Friday, February 14, 2014

Discovering True Love: Percy and Marguerite

Anthony Andrews and Jane Seymour in The Scarlet Pimpernel (1982)

What is romance? A lot of people picture it as hearts and flowers and that tingly sensation in the pit of the stomach. It can be that unspoken attraction between two people before they even really meet each other. A glance across a crowded room. A touch of a hand that sparks something unexpected.

For Sir Percival Blakeney in The Scarlet Pimpernel, it was a glance across a room that started his inexplicable infatuation with Marguerite St. Just. He knew nothing of her, not really even her name when he first encountered her. Only that she was the sister of a man he happened to save because that's what Percy does . . . he saves people. It is the perfect moment of love at first sight for any romantic dreamer.

Yet, in rewatching my beloved Pimpernel, I began wondering about something. Percy, despite his absolute adoration of Marguerite, is also unyielding and unforgiving when he thinks she has betrayed a man to his death via Madame la Guillotine. Most people would inquire of Marguerite as to whether the rumors were true, but not Percy. Instead, he chooses to believe that they are true. He believes that the woman he loves could be so utterly heartless as to cause someone's death. This shockingly upsetting realization sent trepidation through me. Could it be possible that Percy is not as perfect as I imagined him? Horrors, what a notion!

Percy finds it hard to forgive. He literally torments his sweet Marguerite for months on end by withholding his affection from her, withholding his true self from her and constantly hiding behind the foppish mask he uses as a disguise. He is perhaps, dare I say it, cruel to his wife upon suspecting her as being guilty of anything less than perfection. This led me to a further thought. Whatever made Percy suppose that Marguerite was perfect? Oh, she is not guilty of sending anyone to the guillotine, but she is still just a woman and will make silly mistakes. Percy assumes a role he was never meant to assume, that of Marguerite's judge.

A moment of Percy's cruelty to Marguerite.

The stunning conclusion to my line of thought is that even the most idyllic romance is still far from perfect. Marguerite, in her absurd moment of self-sacrifice, refuses to defend herself because she insists Percy should believe her without her defending herself. And Percy, he refuses to dig into the facts of Marguerite's role in the deaths in France because he assumes that he knows the truth already. These two people make up one of my favorite romantic couples in all of literary history, yet they still lack the communication necessary to create that perfect romance that men and women alike desperately yearn to experience.

Does that mean there is no perfect romance? That true love is only a fairy tale of thinner substance than the air? Of course not. It does, however, mean that we are looking for true love in all of the wrong places. If you and I are looking for a person who will never betray us, never hurt us, never reject us, then we're going to be sorely disappointed because there is no such perfect person. At least, there is none now.

Once upon a time, there was a Man who sacrificed everything, His very life, to save the entire world. And He knew exactly what kind of evil thoughts and desires resided in every human heart, but He chose to love each and every one of us anyway. Percy was stunned to think that his beloved Marguerite was less than perfect. Jesus Christ is never stunned at our imperfections because he knows about them before we do. When He shared the last supper with His disciples in Matthew 26:27-28, Jesus said of the wine, "Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins." He didn't say all because He knew that not everyone would accept it, but he didn't say few either. The forgiveness is offered to many, to anyone who will reach out and accept it.

A stolen moment of passion and forgiveness.

Think of John 3:16. This is probably the most recognized Bible verse in the entire world, known even by people who only went to Sunday school because their grandmother dragged them. It reads, "For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life." Simplicity itself, yet so easy to ignore. But it is verse 17 that always speaks to my heart, "For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him." God knows all of the evil thoughts we have, all of the evil things we've done, yet He still sent His Son to die on a cross to save us, not to condemn us. And Jesus obeyed out of love. He offers us a way out. Percy inevitably reaches a point of knowing that Marguerite isn't guilty and the relationship can heal. God knows that we're guilty and He sent Jesus anyway.

I will always love The Scarlet Pimpernel. But now I know it a little better I think, for these considerations about the very humanity of Percy and Marguerite. If anything, Percy proved to me that he is still just a man. He is a great, loving, and heroic man, but still only human and therefore prone to human frailties. I don't love him any less for being what he is, but it was also refreshing to come full circle, back to the knowledge that even if there is no such thing as the perfect romantic relationship, there is such a thing as a perfect love.

Percy loves Marguerite to the best of his human ability, and he loves her mightily. But Christ loved me, and you, enough to sacrifice Himself on the cross, not thinking we were perfect and worthy of His sacrifice, but knowing that we weren't. Now that, my friends, is true love.

As men go, however, I'll take a Sir Percival Blakeney any day!

Remember to submit your answers to my Scarlet Pimpernel Quotation Challenge and GIVEAWAY! I'll post the winner tonight around 8pm MST so get those answers submitted. A free Ivanhoe DVD is a lovely prize, if I do say so myself . . . which I do. *winks*


  1. Percy makes many mistakes; in letting his “heart dictate the pace,” he falls in love much too soon with a woman he doesn’t even know; his NOT knowing her enables him to believe the worst of her through a rumor, and to shut her out of his life. His foolishness in believing in true love at a glance enables Armand to go running to his lady love, resulting in Percy’s cover being blown and his capture. He is a romantic at heart, a good man wrapped up in his own foolish idealism, which forces him to make drastic mistakes that very nearly cost him his life. I love Percy, but he is more of a true fool than a false one. It is Percy, after all, who needs Margot’s forgiveness!

