Friday, April 27, 2012

Defending Sir Percy

The Scarlet Pimpernel did not take it upon himself to punish the guilty; his care was solely of the helpless and of the innocent. For this aim he risked his life every time that he set foot on French soil, for it he sacrificed his fortune, and even his personal happiness, and to it he devoted his entire existence. [...] The Scarlet Pimpernel was a personality of whom an entire nation might be justly proud.
~El Dorado by Baroness Orczy

Being the unashamed word geek that I am, I find puns hilarious (even those that cause everyone around me to groan and roll their eyes) and take great delight in oxymorons.  If you don't know what an oxymoron is, let me enlighten you: it's a phrase that contradicts itself, like "jumbo shrimp", "chilled hot chocolate," "boring Jane Austen" or "defending Sir Percy".

Because, you know, Sir Percy doesn't need anyone to defend him.  Seriously.  If there's going to be any defending going on here, Percy's the one who does the defending.  Are we clear on this?

All that said, it has come to the attention of one Miss Amy Dashwood that Sir Percy Blakeney, Baronet, has been getting a bad rap lately.  There seem to be two kinds of people in this world: those who appreciate the Scarlet Pimpernel (spoiler alert: Percy is the Scarlet Pimpernel. All my apologies in advance) and those who don't know what they're missing.  The ones who appreciate Percy as he is meant to be appreciated go by many names, but my favorite term is one coined by the staunchest of them all: the Leaguettes.   The Leaguettes (female members of the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel) are faithful fans of the books, the movie, and the man himself (and his lovely wife, but unfortunately she gets forgotten occasionally, especially when we're being jealous of her. Ahem).  Then there is the other camp, the people who think Sir Percy is nice enough and even heroic, but nothing to write home about.  They seem to be laboring under the mistaken delusion that Percy is humorous and even gallant, but unrealistic.  (Technically there's a third group: those who know nothing about The Scarlet Pimpernel [TSP], but we can only hope that they will come out from under their rocks as soon as possible.)

In case you couldn't tell, I'm a Leaguette.  Anne-girl has declared today the Official Percy Day of Hero Week, and so I'm going to take this opportunity to refute the unfounded accusations against poor misunderstood Sir Percy.  (Disclaimer: I'm a huge TSP fan, but I'm not the Fan to End All Fans and therefore am not the ultimate authority on His Awesomeness.  If you want to read an explanation of Percy's greatness by the Greatest Fan herself, go here.)

First of all, I'd like to combat the theory that Percy is a goofball.  Ladies, puh-leeze.  Look, he's a hero in disguise.  And in this case, Mr. Darcy's famous quote about disguise of every kind being his abhorrence doesn't fit, because Percy's disguises have a heroic reason behind them.  He's putting his life on the line for the sake of helpless innocents.  For those of you who don't know, Percy's story takes place during the French Revolution, when Robespierre's Reign of Terror was sending hundreds of people to the guillotine every day.  Sir Percy Blakeney, Baronet, and his band of nineteen brave men pledged themselves to rescue as many French aristocrats as they could, working under the mysterious name of the Scarlet Pimpernel.  Since Percy would be immediately arrested if the French authorities knew who the Scarlet Pimpernel really was, it was necessary for his "public personality" to be as far removed from his real identity as possible, so that no one would ever know that the brainless fop was truly the bravest of heroes.  

Percy is a consummate actor, and his foppish (I do like that word, it's such fun), dandified alter ego succeeded in fooling nearly everyone.  Obviously, it's fooled some of you too.  A dear friend who shall remain anonymous to protect her identity (heehee, shall I refer to her as Madame Pimpernel?) said that she felt his funny way of acting annoys her too much.  "Okay, so, in the movie it's funny... but first time is funny, second time is silly, and third time is a spanking, y'know? He seems to act that way much more than he really needs to."  Now, I'm of the firm opinion that everyone is entitled to her own opinion (just as long as it's the same as mine--- KIDDING, I'm KIDDING) but I have to respectfully disagree with Madame here.  Since I would never be able to say it half so well in my own phraseology, I'll just give you a few words from the man himself.
If we are to succeed, we must maintain our anonymity, mask our identities, even if it means suffering the mockery of others. Being taken for fools, fops, nitwits, even cowards. (from the 1982 movie)

