Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Percival Blakeney, Baronet: The Man Behind the Mask

Anthony Andrews as Sir Percy in The Scarlet Pimpernel (1982)

Do you ever feel like you're wearing a facade? Like what the world sees is not who you really are underneath?

Whenever I watch The Scarlet Pimpernel, I always ponder the difficulties of pretending to be an idiotic fop in front of the entire world. Percy is a first-class hero, one that should have really existed, a man who risked his life going into Paris and rescuing doomed members of the aristocracy during the French Revolution. Yet, to all but a few trusted associates, he is nothing more than a buffoon who cares more about his perfectly tied cravat than human lives.

Does anyone ever wonder how this affected him? Was it hard for him, knowing that his peers, the people in his circle of influence that didn't know his secret, thought him a fop? It would have killed me, hearing those whispers behind my back, the slight derision and condescension in their tones. Even the Prince of Wales finds Percy to be excessively absurd. So, why does Percy put forward this facade of idiocy? To protect the people in his life, and those who he rescues.

This is what makes Percy a hero. He is willing to suffers the "slings and arrows" of his peers in order to save lives. Not once does Percy give the implication that he suffers from the mocking words or glances. No, instead he merely puffs himself up like a peacock and plays the fop even more determinedly than before. Why? Because he does not care what others might think of him. The more they ridicule, the more he knows his plan is working.

One of the things I admire most is how he does what needs to be done regardless of the thoughts and whispers of others. He knows his own mind, knows what he wants to do, and he's grateful for this facade he's created that will allow him to perform his rescue missions with anonymity. Percy understands that his personal comfort and safety mean nothing when lives are at stake. He is the epitome of a hero because he puts the safety of others first and himself last, always.

The League of the Scarlet Pimpernel

The League of the Scarlet Pimpernel is made up of gentlemen, like himself, men of courage and fortitude who cannot agree with the actions of the French peasantry in murdering their aristocracy. Unlike many such men in England, however, Percy actually acts upon his conviction. He sees a wrong, and he takes positive steps to right it. He implements his plan, and to do that successfully, he needs that mask. No one would ever imagine that Sir Percival Blakeney, the most foppish man in London society, could be The Scarlet Pimpernel in disguise. By his behavior and mannerisms, he protects his associates as well, the facade of the fop covering almost everyone in his company.

Perhaps this is what makes Percy's love for Marguerite so profoundly sincere. For everyone outside the League, he plays the fop. But he can't do it with her, not easily, and it breaks his heart when he must. More on their romance next time . . .

Note: Next post on the agenda is: By the Pricking of My Thumbs: The Trouble with Tommy scheduled for release on Friday, 2/7. Enjoy!


  1. I think I wear a facade less as an adult than when I was younger. I still in some sense deceive myself and others (I need others more than I care to let on) but I do better at sincerity now. Percy's deception is unique in that he is portraying himself utterly as someone other than he is -- there is NO resemblance between the true Percy and the foppish Percy. And yet, Margaurite sees right through him ("Are you an actor too, acting out some strange charade?").

    ... I was going to write more and then realized, I could make an entire blog post out of what I was going to say about Percy's charade and how I identify with it. So I'll do that instead, and simply say -- excellent post. Great fodder for thought.

    1. Mine is the kind of facade that treats others kindly, even when I'm actually irritated as all get-out. I'm sincere a great deal of the time, but I still have bouts where my eyes are inwardly crossing as I'm listening to someone prattle. Worse is when I dislike someone and am forced to listen to them. Then I know I'm being insincere and it disturbs me how well I fake it. Not quite as well as Percy, though. I dearly wish that one of my higher functions was Ne instead of Si. Phoo! ;)

      With Percy, he is remarkable. He truly is nothing like the fop that the world sees. Marguerite gets a glimpse of the real man during their courtship, and it must have shattered her heart to pieces when he stopped showing her that side of himself. That will be an upcoming post, possibly next week.

      And I'm glad you were inspired to write a blog post and not just a response, although I love those too! I had a lot of fun with this one, but I can hardly wait to hear your thoughts on his episode of Miss Marple. That post is scheduled for release on Friday, and I had a lot of thoughts and considerations into the marriage of Tommy and Tuppence. :)

    2. Well, it’s GOOD to treat people kindly even if you don’t want to; that’s how we’re supposed to treat them! We should always be kind, even if we don’t want to be. =P

      Ne is… an interesting function to have. It picks up on a lot of things. It’s a good manipulator function. Fortunately, I see most manipulation as futile so I don’t do it as much as I could. I still do it, though. And… it can make you wrong. Really, really wrong in your assumptions – like Percy assuming the worst about the woman he loved. It’s an imaginative function, which has its pros and cons. Pro – can come up with awesome ideas; con – makes one distrusting and suspicious.

      I look forward to your Percy/Margot post. :)

      My “Brideshead Revisited” post is scheduled for tomorrow. I’ll save Pimpernel for later in the month. I may have to re-watch his Marple; I remember some aspects but not others (creepy! Witches in the wood, yes?).

    3. I love that. . . you see most manipulation as futile! I hate to say it, but for someone that has Ne as a lower function, I utilize the manipulation sometimes. I know exactly what buttons to push on certain people, and sometimes I just love pushing them because I know exactly how that person will react. Bad, right?

      The episode for Marple is fantastic! He's not in it enough, and it's apparently nothing like the book, but it's Anthony so I don't care. I can hardly wait to read your Brideshead post!

    4. Most manipulation serves no point other than cruelty, so my Fe usually kicks it in the pants before too long. I also know what buttons to push -- I merely resist pushing them most of the time. I still do it with family members once in awhile; I shouldn't, and I'm endevoring to stop.

      No, it's nothing like the book and as you said elsewhere, Marple was never in it to start with -- it's purely a Tommy and Tuppance novel. I can't say I've appreciated what they've done with Agatha Christie's books over the last decade. Sadly, they are now in the public domain (I believe), so they can do what they like with them -- change murderers, add incest, homosexuality, etc. But it is a joy to see so may top notch actors turn up in them. (Did you ever see the one with Richard Armitage? He played a charmer of a rotter.)


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