Listen, Jena

Listen, Jena

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TDKR: Catwoman and Madame Defarge

Listen, Jena, don’t take this the wrong way, but I’ve been thinking quite a bit about Anne Hathaway. Since Nolan cited A Tale of Two Cities as chief inspiration for The Dark Knight Rises (TDKR), it’s hard to miss the shades of Madame Defarge, that Dickensian revolutionary, in Anne Hathoway’s Catwoman. Just going by the trailer, we see similarities in the way these two characters think and speak.

In the newest trailer for TDKR, Selina Kyle says to Bruce:

"There’s a storm coming, Mr. Wayne. You and your friends better batten down the hatches, ‘cause when it hits, you’re all gonna wonder how you ever thought you could live so large and leave so little for the rest of us."

Of course, the line “there’s a storm coming” is as common in trailers as someone looking past the camera and yelling “no.”

Taking the Dickens inspiration into consideration, though, that line thematically links Catwoman to Madame Defarge, the vengeful, bloodthirsty revolutionary from A Tale of Two Cities. In book two of the novel, Madame Defarge quietly knits (in fact she’s knitting a list of bourgeois targets) and speaks to her husband about the coming violence:

“…Vengeance and retribution require a long time; it is the rule.”

“It does not take a long time to strike a man with Lightning,” said Defarge.

“How long,” demanded madame, composedly, “does it take to make and store the lightning? Tell me.”

Defarge raised his head thoughtfully, as if there were something in that too.

“It does not take a long time,” said madame, “for an earthquake to swallow a town. Eh well! Tell me how long it takes to prepare the earthquake?”

“A long time, I suppose,” said Defarge.

“But when it is ready, it takes place, and grinds to pieces everything before it. In the meantime, it is always preparing, though it is not seen or heard. That is your consolation. Keep it.”

She tied a knot with flashing eyes, as if it throttled a foe.

Both Catwoman and Madame Defarge anticipate the arrival of swift and violent justice, unseating the wealthy and comfortable. Both speak of the coming revolt as a storm, perhaps slow in coming but quick in its effect. Madame Defarge sits knitting for the first part of the book, waiting peacefully for revenge. Likewise, Selina Kyle shares a cordial dance with Bruce Wayne, dressed to the nines and telling him of the coming chaos.

Seline Kyle’s line from the trailer about a storm takes on new life when you remember that book three of A Tale of Two Cities is titled “The Track of a Storm.”

Whether or not she comes to an ironic end like Madame Defarge (killed by a bullet from her own gun), Nolan’s Catwoman is clearly a self-proclaimed voice of the people. Before July, when we can finally see what role this revolutionary will play in Batman’s bout with Bane, it might be worthwhile to brush up on your Dickens.

Filed under The Dark Knight Rises Catwoman Dickens A Tale of Two Cities batman Christopher Nolan Anne Hathoway

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