Introduction This is an interpretive essay on ‘The Song at the Scaffold’ by Gertrud von Le Fort. It is a short novel which was originally written in German by Olga Marx. The story, set in France, is fictitious though based on a real happening during the French Revolution when the sixteen Carmelite sisters of Compiegne showed complete calmness and faith as they were sentenced to the guillotine…
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She has a most uncharacteristic nature which is totally unsuited to her social standing, being fearfully timid and frail. She chooses Carmel of Compiegne as her saviour from the fears and terrors of life. At the sanctuary the character of Sister Marie of the Incarnation is introduced as one which embodies confidence yet humility and faith in the church, but feels that Blanche is unsuited to the rigorous lifestyle of the Carmel. The unfolding events of the French Revolution, bring a drastic change in Blanche’s circumstances from glory and comfort to distress, taking away the one sanctuary she trusted most; the Carmel at Compiegne. The author presents her uniqueness to us as she willingly steps out and joins the sisters who are being led to the guillotine, showing a superb transformation from fear and horror to unimaginable courage. This transformation is the epitome of her faith and belief in God bringing her to a point where the darkness of her fears Surname2 is encompassed and destroyed by the one and only ultimate source of light ; her love of God. Sister Marie who has a strong, wilful and quite an eloquent personality, has all the makings of a heroine, manages to flee from the executioners for greater service to the Lord and mankind. She realizes that bravery and piety do not necessary come from great acts of heroism. Weak and insignificant beings are chosen by God to become vessels of the working of the Divine. Surname3 The novella has a very interesting character in the form of Blanche de La Force. She was the daughter of Marquis de La Force. Her birth in the nobility did not in any manner reflect in her demeanour. She had a frail disposition and lived in a constant state of fear, which according to her father, was the result of the circumstances at the time of her birth. She would surely have been beautiful considering the lineage she belonged to, had not fear overcome all other senses. She always wore a pinched expression on her face, reflecting inner turmoil. The other interesting character of the story was that of Sister Marie of the Incarnation. She was the opposite of Blanche in appearance. She was stout and strong. Her demeanour reflected her state of confidence and strong belief in God. She showed a stoutness which bordered on overconfidence. Blanche and Sister Marie had the love of God as the most marked similarity in their personalities. Apart from that, Blanche had a timid and nervous personality. She showed signs of an extreme insecurity complex from a very early age, when she would reconfirm from her nanny that the stairs would not slip from under her feet, or when she would tremble at the sight of a new servant as if she had seen a ghost. As she grew up and sensed the ridicule aimed at her from all quarters, these insecurities only added to her agonizing fear of all things known as well as unknown. Such a disposition had a profound effect on the girl’s personality putting her apart from others of her age group. The reason might have been the demise of her mother at childbirth, who might have in other circumstances soothed and calmed her by giving her a confidence which the Jacobean father could not and did not. Sister Marie ,on the other hand showed a self-assurance which seemed to stem from her strong Surname4 faith. She had absolute belief in her own
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