Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Madame DeFarge

We need a good snowstorm in order to have a white Christmas. Dead grass can still be seen amidst the crusted snow patches on the lawns. When I complained about this to J the other day he reminded me: "Mom, it's only BEGINNING to look a lot like Christmas. Ya have to give it some time to actually LOOK like Christmas." 'O little wise man. I picked up one of my fav. books recently: A Tale of Two Cities. The beginning of the book, with its dark shadows seems to epitome the somberness of cold winter evenings. Even if I can't read it intensely right now, or expect to finish it before Christmas, the memories from it are stoked simply by podering its contents. Without exception when the book comes to mind I am bound to initially think of Madame DeFarge. It isn't the exceptional mothering of sweet Lucie rehabing her father who has been in solitary confinement up in a tower making shoes for a couple decades. Or even the pompous lawyer, in love with Lucie, battling alcoholism and jealousy toward her perfect husband; eventually overcoming all these things to do the most selfless act of love by the end of the book. Yes, all these personalities make the story and supply me many wonderful parallels to life. But Madame DeFarge CRUSHES these characters' chance of being the first to be thought of. Her dominating persona ensures that the other characters come secondary in my mind when I recall the book. It is her that I must first think through before I can enoy the others. Which is quite a testament to Dicken's ability to write. Madame DeFarge appears in my mind in the same manner every time: exiting a pub and crossing a cobbled dirt road. Toward whatever it is she is after, the large, buxom woman moves hastily- her skirt swishes out of the way of her vengeful agenda. She narrows in on her prey with steely cold, laser-like precision. Even in crossing the landscape of my mind, she accomplishes her same goal in the book. No modern warfare technology can compete with Madame DeFarge's ability to annhilate what she deems unworthy to continue on in life. She is never empty handed. Or if she is empty handed you are aware that she has knitting kneedles somewhere ready to whip out and viciously create something. Which is quite the contrary activity you'd imagine someone of her nature doing. Knitting. Knitting is for nice people, warm cozy people. A calming, mothering/grandmothering activity. That produces dish rags and afghans you put over you when you are sick or cold and it warms you up. Knitting is all the soft and pretty different kinds of wool wound round spools in a shop downtown. NOT the sort of thing that would be connected with Madame DeFarge. Which is the exact sickening feeling Dickens is able to stymy us with in his book. A cruel, unrelenting bully of a person knitting while others squirmed and shrunk from her evil glance. But Madame DeFarge is larger in life than just herself. She can't exist in your mind as a solitary person with likes and dislikes, friends and hobbies. No, she is more. If Hitler himself had been able to pick up knitting needles, it would have not even reached the culminating evil that is Madame DeFarge. Ugh. Once Madame DeFarge crosses the road, knits while watching those sentenced to the Guillitine, then, only THEN can Carlton's ride in the cart staring into the eyes of the innocent and petrifiedyoung woman, doomed to the same fate, surrounded by all the noise and chaos, yet cocooned in calm and peace, enter into my mind. Dickens is brillaint. I think of him a lot when I take walks outside and try to imagine him weaving through London during the night, surrounded by dank fog. Witnessing the plight of the poor. Experiencing their plight. Did he wonder the same things I wonder? Like how to make a living, his family and their circumstances, the political nature at the time and what was to come? Did he realize the difference he could make? Did he know that his talent could create stories that would be so memorable and timeless that even one of his characters could become so large she seizes the stage of mankind and can only be compared to an evil that enters into the hearts of man? He was brillaint. Of course he knew. I love to re-read Dickens. Go get A Tale of Two Cities. His sense of humor is endearing and makes these larger than life characters easier to swallow!

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