A Tale of Two Cities Summary – Book I Chapter 1-4
The narrator begins his story in the year 1775 with the observation that “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” and concludes that it was a period in all respects much like the one nearly 70 years later from which the tale is being told. The narrator observes that there were kings and queens in England and France and that the aristocrats in both countries found little reason to expect any change in their status. At this time the English Crown received reports of unrest from its American colonies and in France the aristocracy continued its trend of overspending at the expense of its working poor. Criminals in both countries were dealt harsh physical punishment for even the smallest of crimes. In England, there were frequent highway robberies and corruption allowed the practice to flourish.
On a particularly foggy night in 1775 the mail coach from London to Dover is struggling up a muddy hill. The coach’s three nervous passengers walk beside the coach in order to lighten the load for the horses on the grade. The passengers are thickly wrapped and unrecognizable in the fog. Finally, the coach reaches the summit and as the coachmen opens the door for the passengers he hears the sound of a horse approaching. He draws his pistol and expects the worst. Amid much anxiety and suspicion the approaching rider requests an audience with Mr. Jarvis Lorry, one of the passengers, who identifies himself and asks if the rider is a man named Jerry. Learning that this is the case, Mr. Lorry reassures the skittish coach drivers and receives the written message. Mr. Lorry identifies himself to the drivers as a member of Tellson’s Bank of London on his way to that company’s Paris branch. He reads aloud the brief message: “Wait at Dover for Mam’selle” and sends the brief reply, “Recalled to life.” Jerry departs for London, by way of several roadside ale-houses, with the strange answer and the coach continues on to Dover. As he rides, Jerry muses that he would be in a “bad way, if recalling to life was to come into fashion.”
Back in the coach, Mr. Lorry holds onto a leather strap, which secures him against the jolting road and allows him to fitfully doze during the journey. He dreams that he is walking in the underground storerooms of Tellson’s but in the dream he knows that he is going to dig someone out of their grave. He inquires several times of the spectre how many years it remained entombed and receives the unvarying answer: “Almost eighteen years.” When he asks the apparition if it is glad to be recalled to life, it answers, “I can’t say.” In the dream he digs to free the buried man but just as the body is unearthed it crumbles to dust. Mr. Lorry awakes in the coach and lowers the window to feel the real rain and mist on his face. The dream repeats often during the journey until Mr. Lorry realizes that the day is breaking.
At noon, when the mail coach reaches Dover, Mr. Lorry is the only remaining passenger because the other two men alighted at points along the road. After confirming that a packet ship will leave for Calais, France the following day, Mr. Lorry instructs the head drawer at the Royal George hotel to prepare a bedroom for himself and orders a barber and breakfast. Mr. Lorry emerges from his room clean and shaven and is revealed to be of about sixty years of age and formally dressed in a plain and worn but well-cared-for suit. He takes his breakfast alone before the fire and briefly dozes before his meal arrives. He instructs the drawer to prepare lodgings for a young lady who may arrive at any time that day. A brief but friendly exchange with the waiter reveals that there is much traveling between Tellson’s branches, though Mr. Lorry himself has not traveled to Paris in nearly fifteen years. Mr. Lorry spends the day walking the beach, alone with his thoughts. That evening after dinner orders a bottle of claret and just before finishing the wine he hears the sound of an approaching carriage and rightly surmises that it is the Mam’selle he has been expecting. The waiter announces her as Miss Manette and conveys her wish to see him immediately.
Mr. Lorry follows the waiter to a darkly furnished room where he meets Miss Manette, a very pretty girl about seventeen years old. He is reminded of a little girl he carried in his arms aboard the packet from Calais to England many years before. Miss Manette relates that she has received a message informing her that a recent discovery regarding her deceased father (whom she never saw in life) has been made and that she must travel to her native land of France. She asks if she may place herself under Mr. Lorry’s protection for the journey and he readily assents. She was told that the discovery is of a very surprising nature and that the bank’s representative, namely Mr. Lorry, would reveal it to her. Mr. Lorry is somewhat disconcerted at the prospect but begins to relate the story of one of his customers when he worked at Tellson’s French branch nearly twenty years prior. Miss Manette soon discerns that Mr. Lorry is speaking of her own father, a man of science, and she also gleans that it was Mr. Lorry himself who brought her to England soon after her mother’s subsequent death. Mr. Lorry admits that all that is true but asserts that he is a man of business and his relations with people are business in nature and devoid of strong emotional attachment. He continues his story by suggesting that the fictional character he has invented to stand in the place of Dr. Manette did not die but instead imprisoned with no appeal or outside communication. This information causes Miss Manette to swoon with emotion, but she begs Mr. Lorry to continue his story. After appealing to her to be business-minded about the affair, Mr. Lorry proceeds to tell her that her father has been found alive but greatly affected and changed by long years of imprisonment. Miss Manette reflects that she will be going to see a ghost but Mr. Lorry encourages her to be strong and that perhaps her influence will bring her poor father to reason. He tells her that her father is now under another name and she should not speak his true name aloud while in France, but he then notices that she is not listening but has sunk into a chair and become catatonic.
Mr. Lorry calls for help and a large, redheaded woman, Lucie’s guardian Miss Pross, comes running into the room and shoves him away. She orders smelling salts, cold water and vinegar and affectionately fawns over Miss Manette. She castigates the flummoxed man of finances for frightening such a fragile girl.
Analysis of Book I Chapters 1-4
The opening commentary attempts to connect the time in which the novel is set the latter half of the eighteenth century, with that of Dickens’ contemporary audience. The grand superlative ambiguities, “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” would be recognizable readers from any age and serves to introduce one of the novel’s great themes, that the quality of life is relative to the perspective from which it is drawn. It may have also served as notice to Dickens’ regular readers that this story was going to be different from his others, which were set during Dickens’ own era. Mirroring the extremes of the introductory section the story begins with the juxtaposition of two opposites: the carriage’s slow laborious climb to the top of the hill and the suspense of the dangerous times and the approach of a strange rider through the fog. His claim that he maintains a business-minded outlook and resists emotional involvement is contradicted by his troubled dreams which belie a degree of nervousness about his current errand. Mr. Jarvis Lorry, a man of levelheaded business sensibility is a likable character, typical of the Dickens oeuvre. His memory of carrying Miss Manette over the Channel as a child belies his sympathies for her and his advice that she maintain a business outlook on the situation only serves to reveal his own emotional state. Miss Pross’ accusation that he has intentionally frightened the poor girl so undermines his original intent as to make him seem humorous.
A Tale of Two Cities Summary – Book I Chapter 5-6
The scene is the squalid street outside a wine shop in the poverty-stricken Saint Antoine district of Paris. A cask of red wine has been spilled in the street and hungry peasants use various means to sop and drink the mixture of wine and mud before it soaks away. The narrator describes these people as desperate and haggard from long years of deprivation and hunger. One of the peasants, a tall joker named Gaspard, uses the wine to write the word “BLOOD” on a wall but the owner of the wine shop, Monsieur Defarge, fails to appreciate the intended humor and rubs out the word with some mud. Monsieur Defarge returns to his shop where his wife sits with her knitting at rest while she picks her teeth. She gives a short cough to let her husband know to look about the shop for some new customers. He sees an older man and a young girl sitting in the back of the shop but ignores them for the moment in order to discourse with three men drinking at the counter. They exchange doleful observations of the wretched condition of the people and refer to each other by the name “Jacques.” Monsieur Defarge offers to show the three men a bachelor-style apartment on the fifth floor but then remembers that one of them has been there before and can lead the others to it. After the Jacques depart, the elderly man approaches Defarge. The elderly man is Mr. Lorry and as he and Miss Manette follow Defarge up a steep staircase he makes several inquiries regarding the health of Miss Manette’s father who is living in the garret. Mr. Lorry is dispirited by Defarge’s response. At the top Mr. Lorry is surprised to find that Defarge must use a key to open the door but Defarge observes that the former prisoner would be frightened if left in an unlocked room. Miss Manette is afraid to enter but Mr. Lorry admonishes her to have courage and see to the business at hand. They come upon the three men from the shop looking through a chink in the wall and Mr. Lorry, somewhat angrily, asks Defarge the why he chooses to make a show of Dr. Manette. Defarge replies that it is best if some select people see the doctor. They enter the dim and dark apartment where an old man with white hair is bent before the feeble light of a solitary window making shoes.
