The Scarlet Pimpernel

by

Baroness Orczy

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The Scarlet Pimpernel: Chapter 8 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
As Armand sails away, Marguerite stands and watches him disappear. Sir Percy leaves her to her thoughts and doesn’t bother her. Sir Percy always has “the delicacy to leave her severely alone.” He is a good man, even in his contempt for her, but still, Marguerite “often wishes to wound him,” and she frequently tries with her sharp tongue. She “almost loved him” once, but now his “thoughts seem unable to soar beyond the tying of cravat or the cut of a new coat.”
This too is a reflection of excessive pride. Marguerite is too proud of her status as an intellectual to fully love a man so stupid. She resents his stupidity, and treats him badly because of it, but implies that he is still thoughtful (he knows when to leave her alone). This thoughtfulness is Sir Percy’s “real” personality shining through, but Marguerite is too proud to see it.
Themes
Disguise, Deception, and Dual Identity Theme Icon
Pride and Humility Theme Icon
Just one day after Sir Percy and Marguerite were married, she told him how she had “inadvertently” contributed to the death of the St. Cyr family. She admits that “she hated the Marquis,” but she never intended for them to go to the guillotine. Years ago, Armand had fallen in love with a young St. Cyr girl, but since he was merely “a plebian,” the valets of the Marquis “ignominiously thrashed” him in the Paris Streets—like “a dog within an inch of his life.” Treatment like this is exactly what led to the French Revolution in the first place, and the Marquis was in “treasonable correspondence with Austria.”
Marguerite considers herself morally innocent in the Marquis’s death. She didn’t intend for the aristocrat to die; therefore, she isn’t responsible. Through Sir Percy’s anger and resentment, Orczy argues that Marguerite is indeed responsible, and her intention, whatever it was, doesn’t excuse her. What happened to Armand was awful, but Orczy implies it isn’t worth the lives of the Marquis and his family, who are most certainly innocent.
Themes
Social Class and the French Revolution Theme Icon
Loyalty Theme Icon
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One accusation of treason is “sufficient” evidence for the French tribunal to send anyone to the guillotine. Marguerite’s words had been “impulsive” and “thoughtless,” and while they came from a place of deep anger and resentment, she never once considered that they would lead to the guillotine. She made “a full confession” to her husband, but it made little difference. Now, Sir Percy “seems to have laid aside his love for her, as he would an ill-fitting glove.”
Both Marguerite and the French Republic are portrayed as impulsive and driven by passion—condemn now, think later—and the flimsy evidence required for execution reflects this. Marguerite should have known what would happen to the Marquis when she condemned him, and Orczy implies that makes her responsible.
Themes
Social Class and the French Revolution Theme Icon
As Marguerite makes her way back to “The Fisherman’s Rest,” she sees a familiar form approaching. “Chauvelin!” Marguerite yells, delighted to encounter an old French friend. After exchanging a few pleasantries, Chauvelin takes a small pinch of snuff from a canister, a “pernicious habit” that he “seems very much addicted to.” He stares at Marguerite for a moment and finally speaks. “Will you render France a small service, citoyenne?” he asks. “It depends on the kind of service she—or you—want,” she answers.
Marguerite and Chauvelin have known each for a long time. Surely, she must know that he is an awful man, yet she is excited to see him and grows nostalgic for her country and friends. Chauvelin’s use of snuff and Orczy’s mention of his “pernicious habit” are echoed in the “Chat Gris” when Sir Percy offers him snuff disguised as pepper and manages to escape.
Themes
Social Class and the French Revolution Theme Icon
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“Have you ever heard of the Scarlet Pimpernel?” Chauvelin asks. Of course, Marguerite has heard of him—everyone in England has. Clothing, food, and horses have all been named after the Scarlet Pimpernel and his amazing heroics. Chauvelin tells Marguerite that the Scarlet Pimpernel is “the most bitter enemy of France.” He has come to England to discover the identity of the Scarlet Pimpernel, and he wants Marguerite’s help. “Find that man for me, citoyenne!” Chauvelin begs, “find him for France!”
Chauvelin relies on Marguerite’s loyalty to her country to help him find the Scarlet Pimpernel. As a republican, she should support the revolution, be she is swept up in the Scarlet Pimpernel’s heroics and the popular fad that has taken over the country. Orczy’s use of the word “citoyenne,” a female citizen of France, underscores Marguerite’s identity as a member of the French Republic.
Themes
Social Class and the French Revolution Theme Icon
Loyalty Theme Icon
Marguerite has “little real sympathy” for French aristocrats, but she “hates and loathes” the way the Republic is “establishing itself.” The Scarlet Pimpernel and his league of men save others “for sheer love of their fellow-men,” and she respects their good deeds. Chauvelin wants to discover the man’s identity and plans, so that he may capture him in France and send him to the guillotine before the British government can protest. “What you propose is horrible, Chauvelin,” Marguerite claims. “Whoever the man may be, he is brave and noble, and never—do you hear me? —never would I lend a hand to such villainy.”
Marguerite later admits that she hates the French aristocrats, but she still doesn’t agree with the excessive violence of the revolution. Like Armand, Marguerite is loyal to her morals instead of her country, and she refuses to help Chauvelin capture and kill the Scarlet Pimpernel. Marguerite says she will “never” help Chauvelin, but that doesn’t prove true either. Her moral convictions are tested when Armand’s life is threatened.
Themes
Social Class and the French Revolution Theme Icon
Loyalty Theme Icon
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