I'm trying my hardest not to just quote Alexandra for this entire post :D but I can't resist it here.  In her recent guest post on Scribblings, she said:
It takes a lot of guts to sacrifice your reputation when with one flick of the eyeglass you could declare that you are The Scarlet Pimpernel and instantly have a nation falling at your feet. A Real Hero doesn’t do his good deeds to get a pat on the back. He often works behind the scenes so as to not get credit. Because credit isn’t the point for him. It’s doing what is right.   
Are you convinced yet? In this day and age, a man's reputation is not what it once was.  Years ago, a man's honor and good name were his most precious possessions.  As Shakespeare famously said, "Who steals my purse steals trash... but he who filches from me my good name robs me of that which not enriches him and makes me poor indeed."  (Be proud of me, Anne-girl-- I wrote that entire quote from memory.)  Sir Percy, like any other respectable gentleman, puts great stock in his honor... yet he's willing to give it up for the sake of something far more important.  If others want to think that he truly is an idiot, he's willing to let that slide because there's something so much greater at stake.

If you still aren't convinced, then listen very closely to what I'm about to say:

Go read El Dorado.

It's unquestionably the best TSP novel ever written, and I firmly believe that I didn't know how much of a hero Sir Percy was until I read that book.  (At the risk of my life at the hands of the other Leaguettes, I should mention here that I heartily disliked Sir Percy at the beginning of the first book.  *ducks broadswords*  Needless to say, I'd changed my tune by the end, once I'd realized that the idiocy was only a mask.)

Brief El Dorado synopsis: Percy and his men are on a mission to rescue the young Dauphin of France, but a series of insanely stupid acts of disobedience on the part of Marguerite's unworthy brother Armand (pardon me while I do a Mr. Knightley-esque ERRRRMMM!) land Percy in prison, captured by his archenemy Citizen Chauvelin.  Chauvelin is seriously one of the worst villains in literature, and I guess you could say that he gets his finest hour in El Dorado. Percy is in his hands, and Chauvelin literally stops at nothing--not even torture--to get Percy to give up the Dauphin.  I could go into a long discourse about the merits of this wonderful book, but I'll save that for an e-mail to Ally and instead just provide you with one of the most beautiful passages in the novel.  Marguerite has just come to  visit Percy in prison (he's being starved to death and deprived of sleep, peoples) and begged him to do what Chauvelin asks, but he refuses.
She understood that long ago he had mapped out the course of his life, and now that that course happened to lead up a Calvary of humiliation and of suffering he was not likely to turn back, even though, on the summit, death already was waiting and beckoning with no uncertain hand; not until he could murmur, in the wake of the great and divine sacrifice itself, the sublime words: "It is accomplished."
Kleenex, please.  Also smelling salts, if you happen to have any handy.  (Why does no one carry smelling salts anymore?  Let's bring back smelling salts!)

Naturally, it all turns out okay in the end (oops, I just spoiled THAT for you) but trust me, this is a book you should not miss.  (Yes, Melody, I'm talking to you.)

One last point before I wrap this up: Percy and Marguerite's relationship at first struck me as being sappy and overdone.  You must remember that I was only twelve when I read TSP, and so excuses must be made.  By the time I saw the movie, however (at sixteen) I was completely won over.  See, the true romance in the Blakeneys' relationship doesn't really come into effect until after the honeymoon.  And for a girl who always wanted to know what came after the happily ever after, that's the best part of the love story.  I firmly believe that Marguerite and Percy were in love when they got married-- but not completely, not yet.  Soon after the wedding, they both began to have (not unfounded) doubts about the other that led to a huge rift in their marriage.  It wasn't until they'd been through various fiery trials that showed each of them just how worthy the other was that they really and truly realized their love for each other.