Defarge opens the window wider and the additional light reveals the haggard dress and sunken visage of the shoemaker who returns to his work. Mr. Lorry comes near the man and Defarge prompts the shoemaker to describe his work while Mr. Lorry examines the shoe. At Defarge’s prompting, the shoemaker gives his name as “One Hundred and Five, North Tower.” Upon further prompting the shoemaker reveals that he became a shoemaker only after many requests to teach himself the trade and even then with much difficulty. Mr. Lorry calls the shoemaker by name, Monsieur Manette, and the old man drops his work and briefly struggles to remember his visitor but soon returns to his work. During this conversation, Miss Manette moves through the shadows to a position near her father who eventually notices her. He is deeply affected by the sight of her and though he does not know who she is he examines her hair. He pulls from around his neck a locket with a few strands of hair like her own and tries to figure out who she might be. Finally he decides that she cannot be his wife and asks her name. He is deeply affected by the sound of his voice as she explains with great emotion that she has come to take him to England. By the end of her speech his head is resting on her breast and the pair have collapsed to the floor. With her father cradled in her arms, Miss Manette beseeches Mr. Lorry to prepare their departure immediately. Mr. Lorry and Defarge leave to obtain the necessary papers and transportation. The daughter and father are left alone for some time and then Mr. Lorry and Defarge return with food and traveling cloaks. Though Dr. Manette is evidentially comforted by his daughter’s presence he is bewildered and believes himself to be leaving the prison as they depart the shop. They succeed in transferring Dr. Manette to a waiting coach but he then asks for his shoemaking tools. Madame Defarge, who stands nearby but “saw nothing”, retrieves the tools from the garret. They quickly make their way to the Barrier where Defarge leaves them to their journey. They travel all night under stars that, just before dawn, seem to ask Mr. Lorry the same question: “I hope you care to be recalled to life” but he receives the same reply: “I can’t say.”
Analysis of Book I Chapters 5-6
This section describes the miserable condition of the peasants in Paris during the period and Gaspard’s graffiti foreshadows the revolution that is soon to come. The Defarge’s wine shop is revealed to be more than simply a drinking house in the society of Jacques that meet there and the obvious understanding between Defarge and his wife hints at the deeper role they will play in the coming violence. Monsieur Defarge’s insistence that some men are better for having seen the wretched condition of doctor Manette also serves to illustrate the work he is doing to proliferate discontent among those who would organize the overthrow of the current system. Miss Manette’s instant connection with her father belies their shared blood and brings the first ray of hope into the miserable doctor’s bleak existence. Doctor Manette’s attempts to understand his daughter’s identity are the first steps he takes in recovering his senses though Mr. Lorry’s dream that the unearthed man still cannot say whether or not he cares to be recalled to life belies the uncertainty of that recovery and the various trials that the doctor will undergo if he is to return to normal.
A Tale of Two Cities Summary – Book II Chapter 1-3
It is five years later, the year 1780, and Tellson’s Bank of London remains an old-fashioned place, proud of its smallness, darkness, ugliness and inconveniences. The old partners in the firm suffer no improvements and in this way mirror England as a whole. Death is meted out for all offenses, whether it be unlawfully opening a letter or stealing a horse. Though this policy increases rather than decreases crime it has the very satisfactory effect of dispensing with each case forever. All the men who work at Tellson’s are old. The bank employs an odd-job man, named Jerry Cruncher, who waits outside its door ready at a moment’s notice for whatever errand that he is assigned. While he is on these errands his son (age twelve) waits in his father’s place. Mr. Cruncher’s apartment, which he shares with his wife and son, consists of two cramped rooms that are very neatly kept by Mrs. Cruncher (first name Aggerawayter). He awakes one morning in 1780 to find his wife praying, or as he indecorously calls it “flopping”, which he claims works against him. He throws a muddy boot at his wife and advises his son that his mother is praying away their income and food. The boy keeps an eye on his mother while his father cleans his unaccountably muddy boots. At breakfast, Jerry angrily stops his wife from saying a blessing over the meal claiming he won’t have his “wittles blest off [the] table.” Just before nine o’clock he and young Jerry (who like his father has spikes of hair upon his head) encamp themselves in front of Tellson’s to wait for any work that might arise. Soon there comes a call for a porter and the elder Cruncher leaves the younger to ponder why his father always has iron rust on his hands.
Jerry is sent to the Old Bailey courthouse with a message for Mr. Lorry. He is instructed to make his presence known and then wait until Mr. Lorry needs him. Before Jerry leaves the clerk tells him that the Bailey is trying treason cases that day. Jerry observes that the punishment for that offense is quartering which he calls “barbarous.” The old clerk responds that Jerry had better respect the law which is immutable and for the best. Using the note provided by the clerk, Jerry gains admittance to the courtroom (a privilege for which most people paid money) and is informed that the man to stand trial will most assuredly be found guilty. As instructed, he attracts Mr. Lorry’s attention and then waits to be entertained by the trial.
When the prisoner enters the room everyone carefully examines him except a wigged gentleman sitting with the defense counsel. This man stares at the ceiling. The accused man is about twenty-five years old with dark good looks and the bearing of a gentleman. The judge announces that the accused, Charles Darnay by name, has pled “Not Guilty” against charges that he is a traitor in the service of the French king. The prisoner’s eyes stray, and those of the spectators with them, to a young woman and her father who are seated beside the Judge’s bench. The young woman obviously sympathizes with the prisoner. The spectators wonder who the father and daughter are and what part they will play in the trial. Standing far in the back of the room, Jerry learns that the father and daughter are called there as witnesses for the prosecution.
Using very grand language, the prosecuting Attorney General states that the prisoner has been engaged in traitorous activities against their king and that the prosecution will produce unimpeachable, patriotic witnesses to attest to the prisoner’s guilt. Furthermore, the Attorney General states that these witnesses have procured treasonous documents that, though admittedly not in the prisoner’s handwriting, will prove that the prisoner has been monitoring the England’s military forces for at least five years.
