The Scarlet Pimpernel

by

Baroness Orczy

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The Scarlet Pimpernel: Chapter 28 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
“Now listen very attentively, all of you,” Chauvelin says to his men. He tells them they may not have opportunity to talk again, so they must “remember every syllable [he] utters, as if [their] very lives depend on [their] memory.” Desgas agrees. “We listen, citoyen,” he says, “and a soldier of the Republic never forgets an order.” Chauvelin tells them that if they should find the Scarlet Pimpernel in the hut, they should “give a sharp, quick whistle” only, and then surround the hut and subdue the men. He warns them that a man of above average height will probably be very powerful, and it may take several of them to take him down. “But on no account kill the tall man,” Chauvelin orders. “Do you understand?”
Like the French Republic with its Reign of Terror, Chauvelin leads his men with fear. They are loyal to Chauvelin not because they respect him, but because they fear for their lives. The men ultimately fail and allow Armand and the Comte to escape because Chauvelin does not explicitly tell them what to do, and any perceived misstep could lead to death. The Scarlet Pimpernel’s men by comparison are loyal to their leader because they respect him and his cause, not due to fear or a blind loyalty to country or rank.
Themes
Social Class and the French Revolution Theme Icon
Loyalty Theme Icon
Related Quotes
If Armand and the Comte are alone, Chauvelin continues, the men are to warn one another and take cover. They should wait quietly for the Scarlet Pimpernel to arrive, and only then should they attempt to enter the hut once he is safely inside. “It is the tall Englishman whom it is your duty to capture to-night,” Chauvelin says. “You shall be implicitly obeyed, citoyen,” Desgas says, but “what about the Jew?” Chauvelin has forgotten all about the dirty old man.
Desgas’s claim that Chauvelin will be “implicitly obeyed” is certainly true. Chauvelin explicitly tells him to capture the Scarlet Pimpernel only, so the men allow Armand and the Comte to escape because they believe they have been ordered to do so. Their loyalty and conviction are shallow and blind; therefore, they can’t make their own decisions.
Themes
Loyalty Theme Icon
Chauvelin turns to the Jew. “Here, you…Aaron, Moses, Abraham, or whatever your confounded name may be,” he says. The old man steps closer. Chauvelin orders the Jew to stay with the cart and keep his mouth shut, but the Jew protests. He is old and weak, the Jew says, “shaking from head to foot.” If confronted by the enemy, he is likely to scream and run. “I fancy, citoyen,” Desgas says, “that [the horse and cart] will be safer without that dirty, cowardly Jew than with him.”
Chauvelin doesn’t care enough about the Jew to know his name, and Orczy doesn’t for that matter either. At one point, the Jew mentions that his name is Benjamin, but neither Chauvelin nor Orczy give him the respect of calling him his name. Instead, they simply refer to him as a Jew and strip him of all dignity.
Themes
Social Class and the French Revolution Theme Icon
Down the cliff, Lady Blakeney can see a small hut, and she begins to hastily make her way to it. As she scrambles down the cliff, the hem of her dress is caught from behind, and before she knows it, a strong hand covers her mouth. “Dear me! Dear me!” Chauvelin whispers to Lady Blakeney, “this is indeed a charming surprise.”
Chauvelin again enjoys tormenting Marguerite, as reflected in his sarcastic remark. Chauvelin relishes the thought of making both Marguerite and the Scarlet Pimpernel suffer, as he grows even more overtly villainous.
Themes
Social Class and the French Revolution Theme Icon
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