In my humble opinion, that is.

I should like to also take this time, while I still have your attention (you are paying attention, right? Right?  Hey! Wake up!) to point out some other important elements of Sir Percy's character; namely, his fashion sense (for though clothes are not really his only waking thought, he does know how to dress and who doesn't appreciate that?), his gift for poetry (if a rhyme rhymes, it makes a poem, if you follow me), his inexhaustible wit (sink me, your tailors have betrayed you), his ultimate adherence to fair play (m'dear chap, never would have dreamt of depriving you of your moment of pleasure) and last but not least, his monocle-eyeglass-thingie.

Sink me, if I haven't come to the end.  Are you convinced yet?  If not... *tosses copy of El Dorado* Yours, I believe.

PS: For more about Sir Percy, check out The Day Dream, a blog devoted to this hero and his stories.


Maria Elisabeth said...

I don't need convincing, but will you toss me a copy of El Dorado anyways?

Thank you. It is a shame to never have held a copy of one of your absolutely-most favorite books in your hands.

Ah, it is so much fun to be a Leaguette.....

Alexandra said...

I was squeaaaaling through the whole thing. First off because I just watched it again last night and am in heights of Percy/AA fangirlism because of it...two because in all modesty I was tickled to death at the oh-so-lovely epithets I received. It's better than any kind of award. Yuppers.

Three because it was just a spectacular post that I was totally nodding at the whole time. LOVE LOVE LOVE.

And hey, I totally agree with you about Percy in the first book. If I hadn't known going into it, I probably wouldn't have liked him, either. :-P El Dorado should be required reading for everyone on the planet. The end. (I usually read it about once a month...and the prison scene about once a week :-P)

And totally agree about Marguerite and Percy...

and all those other things about Percy. :-)

Ok, so I am definitely in Paradise today. Happy siiiiiiiigh....

And sending HUGE cyber-hugs and squealy jumpy fangirl dances your way. Because I'm about to explode. Ahem. Anyway.

Anna said...

Alexandra you make me laugh. : ) After reading all these hero posts my sister and I are going around sighing, dreaming, and talking about TSP. Our family who has not read or watched it are just rolling their eyes at us. Too bad for them! I just wish I could meet some other TSP lovers!

Now forgive me if I have already commented on this post, I've commented on so many blogs on posts about Sir Percy I'm starting to be confused on what I've said and haven't...

The point is El Dorado is incredible. I read TCP first and loved it, then I read El Dorado and nearly died from happiness... Its truly one of the most amazing books ever written. I just wanted to cry with Sir Percy in prison, yet he is always strong and quick whited.

Why is this series not more popular!?! I am making it my mission (or one of them) to introduce Sir Percy to the world. The world deserves to know! We need men who are inspired by Sir Percy and act like him.

Carrots said...

If Alexandra is doing fangirl dances your way, then I am doing Mr. Collins' little jig at the beginning of his dance with Elizabeth in P&P '95 your way. (uhhh...did I just say that? no way, my sister and I don't rewind that part 5 times in row to laugh at Mr. Collins' awkwardness...who does that??..) Ehem, back to topic. This whole post just made me sigh in pure ecstasy over the hero-ness of Sir Percy. I just really...can't find anything to say..."If I loved The Scarlet Pimpernel less, I might be able to talk about it more." Contented sigh.

Let me break out of my reverie enough to say this: Miss Dashwood, you are a superb writer!

Stephanie said...

I'm relatively new the TSP, and being a Leaguette, but Oh! How much fun it is! Love the last paragraph, Darling! Had me in stiches.

Vellvin said...

As a fairly new Leaguette I have been enjoying to learn more about the Scarelt Pimpernel. I am currently reading El Dorado and loving it! :)
I admit I didn't like Sir Percy in TSP until he wasn't being a fop. I was sort of like "What he's the Scarlet Pimpernel?" and than after seeing the movie I became a die hard TSP fan.
One of my sisters and one of my brothers however don't like Percy (they ahven't read the books) because of the way he treats Marguerite and they even like Armand better! But than there obviously not in the Leauge :P
Oh and yeah, totally love Marguerite and Percy's relationship.

