The Scarlet Pimpernel

by

Baroness Orczy

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The Scarlet Pimpernel Symbol Analysis

The Scarlet Pimpernel Symbol Icon

The Scarlet Pimpernel is an “English wayside flower,” and it is symbolic of Sir Percy Blakeney’s secret identity as the Scarlet Pimpernel, “the best and bravest man in all the world.” Each time Sir Percy saves an “innocent” aristocrat from the guillotine disguised as the Scarlet Pimpernel, he sends the French government a notice signed with a small red flower. The figure of the Scarlet Pimpernel is celebrated throughout England, and many citizens name food, clothing, and even horses after the tiny flower in honor of their national hero. When Sir Percy’s wife, Lady Blakeney, finds a ring engraved with a Scarlet Pimpernel in her husband’s private study, she discovers Sir Percy’s amazing, and noble, secret.

While the little red flower is symbolic of Sir Percy’s identity as the Scarlet Pimpernel, it is also symbolic of his identity as an Englishman. The Scarlet Pimpernel is an iconic flower of England, which Orczy describes as “humble” and modest, and it serves as a metaphor for English restraint and humility. Baroness Orczy portrays the French revolutionists as hasty and passionate, often acting without thinking; however, the British are calm and collected, and often display incredible self-control. As the Scarlet Pimpernel, Sir Percy saves condemned aristocrats with selfless disregard for his own life, and he does so without recognition or violence. Like the unassuming red flower, Sir Percy is “the most British Britisher” and is the personification of Orczy’s ideal of English modesty.

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The Scarlet Pimpernel Symbol Timeline in The Scarlet Pimpernel

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Scarlet Pimpernel appears in The Scarlet Pimpernel. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: Paris: September, 1792
Social Class and the French Revolution Theme Icon
...rescue attempt is underway. He signs each “brief notice” in red with “a little star-shaped flower,” known in England as a Scarlet Pimpernel. The Englishman has proven himself exceedingly elusive, and... (full context)
Chapter 10: In the Opera Box
Social Class and the French Revolution Theme Icon
Loyalty Theme Icon
...the letters in Sir Andrew’s possession had been signed with a small drawing of a Scarlet Pimpernel and claimed that the writer would “be at G.’s ball.” Chauvelin smiles. “The Scarlet Pimpernel,”... (full context)
Chapter 11: Lord Grenville’s Ball
Social Class and the French Revolution Theme Icon
Disguise, Deception, and Dual Identity Theme Icon
...“pray do not check this gentleman’s display of gratitude; the name of that interesting red flower is well known to me—and to France.” (full context)
Social Class and the French Revolution Theme Icon
Disguise, Deception, and Dual Identity Theme Icon
...in France that Your Highness could—and you would—give the truest account of the enigmatical wayside flower.” The Prince tells Chauvelin that his “lips are sealed,” and that those who know the... (full context)
Chapter 18: The Mysterious Device
Social Class and the French Revolution Theme Icon
Disguise, Deception, and Dual Identity Theme Icon
Pride and Humility Theme Icon
...that it is a gold ring, and on it is a small engraving of a Scarlet Pimpernel . (full context)
Chapter 19: The Scarlet Pimpernel
Social Class and the French Revolution Theme Icon
Disguise, Deception, and Dual Identity Theme Icon
...also known to wear jewels in her hair in the shape of the small English flower. Many in England pay homage to the Scarlet Pimpernel in this way, so it is... (full context)