Several witnesses are called. The first is a man named John Barsad, who claims to be a gentleman and corroborates the Attorney General’s assertion. Upon being cross-examined, however, he is revealed to be a gambler and is made to seem ridiculous when he is made to recall being pushed for cheating and then falling down a staircase on his own volition. The defense attorney implies that Barsad may hope to profit by his testimony by receiving employment as a government spy. The next witness, the prisoner’s former servant Roger Cly, also asserts that his motives in procuring the lists were purely patriotic. He testifies that the prisoner has traveled between England and France often. The defense casts suspicion upon his motives, however, when it reveals that Cly has known John Barsad much longer than he has served the accused man. The third witness is Mr. Lorry who is unable to say whether the prisoner was one of the men who shared the Dover mail coach five years before but testifies that Darnay did come aboard the return ship from France soon after midnight when he returned with Lucie and Doctor Manette. The Attorney General questions Miss Manette and she testifies that the prisoner helped her find shelter for her father and was very kind and considerate at the time. Under questioning she is forced to admit that she did witness the prisoner exchange some papers with some French gentlemen before boarding the ship and that while on board he made a joke about George Washington achieving as much fame as the English King George III. Dr. Manette is questioned about the journey but admits that he can not remember the crossing due to mental sickness at the time. The prosecution then tries to prove that Darnay took the Dover mail coach and alighted early in order to glean the strength of a nearby garrison. The last witness is a man who swears that on the night in question he saw the prisoner in a particular coffee-room near Dover. The wigged gentleman staring at the ceiling passes a note to the defense attorney who, after reading the note, asks the witness if his learned friend who just passed him the note looks just like the prisoner. Everyone in the courtroom is immediately struck by the previously unnoticed similarity, and the witness admits that the man does resemble Darnay. The judge asks Mr. Stryver (the defense attorney) if the purpose of this is to put his partner Mr. Carton on trial and Mr. Stryver replies that he is attempting to cast doubt upon the witness’ memory. The similarity between the two men succeeds in destroying the witness’ credibility.
The defense and prosecution sum up their cases and the judge, who obviously favors the prosecution, adds his observations. Jerry Cruncher remarks to his neighbor that Mr. Carton, who continues to look at the ceiling, probably doesn’t get much law work. At this moment, Mr. Carton cries out that Miss Manette is in danger of fainting. She and her father are escorted from the room and the jury, unable to reach an immediate decision, retires to consider its verdict. Mr. Carton asks Mr. Lorry about the young lady’s condition and learns that she will recover. He offers to take this information to the prisoner. Carton asks Darnay what verdict he expects to receive. Mr. Carton agrees with Darnay that it would be best to expect the worst, but offers the observation that the jury’s failure to reach an immediate verdict should be taken as a positive sign. An hour and a half later the jury returns and Mr. Lorry calls for Jerry to take the message “ACQUITTED” back to Tellson’s.
Analysis of Book II Chapters 1-3
This section serves to introduce Jerry Cruncher, a decidedly comic figure but also a representation of the English urban peasantry at the time. He is a relatively simple man who is seemingly content and vigilant in his position as Tellson’s only trusted messenger. He is determined to provide food for himself and his family and the hints, such as the rust on his hands or mud on his boots, that he may have a more dishonorable occupation as well, that he has another, secret occupation serve to underscore his devotion to his stomach. Significantly, Dickens uses Cruncher as his perspective on Charles Darnay’s theater-like trial, which is portrayed to be little more than entertainment for the mob. As such, Charles Darnay’s trial is a grand play attended by a rapt audience with only Sydney Carton uninterested in the result. Carton displays interest in his surroundings first when he notices the similarity between himself and Charles Darnay and later when he notices that Miss Manette is about to faint. In both instances his thoughts can be attributed to where his interest most lies, namely himself and his desires. His later dialogue with Darnay reveals that he considers himself to be beyond redemption and, as such, free to give his opinion with regard for another’s welfare or feelings.
A Tale of Two Cities Summary – Book II Chapter 4-5
Outside the court Charles Darnay, Lucie Manette, Doctor Manette and Mr. Lorry discuss the trial. After kissing Lucie’s hand, Mr. Darnay thanks Mr. Stryver who has pushed his way into the group. Mr. Lorry sees Dr. Manette look somewhat fearfully and curiously at Charles Darnay. Soon the doctor and his daughter depart. Sydney Carton approaches the group. He is a little drunk and smells of port wine. Mr. Carton upsets Mr. Lorry by explaining that he, Mr. Carton, has no business and even that even if he did he would not attend to it. Mr. Lorry asserts that business is what guides one’s life and departs in a huff. Sydney Carton takes Darnay to a nearby tavern to dine and drink. Carton proceeds to get more inebriated and chides Darnay for the obvious affection that Lucie Manette showed for him on the stand. His line of questioning leads to the assertion that he doesn’t particularly care for Darnay. Before Darnay departs, Sydney Carton confides to him that he is a drunk because he cares for no man on earth, and no man on earth cares for him. After Darnay leaves he orders another pint of port and gives orders to be awoken at 10pm. He questions himself in a mirror and tells himself that he hates Darnay because the remarkable similarity in their appearance reminds him of what he has not become. He falls asleep on his arm at the table.
The narrator observes that those were drinking days in London and Mr. Stryver, who was tireless in his pursuit of professional success and advancement, was like his counterpart Sydney Carton a heavy drinker. Carton rendered service to Stryver in all night drinking sessions where he would review Carton’s upcoming cases and distill the essence from the various statements, a task his friend was intellectually ill equipped to perform himself. In this way Sydney Carton was the jackal to Mr. Stryver’s lion. After being awoken by the waiter at 10pm, Sydney Carton made his way to Stryver’s apartment where the two engaged in a long night of drinking while Carton poured over case briefs. While Stryver reclined on the sofa and drank at ease, Carton draped himself in cool wet towels and doggedly drank alcoholic punch and did his work. At three in the morning, the work complete, the two friends discuss the differences in the their nature and recall the days they spent as students in Paris. Before Carton leaves, Stryver asks what he thought of the pretty Miss Manette and is surprised to hear his morose friend’s assertion that she was not very pretty. Carton walks home alone through the cold streets and falls asleep in his rarely used bed.
Analysis of Book II Chapters 4-5
These chapters serve to flesh out the character of Sydney Carton. His discussion with Darnay demonstrates that although the two are alike in appearance their demeanors are very different. While Darnay eats, Carton drinks and whereas Darnay is polite and tempers his responses, Carton’s comments are caustic, fueled by alcohol and a general dissatisfaction with life. The second half of Carton’s evening, spent at Mr. Stryver’s apartment, illustrates Carton’s genius with the law and his complete willingness to let his partner take the credit for his own work. Though, as Mr. Stryver notes, In these descriptions, the reader is given the impression of a man who feels unloved, uninspired and for lack of any other attractive alternative, satisfied with simply doing his partner’s work. Their discussion reveals that they have known each other since their school days and that Stryver has always been pushing his way to the front ranks. “You were always somewhere,” observes Carton, “and I was always – nowhere.” They are opposites and together they seem to be prospering. Their partnership is depicted as a friendly union that neither man seems impelled to break. Sydney Carton’s dismissal of Miss Manette’s beauty, something, which has obviously affected him, reveals that he is not devoid of sensitivity and yearning for a higher purpose.
A Tale of Two Cities Summary – Book II Chapter 6
Four months pass. Mr. Lorry is in the habit of visiting Lucie and Dr. Manette in their pleasant Soho home on Sunday afternoons. Dr. Manette practices medicine from his house and has earned a reputation as a shrewd and vigilant scientist. On an exceptionally fine Sunday Mr. Lorry arrives at the Manette residence and is told that Dr. and Miss Manette are out but will return shortly. Mr. Lorry goes upstairs to wait. He notices that Dr. Manette’s old shoe making tools sit unused in the Doctor’s bedroom. Miss Pross enters and they engage in a sharp but friendly conversation about the people who come to visit Lucie. Miss Pross is afraid that Lucie’s affections will be taken from her and she asserts that none of the callers are as good for her as Miss Pross’ estranged brother, Solomon, whom Mr. Lorry knows to be a dishonest scoundrel. Mr. Lorry questions Miss Pross about Dr. Manette’s health and asks why he has not disposed of the shoemaking bench and tools. Miss Pross posits the theory that the Doctor is afraid of losing his mind again. She observes that the doctor shies away from any discussion of his imprisonment. She confides that sometimes the doctor paces the floor in the night and Lucie walks with him until he is composed. At that moment the house, which is so situated on street that any footsteps in the street echo loudly within, begins to resound with the approach of Lucie and Doctor Manette. The group has a pleasant dinner and then, owing to the heat of the evening, they sit under the plane tree and drink wine. Mr. Darnay joins them and in the course of conversation tells them of a story he heard regarding some buried scraps of paper found in the Tower (prison) that had been interred long ago by an inmate but were deteriorated and could not be deciphered. Doctor Manette is visibly upset by the story but claims that his consternation is result of the rain that has begun to fall. The group goes inside for tea where Mr. Carton joins them. The drops of rain continue to fall with greater frequency and as they listen to the echoes of unseen people’s footsteps rushing in the street Lucie remarks on her fancy that when she listens to the footsteps she imagines that they represent the hundreds of people who will enter their lives. A great thunderstorm breaks and it is one o’clock in the morning before it has cleared sufficiently for Mr. Lorry to walk home with Jerry as an escort.
