Movie Wednesday: The Scarlet Pimpernel

Brave Writer Movie Wednesday The Scarlet Pimpernel

by Amy Frantz, Brave Writer alum

In Revolutionary France during the Terror, Percy Blakeney leads a double life. In one life he is the stylish fop, Sir Blakeney, who cares mostly for fashion and appearance. But in the other life, he is the mysterious Scarlet Pimpernel who rescues aristocrats and their families who have been condemned to death by the guillotine. No one suspects that the silly Sir Blakeney and the heroic Scarlet Pimpernel could possibly be one and the same. But when Percy’s wife, Marguerite, is blackmailed into investigating the identity of the Scarlet Pimpernel, the secrecy of his double life is imperiled.

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The 1982 Emmy Award-winning film, The Scarlet Pimpernel, is based on both The Scarlet Pimpernel and Eldorado by Baroness Orczy.

The Baroness Orczy with her creation of The Scarlet Pimpernel and its titular character originated the “hero with a secret identity” trope, the prevalence and influence of which can still be felt today in such pop cultural icons as Batman and Superman. In this way, the Scarlet Pimpernel can be considered a proto-superhero. In a time when cinemas are saturated with superhero films, it can be valuable to revisit the origins of some of these now common and popular tropes.

In storytelling, a trope is an identifiable and recurring pattern in the way characters and plots are constructed. In this case, the trope is the hero with a secret identity. This trope would lead to the masked vigilante trope, which in turn gave rise to the modern superhero.

Discussion Questions

  • The Scarlet Pimpernel is a man of many disguises. Do you have a favorite disguise that he wears in the film?
  • The film is very critical of the Terror, but it mostly glosses over the sociopolitical conditions that lead to the Revolution. Do you think this causes the narrative to be unbalanced and simplistic, especially considering it is loosely historical fiction? Explain why or why not.
  • If you have a favorite masked superhero, were you able to find similarities between that character and the Scarlet Pimpernel? If so, list those similarities.
  • Every good hero needs a “good” villain. Do you think Percy and Chauvelin are well-matched enemies? Explain your answer.

Additional Resources

Register for our Boomerang Book Club class where we will be discussing The Scarlet Pimpernel novel in November, which is also the Boomerang for that month (Boomerang guide is included in the Book Club).

Amy Frantz is a Brave Writer alum. When not over-analyzing Star Wars, she spends much time reading historical biographies and Batman comics.

BoomerangLearn language arts with the Scarlet Pimpernel Boomerang!

The Boomerang is a monthly digital downloadable product that features copywork and dictation passages from a specific read aloud novel. It is geared toward 8th to 10th graders (ages 12—advanced, 13-15) and is the indispensable tool for Brave Writer parents who want to teach language arts in a natural, literature-bathed context.

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