    (The book makes Percy’s sentimental foolishness even more apparent – he’s an incurable romantic, which makes his tendency to judge at first glance more understandable.)

    You make lovely points about our imperfections and our need for God – the only one who will, truly, never let us down. :)

    1. I can promise you one thing, I will never write about TSP again. I think once this blog hop is over, I'll have any and all AA posts totally out of my system, having covered just about anything he's ever done that's worthwhile!

      I may not necessarily believe in love at first sight, but I do believe in attraction at first sight. It's like when I instantly dislike someone even though I've just met them. I can't explain the reasons behind my dislike, only that I have it. It's same way with people I like. I usually either like someone immediately or not at all. Fortunately the not at all doesn't happen very often. I think that Percy is much too fast. She's not so fast and she wanted a slower pace. It must have been heartbreaking for her to think she'd lost his love when perhaps she wasn't even sure how she'd obtained it in the first place. I think that a guy who declared his love after only meeting twice would completely freak me out on so many levels! I sympathize with poor Marguerite.

      I'm planning to re-read the Orczy series sometime in the upcoming year, I'm just not sure when. I only read TSP, and I remember how absurdly romantic Percy was at times.

    2. Sick of TSP, huh? I can hardly blame you, after exhausting it from every possible angle!

      I believe in attraction at first sight too; sometimes you just click with someone, but clicking with them doesn’t mean they’re going to be a good match for you! You might really click with someone who doesn’t share your moral values or belief system, or you might click with someone who is ruthlessly ambitious! I… tend to not feel very strongly about most people; I have an immediate dislike for a few, and an immediate adoration for a few, but in general most people I’m indifferent toward.

      Percy is your typical romantic – his heart runs away with him. Margot, as a sensor, is more rational even if she is a romantic too. But yes, that was devastating for her, to have him play the farce in private as well as public. Bad boy! Bad! Bad! Think of all the sex you could be having, except you’re no longer visiting her room!

      Oops… did I just say that out loud?


      I do think, however, that Percy's unwillingness to trust her doesn't *just* stem from being unforgiving (although I completely agree it's a part of it). With the huge amount of responsibility placed on him, the idea that she could be a traitor could endanger the lives of hundreds of people. Although I have my "stupid Percy!" moments when it comes to this issue, I tend to think *more* of him because he doesn't give in to the (what he believes to be) risk of betraying these people.

      Just my two cents. :)

    4. Thanks for adding your two cents, Alexandra! It's been so many days since I wrote this post, I'm having to look back over it and see what I said. One of my concerns about Percy is that he doesn't attempt any research to see if the accusation is true. He just assumes that it must be. He doesn't ask her if it's true, he just acts on a rumor. I love Percy, but he needed to look into the allegations instead of just trusting that they were true. Still, I really only think like this when I'm in an analyzing mood, and that doesn't always happen. Sometimes I love him without giving a single, solitary thought to any meaning behind his actions! ;)

  2. Just in case you aren't aware of it, Miss Amy Dashwood and some friends are making a web series version of TSP called "Masked." Details here. Won't be out until next summer, but thought you'd be interested :-)

    1. That is the neatest thing! I had absolutely no idea, so thanks for sharing! I've never actually watched a web series so this will be interesting. Here's hoping they actually get it off the ground. :)

    2. Well... and how he could possibly inquire about this? Ask her, as Armand suggested? But that's nonsence, she is an actress and if it was true, she could lie to him with the most innocent face. And, because just a few words of accusation were enough for sending someone to the guillotine, almost without any formal procedures, there, most likely, was no other information on this case other than that arrest warrant. Ask other people? But who? And wouldn't this be quite suspicious that an "idiot" is suddenly so interested in some beheaded Frenchman? And he doesn't simply "assume" that she is guilty, he says to Armand something like: "if this is true" - he is in doubts all the time (and I like it!). Yes, he is cruel (a little), but he is shocked of what she seems to have done - sending a man and his entire family (and children - this was the most shocking thing about it to Percy) to death is not just a silly mistake and a human weakness. He wears a mask, so he is naturally suspecting that she hasn't shown her real face yet too. He knows too well that he fell in love at first sight with Chauvelin's mistress (TSP1982), and he knows what kind of person Chauvelin is. So I think in this cirumctanses he did the best he could do without risking the League. My verdict is: not guilty! At least, in the 1982 film :)

      Yours truly, Tanya (and forgive my English, please, I'm not a native speaker).

  3. I agree with Tanya that Percy couldn't really do an investigation under the circumstance in TSP 1982. And I love the way the movie showed how Percy believed in Marguerite when she went to the library to warn Scarlet Pimpernel. To me it's not just what she said about Chauvelin maliciously putting her name on the arrest warrant, but also, even more importantly, her action of risking her brother's life and maybe her own in order to warn Scarlet Pimpernel, the hero whom she didn't even know. Her action made her words believable to Percy who is a very careful secret agent. Therefore I don't think he was guilty for not investigating.

    Nonetheless, I don't think he should have been so cruel to her, especially with what he said to her, "what has poor Armond done to be condemned to matrimony". And I agree that Percy is not perfect and Jesus is the only perfect one.

    Yours sincerely, MH


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