Analysis of Book II Chapters 6
This chapter establishes the close knit-ties among the Manettes, Charles Darnay, Miss Pross and Mr. Lorry. Mr. Lorry is accepted as a surrogate uncle and Miss Pross, though she affects to be in their service, is very much part of the “family”. Sydney Carton’s presence indicates that he also feels comfortable paying the Manette’s a visit but his aloof and morose demeanor, while accepted among the group, establishes emotional distance between him and the others. Charles Darnay’s story about the discovered manuscript obviously upsets the doctor and foreshadows the discovery of a different manuscript that the doctor has either forgotten or is trying to forget at the time. Lucie’s interpretation of the echoing footsteps also serves to foreshadow the footsteps of the Paris mob that will soon enter all their lives.
A Tale of Two Cities Summary – Book II Chapter 7-9
In Paris, Monseigneur (who is identified only as one of the upper echelons of the French royal court’s aristocracy) is holding one of his regular receptions at his Grand Hotel. The Monseigneur is in his private chamber with the four men required to properly serve him his chocolate. The narrator describes the opulence of Monseigneur’s lifestyle, filled with parties and theater, and sums up the nobles’ idea of public business as “let everything go on its own way” and most especially to let it go his, the Monseigneur’s, own way. We are told that, lacking aptitude for managing finances and in danger of growing poor, the Monseigneur took his sister out of a convent and married her to a rich Farmer-General who desired the status associated with the Monseigneur’s royal name. Waiting in the main rooms is the usual assemblage of well-connected people who the narrator characterizes as being useless in their avowed specialties. Everyone is wonderfully and richly dressed. Eventually Monseigneur condescends to move among his guests and he is much fawned over before he returns to his private chamber. Eventually only one visitor is left, a man of about sixty with fine features, who is not in the Monseigneur’s favor and pauses to offer a curse in the direction of the private chamber before leaving.
The man’s carriage rushes through the narrow streets without regard to the safety of the peasants who flee to avoid its wheels. There is a jolt and a cry and the horses rear and stop. The passenger, who is recognized by the newly formed crowd as Monsieur the Marquis, discovers that his carriage has run over a small child and the father, is now weeping over the body of his dead son. The Marquis admonishes the people to keep out of the way of carriages, suggests that his horses might have been injured and throws a gold coin to the moaning father. Another man arrives and calls the bereaved father by name, Gaspard, and comforts him that life is miserable and his son is best shut of it. The Marquis overhears and asks the man’s name that he learns is Defarge. The Marquis throws Defarge a gold coin as well but as he is being driven away he is shocked when someone throws a gold coin into his carriage. He stops and angrily yells at the crowd but sees only a stout woman with her knitting where Defarge had been. The Marquis rides on and is followed by other carriages from the fancy ball. The narrator compares the watching peasants to rats who must return to their holes.
The Monsieur the Marquis’ carriage is making its way slowly up a country hill on its way to his chateau. The countryside is full of sparse, underdeveloped fields. Eventually the carriage reaches the small village near the Marquis’ home. The people of the village are downtrodden, hungry and burdened with heavy taxes. A prison looks down upon the village from a nearby crag. The Marquis questions a man who he saw looking at his carriage as it came up the hill and learns, to his anger, that a man covered in white dust who is stranger in the region had been suspended under his carriage. The Marquis continues to his mansion and is stopped en route by a poor woman who has just buried her husband who died from want. She begs for a small stone engraved with her husband’s name to mark his grave but the Marquis ignores her petition and drives on. When he arrives at his chateau he learns that his nephew, Monsieur Charles from England, has not yet arrived.
The chateau is made of stone and its walls contain numerous carvings of flowers, men and animals. The Marquis makes his way through the richly furnished chateau to his private chambers where settings for two diners have been laid. Halfway through his supper the Marquis’ nephew arrives from England. The Marquis’ nephew is Charles Darnay. The two men have a conversation during the course of which is becomes apparent that Charles, attempting to gratify the last wish of his dead mother, has refuted his aristocratic family and rejected all that it stands for. He accuses his uncle of committing great wrongs against the people with the aid of his dead father, who was the Marquis’ twin brother. Charles also asserts that the Marquis, if he were not currently in disfavor at the Court, would have had him imprisoned long ago. The Marquis seems amused by Charles’ accusations and does not deny them. Rather, he seems proud of his station and the acrimony of the French peasants. “Detestation of the high,” he tells his nephew, “is the involuntary homage of the low.” Charles again asserts that wants nothing to do with the family name and states that if the family wealth ever came to him he would find ways to disperse it among the poor. To Charles’ dismay his uncle knowingly questions Charles about Doctor Manette and Lucie. Soon thereafter Charles retires and the Marquis sleeps as well. Three hours later the sun rises and the people of the village begin their day. The grizzled mender of roads, however, senses some inordinate bustle at the chateau and returns to the village fountain where he learns that the body of the Marquis has been discovered with a knife driven into its chest through a note that reads: “Drive him fast to his tomb. This from JACQUES.”
Analysis of Book II Chapters 7-9
The scenes in the Monseignuer’s court serve to highlight the ostentatious wealth of the French aristocracy and its lack of concern for the peasantry. Dickens thoroughly researched this period of French history in preparing his book and many of the details, the number of servers required to serve the chocolate for instance, are accurate. It was not rare for carriages to run over people in the street and only a fine punished nobles if their carriage inadvertently killed a man. The Marquis’ obvious inhumanity and failure to appreciate the latent power of the mob serves as a reminder that a lifetime of privilege carries with it a dangerous and destructive egoism. Appropriately, the Marquis’ chateau is made entirely of stone and is decorated with stone visages that, like his station in life, both shield him and complement his own intractable world-view. This section also reveals that Charles Darnay, whose real family name is Evremonde, is the nephew of this horrible man. Though he has sworn off all ties with the family it is obvious from his uncle’s allusion to Doctor and Miss Manette that there is more to the family’s unsavory history that will directly involve Charles though he has moved to England and begun a new life. Though the Marquis believes that he will witness this event his life is taken suddenly by an assassin, assumed to be the stranger riding under the Marquis’ carriage. The reference to “Jacques” in the note and the exhortation to drive the Maquis “fast to his tomb” indicates to the reader that Gaspard, the joker of the Saint Antoine district in Paris, has murdered the Marquis to avenge the death of his son.