Hayden said...

What else is there to say? Sir Percy rocks! :) Although I WAS one of those people who didn't like him at first.

I admit it.

Jessica said...

I'm afraid I'm still in the second group you mentioned. I like TSP well enough. Soary. ;-)

I do see where you are coming from, though.
And I do realize that Sir Percy's disguise is fake and not his true self. ;-)
(It does tend to annoy me after a while, though. To quote Melody "please don't kill me").

Anonymous said...


Okay, I'm good now.

Seriously, after reading all these hero posts, like Anna, I'm all happiness, too. (Plus, it's all I can do to keep my mind off of Les Miz... in, like THREE HOURS! GAH!)

Anywhoz, your post is absolutely awesome. Sir Percy is amazing, and that's the end of it. I challenge anyone who thinks otherwise to a duel!!

My aunt didn't like Sir Percy's foppy voice at the beginning. She told my uncle, "I hope he doesn't talk that way the whole time! I can't stand it!" Poor auntie. Hasn't read the books, you know.

"A series of insanely stupid acts of disobedience on the part of Marguerite's unworthy brother Armand - ERMMMM!!!" HA!!!! Too funny, Amy! (Did I tell you I wanted to shoot him a lot?! Seriously, Armand. Get a grip. Don't be like Marius. Take some time. Think about WHY you like her more and not so much the fact THAT you love her.) The boy deserves a good thrashing! (Which Percy does NOT give him, and only threatens to "smash his head." lol.)

LOVE that picture of Percy and Marguerite on The Day-Dream. Love it. And I was paying attention to you THE WHOLE TIME!!! : ) Any post on Sir Percy has my devoted attention 'til the end, when I start doing an Alexandra-esque SQUEEEEEEE!!!!

All of those quotes in the last paragraph made me laugh.... even though I've heard them a GAZILLION times. "Sink me - your tailors have betrayed you!" is too funny! "So much for French fashion... and French politics."

*Grabs copy of 'El Dorado'* Twas mine; thank you, Amy, m'dear.


Jillian B said...

I'm a new Leaguette too,and after reading TSP,I was like 'How did I miss this for so long?',now I'm converting most of my friends to TSP fans.
I sorta liked Sir Percy from the start.
I must get my hands on a copy of El Dorado,my library doesn't have it :(

Melody said...

They seem to be laboring under the mistaken delusion that Percy is humorous and even gallant, but unrealistic.

*Gasp, sputter... falls on the floor in a swoon, a la Rosalinda*

I've been betrayed by my own Tween!

*Goes off and sulks in corner*


I can only read El Dorado when I recover from such wounds. And when I stop hearing "Sir Percy" so much that my ears are buzzing.

lottie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alexandra said...

Just me again. Popping in to say that days later it's still making me squeee like crazy. Great post. :-P

Oh, and FTR...AA was the exact age of Sir Percy when he portrayed the character. Just trivia. :-P Tee-hee.

Michaela said...

I just finished reading The Scarlet Pimpernel for the first time recently! I've had it on my shelf for (dare I admit to such a travesty?) several years without reading could I have delayed such happiness for so long?! So, how does one join the honorable band of Leaguettes? If all that is required is a devotion to Sir Percy I'm totally there! If seeing the movie is necessary, don't worry I'm doing that soon! Well, wonderful chatting with you, please excuse me while I go perfect my cravat tying skills.

Carissa Horton said...

Would you mind if I added this post onto my linky for my blog hop? It doesn't matter to me when an Anthony post was written, only that it was, and this is a way to compile different blog posts in one place. Or if you wanted to add it, I'm happy to have you do that too! :)

And it seems I must read El Dorado now! I've only ever read TSP, and must try branching out!