Gertrud von Le Fort's "The Song at the Scaffold". The Irony of Marquis' Sympathy for the French Revolution

Essay, 2017

5 Pages




Marquis’ Irony

Marie’s Desire for Martyrdom

Blanche’s Irony

Outward Heroism


Works Cited


Gertrud von Le Fort is the author of The Song at the Scaffold published by The Neumann Press-Publisher in 1931. The book is set in the French Revolution era and bears various characters among them, Marquis de la Force, Blanche de la Force and Sister Marie. The pronounced stylistic device applied by the author is irony which shows through the description of the mentioned characters. Thus, the essay describes the illustration of the paradox in ‘The Song at the Scaffold’ with the three said roles as the case study.

Marquis’ Irony

Marquis de la Force is a learned citizen. He has a liberal approach to handling situations and is very rational and secular that he could hardly approve religion. Marquis believes in reason which makes him an interesting character. He depicts the free-spirited approach to life that he reveals in his interaction with Branch la Force’s mentor, his daughter who heavily believes in Christianity. Contrary to Marquis Philosophy, one expects that the difference in belief of the two would make him less supportive of her, yet he goes ahead to hire her as the governess and further surprises the reader when he is unmoved by her desires to become a Carmelite. Also, Marquis portrays irony in his interaction with the affairs of the French Revolution. He sympathises with certain unwanted liberties of the staff in the Royal Palace when a majority of citizens do not appreciate those liberties. For instance, Marquis is so esteemed by the sceptical writings of Voltaire and Diderot. The ideas of the two were great in theory and this abstract approach to situations was a key misgiving for Marquis, who could not comprehend the magnitude of circumstance until it is in reality, in concrete. Marquis is depicted as not giving inner thought, addressing the sceptical writings of Voltaire or any other leaders with the thoroughness that it deserved. He was for the ideas so strongly that in general discussions, he defended the ideologies. However, later after reality sets in and he realises that the ideas he stood for were not worthwhile and hurt the ordinary persons, he repudiates them. In his praise for the revolution, Marquis speaks greatly of the fireworks and King Louis daughter’s wedding. The fireworks to him were a great thing until the failures of the revolution happened, blowing it into a catastrophe that claimed lives. The writer then paints him ironically; denouncing the use of fireworks by the revolution just like other people had initially alluded.

Marie’s Desire for Martyrdom

Marie is a catholic sister, a believer who seeks to serve the purpose of God and the doctrines of her church to people around her. Her depiction is that of a strong female character who is brave, level headed and very spiritual that she portrays martyr tendencies. She prepares herself for the worst, and in the process, she grows strong and view those around her as weak, such as Blanche. Marie de L’Incarnation in her quest to martyrdom convinces the convent Carmel de Compiegne to offer consecration that foreshadows her fate. Notably, it is ironical that in her working, she does so much sacrificing for God and for her faith with the motive of being sanctified. Sadly, the same does not happen. The paradox is that her wishes befall Blanche de La Force who attains greater sanctity. In the end, Sister Marie is depicted as having given in to fate and admitting that it is possibly God’s will that she turned out as she has even after openly showing her desire for martyrdom.

Blanche’s Irony

Blanche de la Force is Marquis’ daughter. She had the tremendous fear of everything that affects life, from relationships to faith and religion and her confidence too. She lived side by side with the lady Marie who on the contrary, embraced issues affecting the society greatly. As Marquis’s daughter, Blanche de la Force is a depiction of the character that placed her high in the social strata of the French. Her father, to accord her chance to conquer her fears, elected a governess who was both a mentor and a symbol of hope for Blanche. The author depicts Blanche as gradually being influenced by the governess even to have little faith in the "Infant King" who we today refer to as Jesus (Von 49). She grows in confidence in each step of the way in the novel and eventually embraces being Christian and Catholic. The most significant irony in her characterisation arises when she elicits her desire to be a Carmelite, a path which means one has wholly embraced Christianity and is giving their lives to serve the purpose of the church. The move is perturbing as this character from the onset had never dared to encompass many aspects of life, neither politics nor religion. The irony depicted by the above circumstance further highlights that fear plays a crucial role in the path to salvation as it always overshadows courage until one has the nerve to flip the coin and overcome. If not guarded or mentored through fears, individual achievements are unreachable.


Excerpt out of 5 pages


Gertrud von Le Fort's "The Song at the Scaffold". The Irony of Marquis' Sympathy for the French Revolution
University of the West of England, Bristol
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
gertrud, fort, song, scaffold, irony, marquis, sympathy, french, revolution
Quote paper
Dr. Amos Wesonga (Author), 2017, Gertrud von Le Fort's "The Song at the Scaffold". The Irony of Marquis' Sympathy for the French Revolution, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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