I recently finished reading Charles Dickens' masterpiece A Tale of Two Cities. The story was exciting, the imagery vivid, and the characters leaped off of the page, so I was surprised to find myself focusing on an issue in my own life as I became engrossed in the plot. Little did I think, when I began reading this classic, that I would be lead on a quest that would change my innate nature, as a woman.
As in all Dickens stories, there are many characters with different story lines to follow in the novel. But two stood out in my mind-- even though they are not the most pivotal-- and would not leave my thoughts. The first is Miss Lucie Manette. My initial impressions of her, I'm ashamed to say, were not complimentary. And I began to examine why I looked down on her. She was a lovely girl with a kind heart, but she trembled, and threatened to faint at least once. But why did that bother me? I read her description over and over again, and tried to figure out why I was not able to associate myself with her. I continued through the chapter, and she began to show some bravery. As I watched her nurture her crazed father without fear, I came to respect her more.
And all the while, a conflict was arising in my sub-conscious. Why did I have a problem with Miss Manette? I realized that I was touched with jealousy. Every person, man or woman, who came in contact with her, wanted to protect her. She was femininity defined-- but not helpless. She had nursed her father back to health through her intense nurturing. She did not shy away from his lunacy. Father and daughter clung to each other, and her love worked miracles. When her true love was imprisoned in a nation fraught with danger, she pressed forward and raced to his side. Violence raged around her, yet she remained pure and innocent-- a strong, yet feminine woman.
In contrast, Madame Defarge and her peer group of women (including one woman named only "The Vengeance") screeched with fury and soaked themselves in the business of revenge. I was horrified. These were wives and mothers who left their children each day to tend to "La Guillotine," and revel in the bloodthirsty trials. Why, oh why, had I ever found this woman impressive?! Her obsession became uncontrollable and deadly to all who came in contact with her. She was equal with Lady Macbeth and Medea. The picture of womanhood was so twisted and perverted that I was brought to tears of despair and disgust.
So what does this have to do with MY life? With the world today? Because of the contrast between these two women, I was impacted, as never before, with the ugly lies and deception associated with today's so-called "feminist movement." What has this movement reaped, in terms of fruit? Confusion, the erosion of moral values, the decay of families, the near-extinction of woman's divine feminine nature! And I was ashamed to find that I had bought into this twisted view of womanhood. "But I'm a homeschooling, stay-at-home mom of a large family!" I said to myself. "Where did I come up with this 'holier than thou' attitude?" Yet, I realized, that I have been taught by society, by my conveyor belt education, and by the media, to look down upon "weak women." I have clearly seen the “Madame Defarges” of today. And their reality is frightening.
Through Lucie Manette's actions, I saw that there is strength and power in nurturing. That really surprised me. Her calming, feminine, caring presence and efforts saved the lives of others. Her willingness to sacrifice for those she loved, gave her the ultimate influence. She was a strong woman-- and it was her beautiful, soft femininity which made her so.So today, when I feel like a martyr, or yell at my kids, or grumble about my responsibilities, I stop and ask myself: "Am I reacting as a woman like Lucie, or like Madame Defarge?" After reading this "Tale of Two Women," I don't even question whom I wish to emulate.
Now, my work begins.