The novel The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy is a work that includes an array of important historical themes and questions that can be put under thorough examination. Set in 1792, the novel is a significant foundation for the study of the political situation in France as well as the country’s affairs with England (McGlinn and McGlinn 2). The representation of the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror in The Scarlet Pimpernel is considered an accepted and popular view on these historical events in the majority of Western countries (Taylor 2).
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The French Revolution is notable among the most important periods in the history of European culture. Influenced by the ideas of the Enlightenment, the French desired to change the nature of the country’s political system, eliminating feudalism and the oppression that came with the monarchy. Despite the fact that the result was unsuccessful and violent for the French, the French Revolution was important for establishing new ideologies that drove the population towards change (“French Revolution” par. 1).
The most violent period of the French Revolution, the Reign of Terror caused the death of more than fifty thousand people suspected of counter-revolutionary acts (Alpha History par. 1).
Orczy’s representation of the French Revolution, and the Reign of Terror that originated from the revolutionary idealism, served as a strong setting for the novel. The author wrote about criminals that dominated the Parisian streets, as well as the hundreds of cavaliers and the supporters of the English throne who were executed by guillotine. The character of the Scarlet Pimpernel, a courageous leader of the pro-English group is described as the only savior that could put an end to the Reign of Terror (Goodreads par. 1).
The characters were largely influenced by the revolution that took place in their country and wanted to put an end to the terror that followed it. Apart from the theme of the French Revolution, there is a complementary exploration of human nature in the context of a complex political situation – the noble Englishman has shown the courage to selflessly withstand terror and save French aristocrats from the guillotine.
Men, women, and children were executed solely because of the societal rank with which they had been born. Therefore, to save their lives, the Scarlet Pimpernel rescued a number of aristocrats and sent them to England. In this context, the theme of loyalty is quite dominant in the novel since it was what drove the Scarlet Pimpernel to complete his many saving missions, like, for example, helping Lady Blakeney to give a warning to her husband of what could happen to him (BookRags par. 2).
Orczy did not describe the French Revolution as a conservative event, on the contrary, she wrote: “[…] at a time when the news of the awful September massacres, and of the Reign of Terror and Anarchy, had just begun to filtrate across the Channel” (116). Therefore, the theme of the revolution is quite prominent in the novel – and not only served as a setting for the scene but deeply affected the lives of all the characters no matter which side of the conflict they were on. Furthermore, a number of various themes – politics, romance, and adventure are what made the novel more than just a representation of historical events, since these are intriguing themes at the best of times, whether revolutionary or not.
Alpha History. French Revolution. 2015. Web.
BookRags. The Scarlet Pimpernel Themes. 2016. Web.
French Revolution. n.d. Web.
Goodreads. The Scarlet Pimpernel. n.d. Web.
McGlinn, Jeanne, and James McGlinn. Baroness Orczy’s The Scarlet Pimpernel. n.d. Web.
Orczy, Emmuska. The Scarlet Pimpernel (Enriched Classics). New York, NY: Pocket Books, 2004. Print.
Taylor, Tony. From Burke to Schama: The Histography of the French Revolution. n.d. Web.