illustration of a guillotine

A Tale of Two Cities

by Charles Dickens
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Why do the Defarges go to Paris?

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The Defarges live in Paris, which puts them right at the heart of events in Revolutionary France. Ernest Defarge runs a successful wine-shop in the Parisian slum of Sainte-Antoine. (In France, even the slums have nice-sounding names). As for Madame Defarge, when she's not helping her husband run the shop,...

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The Defarges live in Paris, which puts them right at the heart of events in Revolutionary France. Ernest Defarge runs a successful wine-shop in the Parisian slum of Sainte-Antoine. (In France, even the slums have nice-sounding names). As for Madame Defarge, when she's not helping her husband run the shop, she's spending her leisure time knitting away at the foot of the guillotine, where those proclaimed enemies of the people by the Revolutionary Tribunal have their heads cut off.

Both Monsieur and Madame Defarge are ardent supporters of the Revolution. But Madame Defarge is considerably more radical than her husband, so much so that she is utterly without pity to anyone she deems to be a traitor to the cause of liberty. Whereas Ernest turns a blind eye to the Manettes escaping France, his wife is hell-bent on exacting a terrible revenge upon those who've crossed her. She represents The Terror in all its unhinged blood-lust, that brief but terrible period when the Revolution got completely out of hand and destroyed countless innocent lives, including those of the Revolution's most loyal and devoted supporters.

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