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Desert_Brat
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(Oct 2011) The Scarlet Pimpernel -- SPOILERS ALLOWED

Feel free to discuss your reading here. I may even post a question or two.

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Question

[ Edited ]

What is the scarlet pimpernel?

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Peppermill
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Re: Question


Desert_Brat wrote:

What is the scarlet pimpernel?


".. the 'League of the Scarlet Pimpernel', a secret society of 20 English aristocrats, 'one to command, and nineteen to obey', is engaged in rescuing their French counterparts from the daily executions. Their leader, the mysterious Scarlet Pimpernel, takes his nickname from the drawing of a small red flower with which he signs his messages." From Wiki article for the book.

 

scarlet pimpernel"Scarlet pimpernel (Anagallis arvensis; also known as red pimpernel, red chickweed, poorman's barometer, poor man's weather-glass,shepherd's weather glass or shepherd's clock) is a low-growing annual plant found in Europe, Asia and North America.  Scarlet pimpernel flowers are open only when the sun shines."

 

"This common European plant is generally considered a weed and is an indicator of light soils.

 

"It is most well known for being the emblem of the fictional hero The Scarlet Pimpernel."

 

scarlet pimpernel 2



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Re: The Scarlet Pimpernel (Spoilers Allowed)

[ Edited ]

If anyone is wondering why the flowers pictured above are orange rather than red/scarlet, it's because the petals of the plant can be red, orange or blue with a dark purplish center as described below. 

 

The Scarlet pimpernel (Anagallis arvensis) is a low-growing annual plant in family Myrsinaceae. This is a weed (unwanted plant) that grow along field sides and even in wheat crop. They have tiny flowers with a 6-7 mm diameter and 5 petals. The flower can be red, orange or blue with a dark purplish center. The flowers are light sensitive that open in sunlight and fold up in the dark. Their common names include blue pimpernel, red pimpernel, poorman's barometer, shepherd's weather glass or shepherd's clock. Locally it's known as Mangota or udigulay. In NWFP both blue and red species of Scarlet pimpernel grow. The blue species grow in plain areas, while the red or orange species grow in hilly areas.

(Explanation above from Scarlet Pimpernel Flowers | Amateur Photography | Nature Pictures.) 

 

Another explanation notes that white and pale pink petals are also known to bloom on the plant as follows:

Scarlet Pimpernel

(Anagallis arvensis)

Primulaceae

Not what you expected to see? Scarlet pimpernel likes surprises. You might see it in its salmon color ("normal" for us), the blue shown in this picture, pale pink, or even white sometimes. And somewhere, it must be scarlet colored to earn its name. I have seen three of the colors growing together on the same Brazoria county roadside area. (That fact kills Dave's initial idea that the soil pH may lend a helping hand to the plant's chosen color.)

There has been much discussion in the past among botanists regarding these color variations. Gerard believed that the scarlet variety was the male plant, and that the blue was the female. At one time the blue variety was even given a separate name, Anagallis cerulea. This has since been discounted. Botanists now consider all three color variations the same species - not even classifying them as official varieties of the species.

Not only does it try to fool you with its color, this low-sprawling wildflower has square stems. This would normally lead one to believe it is a member of the Mint family. Not so, I'm afraid. Don't eat this plant... It is in the Primrose (Primulaceae) family. Also, use caution when collecting Chickweed for salads, as Scarlet Pimpernel looks very similar to it while not in bloom. Furthermore, The Useful Wild Plants Encyclopedia describes Scarlet Pimpernel as containing toxic saponins.

Non-native to the US, this European wildflower has interesting associated folklore. In Ireland it was considered magical, and when held in hand would allow you to understand the language of birds. I haven't experienced this yet, but I do know from first hand experience that this flower will close upon approach of bad weather. Because of folklore beliefs, this plant has quite a few common names (listed below).

There are references to medicinal uses of this plant, although I wouldn't try it. I once got a small patch of dermatitis from coming in contact with the plant while photographing it. The medicinal uses are listed below only for historical reference.

(The above explanation was taken from WeedsWorth.com - Scarlet Pimpernel (Anagallis arvensis ....)

 

Also see Wild Plants of Malta & Gozo - Plant: Anagallis arvensis .... 

 

Here's a close-up photo of a blue colored Scarlet Pimpernel.

