A Tale of Two Cities

by: Charles Dickens

Monsieur Ernest Defarge

Characters Monsieur Ernest Defarge

Monsieur Ernest Defarge is a morally ambiguous Revolutionary character who often functions as a foil to his more bloodthirsty wife, Madame Defarge. Like Madame and many of the other French revolutionaries, Ernest Defarge has good reasons to despise the aristocracy. He is present when the Marquis responds coldly to the death of a young child and shows his spirit by throwing the coins the Marquis has tossed him back into the carriage. Readers also learn that Ernest Defarge once worked for Dr. Manette and saw the way that the Doctor was unjustly imprisoned by the Evremonde brothers. He also knows the story of his wife’s family, and the horrible things they suffered at the hands of the aristocracy. With this context in mind, it is unsurprising and probably justified that Ernest Defarge becomes involved in Revolutionary activities, including violence.

Nonetheless, Ernest seems to retain his humanity and his loyalty to Dr. Manette. As Madame Defarge explains when she plots to attack and kill Lucie and her daughter, “I cannot trust my husband in this matter. Not only do I feel, since last night, that I dare not confide to him the details of my projects, but I also feel that if I delay, there is danger of his giving warning”. While Ernest Defarge shares his wife’s hatred of the aristocracy, and her desire to create a different social order, he cannot bring himself to support the killing of innocent women and children as an act of revenge. He contrasts with his wife by suggesting that not all Revolutionaries were totally bloodthirsty. However, while he refuses to participate in his wife’s plan, Ernest also does nothing to stop it. He fades from the novel without any mention of how his storyline concludes. Because he cannot fully commit to either participating in violence or working against it, his story ends ambiguously.