued that Therese Defarge, a dreadful woman of "darkly defined eyebrows," who is considered "the symbol of the uncontrollable forces of the Revolution" [Enotes], lures her husband into acts of cruelty that extend past his own desires. For instance, her terrible lust for revenge against the entire family of Evremonde seeks the death of everyone connected to them. In Chapter XII of Book the Third, after the reading of Dr. Manette's letter in which he, having been imprisoned because he witnessed the death of a young man and woman, denounced the Evremondes for their cruelty, Madame and Monsieur Defarge are in their wine shop talking with a Jacques, who praises Madame Defarge for her pursuit of the aristocrats,

"It is true, what madame says," observed Jacque Three.  "Why stop?  There is great force in that.  Why stop?"

"Well, well," reasoned Defarge, "but one must stop somewhere.  After all, the question is still where?"

"At extermination," said madame....

"Etermination is good doctrine, my wife," said Defarge, rather troubled; "in general, I say nothing against it.  But this Doctor has suffered much; you...have observed his face when the paper was read."

"I have observed his face!" repeated madame, contemptuously and angrily. "....Let him take care of his face!"

Then, as Defarge describes to her the anguish of Manette's daughter, Madame is unmoved, raising only her finger in the movement of the guillotine. The Juryman who listened is enthralled, "The citizeness is superb!" he cries, and the Vengeance echoes his sentiments, saying, "She is an Angel!"  But, M. Defarge is troubled as Mme. Defarge declares that she has long had the Evremondes knitted in her register since her husband brought that letter home long ago.  Against his urgings to be merciful, she replies,

"Then tell Wind and Fire where to stop...but don't tell me."

Defarge is, thus, but "a weak minority" against the fatalism of his wife, who seduces the others with the desire for the blood of the entire Evremonde family. 

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A Tale of Two Cities

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