 

 

And, here are two pictures I found of 'cultivated' red colored Scarlet Pimpernel:

Plant Photo 

Plant Photo

 

Botanical name: Dipladenia sanderi 'Scarlet Pimpernel'

Genus: Dipladenia
Species: sanderi 'Scarlet Pimpernel'
Common name: Red Dipladenia - Climber, Climbers, Climbing Plants
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dalnewt
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Re: The Scarlet Pimpernel (Spoilers Allowed)

[ Edited ]

After finishing the first chapter I was struck by the paradoxical contrast between the lighthearted tone and gruesome content. I remember reading this book as a child. I vaguely knew about the French Revolution, but had no idea that it entailed the Reign of Terror until I read this book. I was one of those kids who was mesmerized by death, (especially gory death), and the mass executions via the guillotine during the Reign of Terror captured my imagination. Looking back on it I now suspect that the book's jaunty tone somehow protected me from the horror and human suffering caused by the Reign of Terror. Oh, I knew it was wrong to execute people just because they happened to be of or have an association with a specific class of people, but I wasn't really disturbed by the fact that a supposedly civilized country engaged in barbaric mass executions.   

 

 

See Wikipedia Guillotine  This article is about the decapitation device.

For other uses see Guillotine (disambiguation).

 

The guillotine (English pronunciation: /ˈɡɪlətiːn/ or /ˈɡiː.ətiːn/;French: [ɡijɔtin]) is a device used for carrying out executions by decapitation. It consists of a tall upright frame from which a blade is suspended. This blade is raised with a rope and then allowed to drop, severing the head from the body. The device is noted for long being the main method of execution in France and, more particularly, for its use during the French Revolution, when it "became a part of popular culture, celebrated as the people's avenger by supporters of the Revolution and vilified as the pre-eminent symbol of the Reign of Terror by opponents."[1] Nevertheless, the guillotine continued to be used long after the French Revolution in several countries, including France, where it was the sole method of execution until the abolition of capital punishment in 1981.

 

 

Image Detail



 

Image Detail

 

 

Reign of Terror

Francisco de Goya – The French Penalty.

The period from June 1793 to July 1794 in France is known as the Reign of Terror or simply "the Terror". The upheaval following the overthrow of the monarchy, invasion by foreign monarchist powers and the Revolt in the Vendée combined to throw the nation into chaos and the government into frenzied paranoia. Most of the democratic reforms of the revolution were suspended and large-scale executions by guillotine began. The first political prisoner to be executed was Collenot d'Angremont of the National Guard, followed soon after by the King's trusted collaborator in his ill-fated attempt to moderate the Revolution, Arnaud de Laporte, both in 1792. Former King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette were executed in 1793. Maximilien Robespierre became one of the most powerful men in the government, and the figure most associated with the Terror. The Revolutionary Tribunal sentenced thousands to the guillotine. Nobility and commoners, intellectuals, politicians and prostitutes,[citation needed]all were liable to be executed on little or no grounds; suspicion of "crimes against liberty" was enough to earn one an appointment with "Madame Guillotine" or "The National Razor". Estimates of the death toll range between 16,000 and 40,000.[14]

At this time, Paris executions were carried out in the Place de la Revolution (former Place Louis XV and current Place de la Concorde); the guillotine stood in the corner near the Hôtel Crillon where the statue of Brest can be found today.

Public guillotining in Lons-le-Saunier, 1897. Picture taken on 20 April 1897, in front of the jailhouse of Lons-le-Saunier, Jura. The man who was going to be beheaded was Pierre Vaillat, who killed two elder siblings on Christmas Day, 1896, in order to rob them and was condemned for his crimes on 9 March 1897.

For a time, executions by guillotine were a popular entertainment that attracted great crowds of spectators. Vendors would sell programs listing the names of those scheduled to die. Many people would come day after day and vie for the best locations from which to observe the proceedings; knitting female citizens (tricoteuses) formed a cadre of hardcore regulars, inciting the crowd as a kind of anachronistic cheerleaders. Parents would bring their children. By the end of the Terror, the crowds had thinned drastically. Excessive repetition had staled even this most grisly of entertainments, and audiences grew bored.

Eventually, the National Convention had enough of the Terror, partially fearing for their own lives, and turned against Maximilien Robespierre. In July 1794, he was arrested and executed in the same fashion as those whom he had condemned. This arguably ended the Terror, as the French expressed their discontent with Robespierre's policy by guillotining him.[15]

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Re: The Scarlet Pimpernel (Spoilers Allowed)


dalnewt wrote (excerpt from Wiki):
Public guillotining in Lons-le-Saunier, 1897. Picture taken on 20 April 1897, in front of the jailhouse of Lons-le-Saunier, Jura. The man who was going to be beheaded was Pierre Vaillat, who killed two elder siblings on Christmas Day, 1896, in order to rob them and was condemned for his crimes on 9 March 1897.

For a time, executions by guillotine were a popular entertainment that attracted great crowds of spectators. Vendors would sell programs listing the names of those scheduled to die. Many people would come day after day and vie for the best locations from which to observe the proceedings; knitting female citizens (tricoteuses) formed a cadre of hardcore regulars, inciting the crowd as a kind of anachronistic cheerleaders. Parents would bring their children. By the end of the Terror, the crowds had thinned drastically. Excessive repetition had staled even this most grisly of entertainments, and audiences grew bored.

