In both countries it was clearer than crystal to the lords of the State preserves of loaves and fishes, that things in general were settled forever.
From the very beginning of the novel, the narrator makes clear that the storm of a revolution is brewing. Here, we get a sense of the complacency felt by the upper classes of society. By mentioning their “crystal clear” belief that their way of life is “settled forever,” we get a sense of foreshadowing that things will not actually be settled for very long.
In the hunted air of the people there was yet some wild-beast thought of the possibility of turning at bay.
After describing the hunger that is rampant in the poor neighborhood of Saint Antoine, the narrator compares the peasants to animals that are being driven mad by hunger and rage. The description of the people “turning at bay” suggests that, like animals, they have reached the end of their rope and have no choice but to fight back against their oppressors. This description illustrates the conditions that contributed to the revolution.
“I tell thee,” said madame, extending her right hand, for emphasis, “that although it is a long time on the road, it is on the road and coming. I tell thee it never retreats, and never stops. I tell thee it is always advancing. Look around and consider the lives of all the world that we know, consider the faces of all the world that we know, consider the rage and discontent to which the Jacquerie addresses itself with more and more of certainty every hour.”
Madame Defarge answers her husband’s question: How long will it be before it is time for the revolution? Madame Defarge is confident that it is well on its way, comparing the anger of the oppressed people to how the energy of lightning gathers or how an earthquake prepares itself to destroy land. She asks him to consider all the people they know and the lives they lead, as they are all storing themselves up with rage that will soon burst in the form of a revolution.
Like the fabled rustic who raised the Devil with infinite pains, and was so terrified at the sight of him that he could ask the Enemy no question, but immediately fled; so, Monseigneur, after boldly reading the Lord’s Prayer backwards for a great number of years, and performing many other potent spells for compelling the Evil One, no sooner beheld him in his terrors than he took to his noble heels.
In this paragraph, the narrator compares the upper class of France to a story about a farmer who conjured the devil, then was frightened of the devil, and ran away. While the aristocrats may not have meant to cause the revolution, this metaphor indicates that their treatment of the serfs and peasants of society could not have had any other outcome. In this way, the upper class is just as responsible for the revolution as the revolutionaries.