A Tale of Two Cities Summary – Book II Chapter 10-14
It is one year later and Charles Darnay has established himself as a higher teacher of the French language. He works hard and prospers from his diligence. One summer day he visits Dr. Manette with the intention of asking for Lucie’s hand in marriage. The doctor has become an energetic and productive man and enthusiastically greets his friend. Dr. Manette grows serious when Darnay broaches the subject of marriage but encourages him to continue. Charles assures the doctor that he has no intention of separating him from his daughter and expresses his hope that the marriage would only bind father and daughter closer. The doctor agrees with these sentiments but when Darnay begins to speak of his past, admitting that his family name is not Darnay, the Doctor grows apprehensive and begs him to stop. He asks Charles to reveal his identity only if Lucie agrees to marry him and then not until the morning of the wedding. Darnay readily agrees. That evening Lucie returns to find her father working at his old prison occupation of shoemaking. She is distraught but when she calls to him he walks with her until he falls asleep.
It is 5 o’clock the next morning and Mr. Stryver and Sydney Carton are awake and still drinking following another night of work. Stryver very haughtily announces that he intends to ask for Lucie Manette’s hand in marriage even though the pairing will bring him no financial gain. He accuses Carton of being a disagreeable fellow and asserts that he has been embarrassed by his friend’s sullen moody behavior during their visits to the Manette’s. Stryver goes on to express his belief that Miss Manette will benefit greatly from the marriage and that his proposal will be a piece of good fortune for her. Carton drinks heavily during Stryver’s speech and offers no resistance to the proposal though his shrewd caustic responses belie a deeper emotional struggle than his manner suggests. Stryver finishes his speech by recommending that his friend marry a woman with money so as to provide for his otherwise dismal future.
Mr. Stryver has no doubt that his proposal to Lucie will be successful. He resolves to ask for her hand immediately in order that they may begin preparations for the wedding. On his way to the Manette’s he stops at Tellson’s to share the good news with Mr. Lorry. The banker receives the news coldly and, much to Mr. Stryver’s dismay offers no encouragement. In fact, his first response is “Oh dear me!” Although Mr. Lorry agrees with Mr. Stryver’s various claims to worthiness he persists in withholding his approval. In his arrogance, Stryver is unable to discern any logical reason why Lucie would refuse to marry him. He asks Mr. Lorry if he thinks that Miss Manette is a fool. Mr. Lorry bristles at the implied offense to Miss Manette and suggests that in order to avoid painful, embarrassing situations for Doctor and Miss Manette; he should go to Soho that evening instead of Mr. Stryver to confer with the Doctor on the matter. He promises to bring an answer to Mr. Stryver immediately after his interview. Though Stryver can see no reason for the intermediary he accepts Mr. Lorry’s offer. After Mr. Stryver leaves Tellson’s, however, he considers the situation and realizes that Mr. Lorry would not express doubts if he did not believe them to be true. By the time the banker calls at his apartment to tell him the suit would not prosper, Mr. Stryver has already reconfigured the situation in his mind so that it is Miss Manette who has tried to seduce him in order to better herself and failed in the attempt. He even asserts that he might not have proposed in the first place. Mr. Lorry is dumbfounded and finds himself bustled out before he can formulate a response.
It was true that Sydney Carton was always moody and morose when at the Manette’s. Yet, many nights he would walk in their neighborhood for hours until the sun rose. Soon after Mr. Stryver tells him that he has reconsidered asking for Lucie’s hand, Sydney Carton is seized by a sudden impulse and goes to the Manette house where he finds Lucie alone at her work. In very sorrowful terms he expresses to her his belief that his life will only get progressively worse and that if for a moment he could have believed that she loved him he would have known that he would only bring her misery. She implores him to believe that he can prosper and be happy and asks if without her love there is no other way that she can make him happy. He asserts that he is beyond redemption but that she has stirred something in him that he thought long since dead. Again, she asks if she can do anything for him and Carton answers that he would like her to remember that on this occasion he opened himself to her and that there was enough left of him that was worthy of pity. She sorrowfully agrees to keep his trust and he humbly thanks her. On his way out he tells her that he will never speak of their conversation again and will deny that it ever occurred should she broach the subject. She weeps at his display of emotion and he reminds her that in a couple of hours he will be so besotted as to not be worthy of such affection. Carton tells her that in the near future, when the ties of marriage and motherhood have enclosed her, to remember there is one such as himself who would give his life for her happiness. He departs.
Jerry Cruncher and his son are in their regular spot outside of Tellson’s watching the constant flow of traffic moving up and down Fleet Street. They see a funeral procession approaching and Jerry notices that the crowd is jeering and calling out that the man to be buried was a spy and that his body should be tumbled out of the casket. Jerry learns that the man’s name was Roger Cly and that he was an Old Bailey informant. The crowd resolves to pull the body from the coach but someone in the crowd suggest instead accompanying the coach to its graveyard destination and the mob readily agrees. Jerry Cruncher slips into the crowd and accompanies them to the burial ground. After the casket is buried the mob goes on to dissolve into random acts of vandalism and drunkenness. Jerry Cruncher calmly smokes a pipe and makes a close survey of the low gates in the graveyard where the casket has been interred. That evening, amidst continuous appeals to his wife not to pray, he announces that he will be out on one of his nocturnal fishing trips that night. When his son asks about the rust on his hands and wonders aloud whether his father will return with any fish, his father sharply silences him. At one o’clock in the morning Jerry fetches some heavy tools from a locked cabinet and, believing the rest of the family to be asleep, exits the house. Young Jerry follows him and observes that two other men join his father before they reach a graveyard. Jerry the younger is horrified to observe that his father and his friends begin unearthing a fresh grave and though he initially flees in terror he returns to watch. Once the casket is unearthed, however, he flees home and falls into a troubled sleep. The next morning he knows that something must have gone wrong with the operation because his father is very upset and accuses his wife of praying against him. On the way to Tellson’s young Jerry asks his father the meaning of the profession “Resurrection Man” and when his father haltingly tells him that it is a person who provides cadavers to doctors young Jerry announces that he would like to grow up to be a resurrection man. Jerry is noticeably proud of his son.
Analysis of Book II Chapters 10-14
This section serves to broaden the reader’s understanding of several of the key characters and their relationships toward one another. Of Lucie’s three potential suitors only Carton speaks directly to Lucie. Darnay takes the admirable course by consulting with the doctor beforehand and as this is the proper method, and the affection between him and Miss Manette is apparent, it is assumed that his suit will prosper. Mr. Stryver’s proposal, on the other hand, is presumed to fail by everyone who knows of it except Stryver himself. That his pride can admit no other explanation to save Lucie’s own ignorance and stupidity underscores his egotistic sensibility. Two events occur which create suspense and foreshadow things to come. First, Doctor Manette is apprehensive about Darnay’s past and his insistence on postponing the truth coupled with his temporary relapse leads the reader to draw a connection between the Evremonde’s and the doctor’s imprisonment. Second, Sydney Carton’s emotional episode with Lucie Manette reveals him to be a man of much greater sensibility and feeling than previously depicted. His avowal to give his life for her happiness introduces a defining aspect of his character and one that will figure prominently later in both their lives. The episode with Jerry Cruncher and his son reveals the reason behind Jerry Cruncher’s muddy boots and rusty hands. Though his nocturnal occupation provides extra income it is apparent that he feels some doubt regarding its morality. He not only castigates his wife for praying but he is happy to learn that his son does not condemn the practice.