Eventually, the National Convention had enough of the Terror, partially fearing for their own lives, and turned against Maximilien Robespierre. In July 1794, he was arrested and executed in the same fashion as those whom he had condemned. This arguably ended the Terror, as the French expressed their discontent with Robespierre's policy by guillotining him.[15]


 

And from our text:

 

"The women who drove the carts usually spent their day on the Place de la Greve, beneath the platform of the guillotine, knitting and gossiping, whilst they watched the rows of tumbrils arriving with the victims the Reign of Terror claimed every day. It was great fun to see the aristos arriving for the reception of Madame la Guillotine, and the places close by the platform were very much sought after. Bibot, during the day, had been on duty on the Place. He recognized most of the old hats, 'tricotteuses,' as they were called, who sat there and knitted, whilst head after head fell beneath the knife, and they themselves got quite bespattered with the blood of those cursed aristos. "

 

http://etext.virginia.edu/etcbin/toccer-new2?id=OrcPimp.sgm&images=images/modeng&data=/texts/english...

 

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Re: The Scarlet Pimpernel (Spoilers Allowed)

"The flowers are light sensitive that open in sunlight and fold up in the dark."

 

A fitting description for our hero, don't you think?

 

The Reign of Terror was a mighty influence in French history. It was appalling to read of the apparent bloodthirstiness of the townspeople. Especially in knowing that men, women, children and even infants were executed. How much hatred, or insanity, does it take to call for the death of an infant?

 

On the other hand, perhaps it was a way of protecting themselves. By seeming to be in accord with the ruling regime, they might avoid death themselves. This sort of thing happens in almost all rule-by-fear situations throughout history.

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Re: The Scarlet Pimpernel (Spoilers Allowed)

[ Edited ]

Desert_Brat wrote:

"The flowers are light sensitive that open in sunlight and fold up in the dark."

 

A fitting description for our hero, don't you think?


I looked for but couldn't find any definitive reason as to why Baroness Orczy chose the Scarlet Pimpernel as the hero's symbol. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that the Scarlet Pimpernel plant is a European weed that's hard to kill and pops up all over the place. Perhaps it's because the Scarlet Pimpernel appears in many different colors like the hero appears in different disguises. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that the Scarlet Pimpernel was used as an herbal purgative. (The hero certainly was a purgative for the French.) And, perhaps as you suggest, it has something to do with the flower blooming during the day and closing up at night.  

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Re: The Scarlet Pimpernel (Spoilers Allowed)

Good question! And some very good thoughts on it. Alas, I've not found anything either on Orczy's choice for a name. I got quite the giggle on the purgative, though.

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Question 2

Why doesn't Marguerite ask her husband for help?

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Re: Response to Question 2

[ Edited ]

Desert_Brat wrote:

Why doesn't Marguerite ask her husband for help?


Sorry it took me so long to get back to the discussion.

 

The easy answer is to conclude that Marguerite doesn't ask her husband, Sir Percy Blakeney, to help with Chauvelin because she dismisses him as an ineffectual fop.

 

On the first page of Chapter 12, she ruminates on why she didn't tell Sir Percy as follows:

 

"The short ray of hope--that she might find in this good-natured, lazy individual a valuable friend and adviser--had vanished as quickly as it had come, the moment she found herself alone with him. The same feeling of good-humored contempt which one feels for an animal or a faithful servant, made her turn away with a smile from the man who should have been her moral support in this heart-rending crisis....."

 

A more complete answer would be that Marguerite fails to turn to her husband for help because she has been hurt by him. As a defense mechanism, she prefers to disdain and dismiss him as a fop.   

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Re: Question 3

[ Edited ]

Once Sir Percy knows that Marguerite's brother is in danger why doesn't he tell her to stay put and confide in her? Note, he later confides, near the end of the book, that he knew she had given him away. So, when she tells him about her brother, he knows her motive was her brother's safety. If he knew all along about her betrayal of him and her motive, why doesn't he at least acknowledge that fact and tell her to stay safely in England? 

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Re: Question 4

[ Edited ]

Why have Marguerite and Sir Percy erected a wall between each other? Is it because he's from nobility and prideful? Is it because she was stung by the withdrawal of his affection and turned away from him when he changed so much? Or, does it have something to do with assumptions each has made about how the other should act?

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Re: Question 4

Oh, dear. I had planned on numbering the questions each week, but now it would seem out of place for me to put Question 3 next in light of the reply numbering.I'll start using a date with the question instead.

