The Scarlet Pimpernel


Baroness Orczy

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Themes and Colors
Social Class and the French Revolution Theme Icon
Disguise, Deception, and Dual Identity Theme Icon
Loyalty Theme Icon
Pride and Humility Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Scarlet Pimpernel, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Social Class and the French Revolution

Baroness Orczy’s historical novel The Scarlet Pimpernel takes place in 1792, approximately three years into the French Revolution. For years prior to the Revolution, French peasants lived a meager existence at the hands of the French aristocracy. In 1789, the French lower class began to revolt, and by 1792, King Louis XVI was imprisoned and the French Republic was formed. Orczy’s novel opens during a time in history known as the Reign of Terror, when…

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Disguise, Deception, and Dual Identity

As the Scarlet Pimpernel, a cunning master of disguise, Sir Percy Blakeney deceives the French government and saves aristocrats from bloody death at the hands of the rebellion and their unforgiving guillotine. Due to a series of the Scarlet Pimpernel’s increasingly outlandish and ingenious costumes—including an impoverished hag, an old Jewish man, and even a captain of the French guard—a vast majority of the French émigrés who find sanctuary in Great Britain “owe…

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At the center of Baroness Orczy’s The Scarlet Pimpernel is loyalty—loyalty to one’s country, one’s spouse, and one’s family—but Orczy also examines the loyalty one feels to their sense of self and morals. In the novel, the Scarlet Pimpernel is loyal to his lofty roots and supports the condemned aristocrats during the French Revolution, but he rescues them out of his “sheer love” for “fellow-man,” not a sense of allegiance to his noble blood. The…

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Pride and Humility

Baroness Orczy portrays the Scarlet Pimpernel, the protagonist and title character of her novel, as the epitome of British restraint and humility. He risks his life to save aristocrats from the guillotine of the French Revolution, but because of his secret identity, he never truly receives formal recognition or reward for his good deeds. Instead, the Scarlet Pimpernel is content to operate largely undetected and unrecognized, rewarded only by his internal joy for saving…

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