A Tale of Two Cities Summary – Book II Chapter 15-16
For three days in a row there has been more than the usual number of early drinkers in the Defarge’s wine shop. Monsieur Defarge has been absent for several days but Madame Defarge tends to her customers, many of whom come not to drink but to whisper conspiracies. When known spies for the government enter the conversation ceases and Madame Defarge knits steadily. At noon on the third day Monsieur Defarge enters the shop with the mender of roads from the small village where the Marquis was murdered. All the men refer to each other as “JACQUES.” While the mender of roads takes a thin meal of stale bread and wine, various men get up and leave the shop to go to the garret apartment. Eventually Defarge and the road mender join the others. The road mender says that a man the Parisians know to be Gaspard, father of the child run over by the Marquis’ carriage, was captured by the soldiers of his village. He was beaten and placed in a cage suspended above the prison and for many days the people in the town witnessed his suffering but could do nothing to help him. The villagers heard that a petition had been presented to the King to spare the man’s life but they didn’t know if it was true. Two of the Jacques interrupt the story and explain to the road mender that Defarge himself hazarded his own life by stepping in front of the King’s carriage and was beaten for presenting the petition. The mender of roads says that the people of the village whispered that in Paris prisoners were horribly tortured before being killed and another of the Jacques affirms this fact. One morning the village awoke to find a gallows erected next to their communal fountain. That afternoon Gaspard was hung and his body left to rot with the murder weapon decorating the gallows. His story finished, the road mender is asked to wait outside while Defarge and the various Jacques confer. They all agree to include the Marquis’ entire family and his chateau on their list of those registered for destruction. Defarge assures the men that the authorities will not discover his wife’s method of keeping the list, sewn as code into her knitting. Before the road mender returns to his village the Defarge’s take him to see a royal procession. The road mender is overcome by the gallantry and reach pageantry of the aristocracy that he cries out his enthusiasm. Later the Defarges commend his zeal and remind him that it will be useful when the time comes to destroy the aristocracy. The road mender returns to his village wiser and for the first time in his simple life, empowered.
The Defarge’s return to the wine shop and Monsieur Defarge learns from a Jacques of the police that a new spy named John Barsad has started working the Saint Antoine district. As she shuts up the shop for the night Madame Defarge observes that her husband is depressed and he admits that he is sad that the revolution may not come in his lifetime. She reminds him that it could come at any moment and though it may not arrive while they live she is confident they have done much to help bring it to fruition. The next day a man Madame Defarge recognizes as the spy John Barsad comes into the shop and tries to bait her into revealing the district’s sympathies for the executed Gaspard. As a signal to the others in the shop she places a flower in her hair and the shop quickly empties. As Barsad tries to bait her, Madame Defarge knits his name into the register. Monsieur Defarge joins them and the spy, knowing that Doctor Manette sheltered with the Defarge’s, relates the news that Miss Manette is to marry the nephew of the murdered Marquis who is living under the name Darnay in England. Madame records this information in her register as well. After the spy leaves, Monsieur Defarge expresses his hope that destiny will keep Darnay out of France but his wife observes that fate will do what it will. That evening Monsieur Defarge admires the character of his wife as she goes throughout the street visiting the women.
Analysis of Book II Chapters 15-16
These chapters juxtapose the horrible death of Gaspard with the increasing unrest in Paris. Significantly, the mender of roads from the village is the one to convey the news of Gaspard’s death and his horror at effect upon his fellow villagers connects with the sentiments already being pursued by the society of Jacques in Saint Antoine. The manner in which the Defarge’s use his zeal for the pageantry of the procession to remind him that such zeal can be turned to his own advantage encapsulates the manner in which the methodical planning of the Jacques and their agenda can be readily accepted by the rural peasants who have suffered as much under the wasteful aristocratic rule. Madame Defarge emerges from this section as a prime motivator for the revolution. She is differentiated from her husband in two ways. First, she is shown to be more patient and determined when she demonstrates to him that it is only necessary that their enemies suffer not that they do the actual persecution. Second, she does not express any sympathy for Charles Darnay whom she considers a member of the aristocracy and therefore irredeemable in her eyes.
A Tale of Two Cities Summary – Book II Chapter 16-20
The night before Lucie Manette is to marry Charles Darnay she and her father sit under the plane tree in their yard and she reassures him that he love for Charles and all the ties that marriage will bring will not intrude upon her feelings for her father. He assures her that he knows this to be true and that her marriage will only make him happier. He speaks of the time he spent in prison, something Lucie has only heard him mention once before, and describes how he imagined what his child might be, son or daughter, and worried that they would never know him. He explains that in his furthest flights of solitary imagining he never would have believed that he could be as happy as his present life has made him. Later that night Lucie sneaks into her father’s bedroom and, placing her hand on his breast, she prays that she will always be true to him.
The morning of the wedding Mr. Lorry and Miss Pross fuss over the beautiful bride while Dr. Manette and Charles Darnay confer in the adjoining room. When Mr. Lorry suggests that he should have married before he grew old, Miss Pross insists that he was born to be a bachelor. Mr. Lorry promises Lucie that he and Miss Pross will take good care of her father while she and Charles spend two weeks honeymooning in Warwickshire and will send him to Wales to join them in good health. When Darnay and the Doctor emerge from their conference Mr. Lorry notices that the Doctor is pale and seems cowed. The wedding, which is private at a small church, goes smoothly and after breakfast the newly married couple are on their way. Mr. Lorry again notices the doctor’s changed demeanor and when he returns later in the evening he is alarmed to find Doctor Manette at his old occupation of making shoes. The doctor does not recognize either Mr. Lorry or Miss Pross. Mr. Lorry, for the first time in his life, takes a leave of absence from Tellson’s in order to attend to his sick friend. For nine days he tries to bring the doctor to his senses by making small talk about ordinary affairs.
On the morning of the tenth day Mr. Lorry awakes in the doctor’s room where he had unintentionally fallen asleep. The doctor has returned to normal but is not aware that nine days have passed since Lucie’s wedding. After breakfast Mr. Lorry engages his friend in a discussion regarding a hypothetical friend who recently experienced the recurrence of an old mental debility. The doctor understands that they are in fact discussing himself but continues with the conceit. When the doctor learns that Mr. Lorry’s “friend’s” daughter is unaware of the relapse he is very thankful. The doctor admits that the relapse was foreseen by its subject and dreaded. The doctor expresses his belief that the relapse might not return. Mr. Lorry asks if perhaps if his friend works too hard and the doctor denies that this is the cause. Mr. Lorry then suggests that the tools that accompany the relapse (meaning the shoemaker’s tools and bench) should be thrown away. The doctor argues that they were once so important to the subject’s survival as to have become dear to him. He relents, however, that they should be disposed of in the subject’s absence. Accordingly, as soon as the doctor has left for Wales to meet his daughter and son-in-law, Mr. Lorry with Miss Pross assisting utterly destroys the shoemaking implements.
Soon after Charles and Lucie return their first visitor is Sydney Carton. He pulls Charles aside and asks him if they could be friends so he might have the privilege of calling upon the couple informally about four times a year. Charles asserts that they have always been friends, which Carton dismisses, but readily accepts Charles’ offer to call upon them whenever he feels the need. Later that night Charles makes comments about Carton being reckless and careless. Later, in private, Lucie begs him to show more leniency in his opinion of Carton and expresses her belief that he is capable of great things. Charles is touched by the reminder that while they are happy Carton is miserable. He promises to remember her advice.
Analysis of Book II Chapters 16-20
The doctor’s mental relapse following his private conversation with Charles Darnay sets the stage for a collision between the doctor’s past and Charles’ aristocratic family. Mr. Lorry and Miss Pross are revealed are shown to have softened in the years of they have spent with the Manette family. Their easy banter and shared joy in the union reflect a deeper emotional life than either had been comfortable expressing at the beginning of the story. As such, it is appropriate that they share in the destruction of the doctor’s shoemaking tools – the most tangible sign of his former life and in their view the best service they can do for the family. Their sensitivity to the dynamics of the family, evidenced by the secrecy they maintain around the doctor’s relapse, endears them to Dr. Manette when he has recovered his senses. This desire to protect his daughter from his relapses coupled with his tacit permission to destroy the shoemaking implements indicates that Doctor Manette is hopeful of overcoming his past and its associations with Darnay’s ancestry. Sydney Carton’s somewhat awkward request to be permitted to visit the family demonstrates the degree to which their happiness has become necessary for his survival. That Lucie’s sympathy for him is genuine is evidenced by her defense of his character to her husband.