 

Dalnewt, I'm leaning more toward your explanation of their making assumptions about how the other should act. But mostly, I think that Percy does not want to reveal his secret identity in order to protect his wife. So he's sort of stuck between a rock and a hard place when he learns of her brother and can only suggest that she stay in England where she's safe.

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Re: Question 4

[ Edited ]

 


Desert_Brat wrote:

Oh, dear. I had planned on numbering the questions each week, but now it would seem out of place for me to put Question 3 next in light of the reply numbering.I'll start using a date with the question instead.

 

Dalnewt, I'm leaning more toward your explanation of their making assumptions about how the other should act. But mostly, I think that Percy does not want to reveal his secret identity in order to protect his wife. So he's sort of stuck between a rock and a hard place when he learns of her brother and can only suggest that she stay in England where she's safe.


Sorry about messing up your planned sequence for questions, but I didn't realize there was an intended sequence. (I guess I missed that aspect of your planned discussion.)

 

As regards Percy not telling his wife about the fact that he knows she outed the Pimpernel, protection just doesn't explain it, IMHO. When he finally does talk to her about it near the end of the book he indicates that he didn't tell her because he didn't think he could trust her and that he only did so after he realized that she had traveled to France to warn/protect him. In other words, maintaing his secret identity as the Pimpernel was more important to him than telling his wife, when she told him about her brother, that the Pimpernel knew all about her actions at the ball and collusion with the French agent. IMO, that doesn't really say a lot about the depth of his love for her.

 

Note, upon reading this book I realized how strange it is that everything is told from Marguerite's perspective as opposed to Percy's. After all, the book is about a disguised hero, but it's told from the Marguerite's viewpoint. I think the author chose to focus upon what Marguerite saw and knew because she was a woman herself. Also, the Pimpernel's identity could initially remain hidden from the reader.     

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Re: Question 2

[ Edited ]

Actually, you'll see in the next few chapters (9-14) that Percy's coolness appears to be affected as Percy and Marguerite go to their country home. Lady Blakeney confesses to Percy  that she was tricked into condemning the Marquis de Cyr's family at the tribunal. She also tells him of her brother's situation. Percy is still unmoved but assures her that the brother will be safe.

 

Lady Blakeney fears that she has lost her husband's love for good. Only when Lady Blakeney leaves, despondent by her husband's refusal to show her love, does Percy break down, clearly still very much in love with his wife.

 

Lady Blakeney realizes she has always been in love with Percy and that she has underestimated him. She also wonders why he presents himself as such a bufoon when he is clearly a competent and thoughtful man.

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dalnewt
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Re: Question 2

[ Edited ]

Desert_Brat wrote:

Actually, you'll see in the next few chapters (9-14) that Percy's coolness appears to be affected as Percy and Marguerite go to their country home. Lady Blakeney confesses to Percy  that she was tricked into condemning the Marquis de Cyr's family at the tribunal. She also tells him of her brother's situation. Percy is still unmoved but assures her that the brother will be safe.

 

Lady Blakeney fears that she has lost her husband's love for good. Only when Lady Blakeney leaves, despondent by her husband's refusal to show her love, does Percy break down, clearly still very much in love with his wife.

 

Lady Blakeney realizes she has always been in love with Percy and that she has underestimated him. She also wonders why he presents himself as such a bufoon when he is clearly a competent and thoughtful man.


I understand Marguerite a lot better than Percy. Maybe it's because the book is written from her perspective, but it may also be because I'm a woman. Nonetheless, the stereotyping of the 'feminine' is gagging at times.

 

I just don't understand why Percy holds back from Marguerite when she tells him the full story of her role in the Tribunal's condemnation of the Marquis de Cyr and her brother's plight. Maybe he thinks that she'll never figure out that he's the Pimpernel and hopes to shield her through ignorance? But, surely he could have assured her that the Pimpernel knows (or willl know) of her role in outing his identity at the ball. Instead, Percy stays silent on the matter. And, she also remains silent about her role in betraying the Pimpernel out of fear that she will further estrange her husband.

 

I've gotta say that both the main characters seem rather childish and shallow when it comes down to it.  

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Re: Question 2

All I'm going to say is that things are about to change ... heh, heh, heh :smileywink:

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Question #3

What is the Scarlet Pimpernel's greatest difficulty in his disguises?

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dalnewt
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Re: Question #3

[ Edited ]

Desert_Brat wrote:

What is the Scarlet Pimpernel's greatest difficulty in his disguises?


The Pimpernel is very tall--so it's his height.  He has to stoop to conceal it.

 

As Chauvelin explains to his secretary Desgas when trying to capture the Pimpernel at Calais:

 

"The men," he continued, "are to keep the sharpest possible look-out for any stranger who may be walking, riding, or driving, along the road or beach, more especially for a tall stranger, guised; but he cannot very well conceal his height, except by stooping."