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Revenge: A Dish Best Served Cold

1192 words - 5 pages

“Revenge is a dish best served cold” is a popular phrase, used in many cultures and in entertainment. It is commonly remembered from the movie Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan as a Klingon proverb, but how many actually know what it means, or where it comes from? It was actually first noted from a novel in 1782, called Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos; the phrase went “La vengeance est un plat qui se mange froid”. It is said to mean that emotional detachment and careful planning is the best for taking revenge – and the proverb is closely followed by the character Madam Defarge from A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. When she is first introduced, she is seen ...view middle of the document...

With this fact in mind, however smart she is, she is just as ruthless.
Throughout the novel, the reader learns about her past and her ‘justification’ for her actions rather slowly. It is not until almost the end of the novel that the reader learns her family was deeply wronged by the aristocrats by the name of Evrémonde. Her sister was raped by the Marquis St. Evrémonde; her father died of grief and her brother was killed trying to avenge this wrongdoings. The reader learns even later that the character Charles Darnay was a secret descendent of the Evrémondes, and in turn his and Lucie Manette’s daughter, Little Lucie, is one as well. Madam Defarge takes it into her own hands to get “revenge” on the Evrémondes, by attempting to kill Charles, Lucie and Little Lucie (which, in fact, does not work). However, is this seriously a real justification for trying to murder innocents who didn’t even do the crime she wants to avenge?
This action is obviously not just in any way, so it is labeled as revenge, “the action of inflicting hurt or harm on someone for a wrong suffered at their hands”, rather than justice, “just behavior or treatment”. However, is this truly revenge by the definition? It is rather close, yes – however, she is not taking out her revenge on those who did the wrong, but rather those who are simply related to such people. Obviously, she doesn’t know where the line between right and wrong should be drawn. All she is concerned about is “justice”, or, rather, what she considers justice. She doesn’t think that the death of just those who did the wrongdoing is enough; she believes that, like her own family, the whole line of Evrémondes should be exterminated. This is hardly just revenge; this is much different. It’s inhumane, with no question – and the author even mentions this himself: “But, imbued from her childhood with a brooding sense of wrong, and an inveterate hatred of a class, opportunity had developed her into a tigress. She was absolutely without pity. If she had ever had the virtue in her, it had quite gone out of her” (353 -354). Dickens himself compares her to an animal, a tigress, and mentions she has lost her sense of pity. This is no ordinary revenge – one could even say that she has lost her sense of humanity.
It is clear...

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