A Tale of Two Cities Summary – Book II Chapter 21-24
Years pass. Lucie occasionally suffers misgivings about the future but she is a model mother and homemaker. She gives birth to a daughter, which she and Charles name Lucie. Later they have a son who dies while still a child. They see Sydney Carton about six times a year but he is never intoxicated when he visits. Little Lucie forms an emotional attachment to Carton and, without knowing why, pities him. Stryver achieves professional success with Carton’s help and marries a wealthy widow with three sons. When Stryver presents these boys as pupils to Darnay they are rejected. About the time of little Lucie’s sixth birthday, Mr. Lorry arrives with grave news of social unrest in France from Tellson’s Paris branch. They all feel powerless against the rising tide of violence.
Far across the water in the district of Saint Antoine, centered upon the Defarge’s wine shop, the revolution has begun and the Defarge’s are busy arming the peasants and leading them in an assault upon the hated Bastille prison. For many hours the siege continues until the remaining soldiers surrender and the peasantry rush in with bloodthirsty vengeance. Madame Defarge, armed with pistols and a saber, leads the women and Monsieur Defarge is one of the first men to enter the breached prison. Monsieur Defarge has a soldier lead him to one-hundred-and-five north tower, the former cell of Doctor Manette. The soldier leads him though dense passageways to the long uninhabited cell where Defarge and one of the Jacques find the initials A.M. (Alexandre Manette) carved in the wall. They search the cell and Defarge claims to have found nothing in the chimney before they return to the mob. With the Defarge’s in the lead, the mob propels the governor of the prison through the streets and when he falls dead from its blows Madame Defarge cuts off his head with her knife. Seven prisoners are released and the heads of seven guards are hoisted up on pikes for display.
A week later the Saint Antoine district is calm but enlivened by its newly discovered power. Madame Defarge has a lieutenant honorably named The Vengeance. Monsieur Defarge returns to the shop with the news that an aristocrat named Foulon, an enemy of the people who told them they should eat grass if they were hungry, is being brought into the city as a prisoner. At the urgings of the Defarge’s the district of Saint Antoine is roused to a murderous pitch and the crowd goes to the Hall of Examination where Foulon is being questioned. Eventually the crowd seizes the aged man and hangs him from a lamppost, severs his head from his body and places it, with grass in its mouth, upon a pike for all to see. Then the mob seizes Foulon’s son-in-law and treats him to a similar fate. Eventually the crowd returns to Saint Antoine to prepare what meager food is available and share in the companionship of the district.
Far away in the village the mender of roads continues at his occupation. There is a great blight upon the lands and nothing will grow in the dry heat. The soldiers of the prison are reduced in number and their officers have no faith that they will obey orders. Throughout France the aristocracy has begun to flee the country for fear of so many hungry people. All over France, low-caste men from revolutionary Paris have begun to mix with the local populations in the small villages. One day in July, the mender of roads meets a shaggy-haired man coming down the road. They greet one another as “JACQUES” and by dropping a pinch of gunpowder into his pipe the stranger indicates that there will be action that night. The stranger sleeps while the mender works and at sunset the stranger proceeds in the direction of the Marquis’ chateau. That night the village, much to the consternation of Monsieur Gabelle (the local chief functionary) expectantly gathers near the fountain. In the grounds of the chateau the stranger meets three others who have come from the cardinal points on the compass. Soon their efforts yield a great conflagration that swallows the chateau. A rider from the chateau comes to the village seeking aid but is ignored. The rider gallops to the prison but the officers, looking doubtfully at their soldiers, tell him that the chateau must burn. The villagers light their houses with candles and surround the house of Monsieur Gabelle who resolves to throw himself from the roof if the villagers break in. In other villages the same scene is repeated and the revolution comes to the countryside.
Three years pass and the aristocracy have all been killed or hunted out of France. Many of those aristocrats who live in exile in England gather daily at Tellson’s, which due to its branch offices in both countries, has become a conduit of information. One morning Charles Darnay visits Tellson’s with the object of dissuading Mr. Lorry from making a scheduled trip to France in order to save what documentation can be spared from the Paris branch. Darnay expresses the wish that he was going himself because, as a Frenchmen with sympathy for the people, he might be of some use. Mr. Lorry assures his friends that the trip is absolutely necessary and tells him that he will depart that night with Jerry Cruncher as an escort. Their conversation takes place amid the hustle and bustle of the bank where various French aristocrats-in-exile are venting their complaints against the people of France. Mr. Styver is also there and much to Darnay’s annoyance loudly supports the aristocrat’s assertions. Darnay notices that a letter on Mr. Lorry’s desk is addressed to Darnay’s real name “The Marquis St. Evremonde”. When the other exiled aristocrats begin to disparage the missing Evremonde, Darnay defends him and receives much ridicule from Mr. Stryver. Darnay admits that he knows Evremonde and Mr. Lorry entrusts him to deliver the letter. Outside, Darnay opens the letter and finds that it is from Gabelle, an old loyal servant of the Marquis, who has been imprisoned and will be killed unless the emigrant (i.e. Darnay) returns to answer charges of treason against the people. Darnay considers that he has committed no crime and resolves to go to Paris. He is beguiled with the belief that by going he can do some good and perhaps help steer the revolution away from its bloody beginning. He gives Mr. Lorry a letter for Gabelle. The following night, before he departs for France, he leaves letters for Lucie and Doctor Manette explaining his reasons for going to Paris.
Analysis of Book II Chapters 21-24
The revolution finally arrives with the storming of the Bastille. Dickens strove to be historically accurate in his depiction of the event, including such incidents as the beheading of the governor and the number of prisoners actually freed, but places his characters in the forefront of the action. Although the subject’s name is changed, the incident in which Foulon is killed by the mob and his mouth stuffed with grass actually occurred during the revolution and lends credence to the story for Dickens’ readers. Madame Defarge is revealed to be a woman capable of great acts of violence indicating a deep-seated need for revenge previously only gleaned through her methodical knitting. She shows great zeal in beheading the Bastille’s Governor and later plays a key role in Foulon’s death. When the revolution spreads to the countryside it is the men from the city who must stir the peasants to rebellion but once shown that the old ways can be destroyed they are quick to capitalize on their new sense of power as evidenced by the scene with the functionary Gabelle is persecuted and driven to his rooftop. It is typical of the plot scheme that the letter, which calls Darnay to France, should reach him through his association with Mr. Lorry. The train of events, which stemmed from the Marquis’ carriage killing Gaspard’s child, has resulted in Gabelle’s imprisonment and Darnay’s motive for returning to France. His decision to leave is motivated at least in part by pride as displayed by his obvious displeasure at Mr. Stryver’s remarks regarding his Evremonde identity and his belief that he can play some part in leading the uprising against his own class.
A Tale of Two Cities Summary – Book III Chapter 1-5
Upon arriving in France, Charles Darnay’s progress to Paris is retarded by numerous inspections by each small village’s group of red-capped patriots. At one such village, still a far distance from Paris, he is awakened in the middle of the night and is told that as an aristocrat he must be escorted to Paris under guard, that he must leave immediately and that he must pay for the escort. At the small town of Beauvias he is told that new decrees have seized all the property of emigres and aristocrats and that more decrees are expected soon that will condemn all such persons as himself to death. Nevertheless, Darnay and his escort reach Paris the following day where at the Barrier none other than Monsieur Defarge inspects his papers, especially the letter from Gabelle. The officer in charge consigns Darnay, or Evremonde, as he is known in France, to the prison of La Force. On the way to the prison, Defarge relates his connection to Darnay’s family but refuses to help him in any way. Darnay hears a crier in the streets announcing that the royal family has been taken to prison and that all foreign ambassadors have fled the country. He then realizes that the situation in his native country is much more serious and deadly than he had previously imagined. The narrator notes that in a few days the mass executions by Guillotine would begin. Although the orders for Darnay’s imprisonment call for him to be held “in secret” or solitary confinement he briefly mingles with some of the other prisoners and is amazed to find that the prisoners are full of manners and refinement while the guards are uncouth and uncultured. Once in his cell he is told that he may not purchase any writing utensils or paper but may purchase food. Alone he paces his cell and thinks about Doctor Manette making shoes.
The Paris branch of Tellson’s is located in a wing of a large house that has been seized from its aristocrat owner. Unlike the London branch, it is lavishly furnished and separated from the street by a high wall. In its courtyard there is a grindstone that the revolutionaries used to sharpen their weapons. After a busy day of trying to reconcile utterly chaotic accounts and take inventory of what documents remain, Mr. Lorry is sitting by the fire, listening to the chaos in the streets and giving thanks that, so he believes, no one dear to him is in the city. Shortly thereafter he is surprised when Lucie and Doctor Manette appear at his door and, in a state of high emotion, inform him that Charles has been in the city several days as a prisoner. They are interrupted by the sound of a large crowd in the courtyard and Mr. Lorry, who knows that it is the sound of weapons being sharpened at the grindstone, begs them not to open the blinds. Doctor Manette explains that his past suffering as a prisoner of the Bastille has made him a hero and person whose character is beyond reproach in the new Republic. Fearing that the sight of the mob might overwhelm Lucie, however, Mr. Lorry sequesters her in another room while he and Doctor Manette look upon the grisly sight of the angry mob savagely sharpening its bloody instruments of death in the yard below. Mr. Lorry informs Doctor Manette that the mob is murdering the prisoners and begs him to use what influence he has immediately to spare Charles’ life. Doctor Manette converts the mob to his cause and departs with them to La Force. Mr. Lorry goes to Lucie and finds her with Miss Pross and her daughter. Lucie has collapsed under the emotional strain and Mr. Lorry spends a sleepless night waiting for word from the Doctor.
The next day Mr. Lorry, knowing that he cannot endanger Tellson’s by sheltering Lucie and her family and also aware that Charles will not be able to leave the city for some time even if he is released, engages an apartment near the bank for the family and leaves Jerry to look after them. Later in the day, Monsieur Defarge arrives with a note from the doctor to the effect that Charles is saved for the moment but will not be released. In the note the doctor asks that the messenger be permitted to see Lucie. Only after Madame Defarge and The Vengeance join them on the way to the apartment does Mr. Lorry notice Defarge’s affected, mechanical manner. At the apartment Lucie is initially grateful for her husband’s note and his observation that her father has “influence” in Paris. Madame Defarge’s cold manner and relentless knitting make Lucie apprehensive. After Madame Defarge has seen little Lucie she leaves. Before she leaves Lucie begs her to help her family and Madame Defarge’s impersonal reply brings despair to them all.
Four days later Doctor Manette returns and describes to Mr. Lorry the horror of the hundreds of executions. He relates how he used his influence to stay Charles’ execution but could not get him released or his case brought to trial. Over time, Doctor Manette becomes well known and liked among the revolutionaries and practices his trade as the chief surgeon for three prisons including La Force. Mr. Lorry notices that whereas the Doctor’s imprisonment was once a source of weakness and fear in revolutionary Paris it has become his strength and solace. He vows to save Charles. Nevertheless, fifteen months pass and Charles remains a prisoner while the Doctor builds his reputation among the bloody horrors of the revolution.
During the long months of Charles’ imprisonment, Lucie does her best to repress her grief and attend to her father and daughter. One day her father informs her that on some days at 3pm Charles is able to gain access to window that looks down upon a street corner near a wood sawyers shop. Every day afterward she waits from 2pm to 4pm. Over time the wood sawyer, an ardent revolutionary, engages her in conversation. Occasionally she gives him drink money but is fearful of him. The wood sawyer notices that she is constantly looking at the prison but claims, ominously, that it is none of his business. One day while she waits, Lucie is horrified to witness several hundred people including The Vengeance and the wood sawyer doing a demonic dance called the Carmagnole in the street. Later her father joins her and reassures his daughter that he can save Charles who has been summoned before the Tribunal the next day. When Doctor Manette visits Mr. Lorry that evening the narrator comments that Mr. Lorry has a visitor who chooses to remain unknown to the doctor.
Analysis of Book III Chapters 1-5
Dickens is careful about placing Charles Darnay’s return to France just prior to the bloody September massacres of that marked the beginning of the Reign of Terror and the mass executions of those condemned as enemies of the people. Darnay’s dream of somehow using his influence to help direct the course of the revolution is utterly dashed by the decrees he hears en route to the city and on his way to prison. The wave of murderous, vengeful death begins with the killing of the prisoners. A notable juxtaposition of scenes occurs when Mr. Lorry and Doctor Manette look out from Tellson’s, a place of safety and seclusion, to witness the bloody mob sharpening its instruments of death. At this moment, however, Doctor Manette is pressed to use his influence and he immediately succeeds in winning over the mob. This early success emboldens the doctor and whose past suffering becomes a source of strength in revolutionary Paris. While he works among the horrors of the revolution, becoming well known and well liked in the process, he grows more confident of his ability to save Charles and at no point does he express doubts that he will succeed. He is even able to arrange that Charles should be able to see Lucie occasionally during her corner-side vigils. The woodsawyers keen interest in Lucie’s loitering and the appearance of the Carmagnole in the street remind the reader that the family is surrounded by danger in a city where a show of sympathy for a prisoner could lead to death.
A Tale of Two Cities Summary – Book III Chapter 6-11
Charles Darnay is called to appear before the dreaded Tribunal of five judges. On the day that he appears all fifteen prisoners who go before him are sentenced to death. He notices that Madame and Monsieur Defarge are in the audience but they do not look at him. Doctor Manette and Mr. Lorry are also in attendance. Following Dr. Manette’s instructions, Charles carefully answers all the Tribunal’s accusations and offers as witnesses to his good character the author of the letter, Gabelle, as well as Doctor Manette. The attending crowd, initially bent on taking Charles’ life, are converted to his cause following Manette’s testimony and Charles is declared free. The crowd is overjoyed and carries the somewhat stunned Darnay to his family’s apartment where Lucie collapses in her husband’s arms. Lucie and Charles offer thanks to the Doctor who admonishes his daughter not to tremble for fear because he has saved him and now he is safe.
Doctor Manette is a changed man now that he has saved his son-in-law from execution. He is confident and assured. The next afternoon before Miss Pross and Jerry Cruncher leave to run errands, Miss Pross announces her fidelity to the English king and asks if they will be returning to England soon. Doctor Manette responds that it would be dangerous for Charles to try and leave so soon after his acquittal. Disappointed but resolute, Miss Pross and Jerry Cruncher leave to visit many shops to make small purchases so that the household will not be perceived as ostentatious. While they are gone four men in red caps arrive to re-arrest “The Citizen Evremonde, called Darnay.” When the Doctor demands to know the reason he is told that his son-in-law has been denounced by the Defarge’s and one other of the Saint Antoine district to be named the next day at the trial.
Miss Pross and Jerry Cruncher enter a wine shop and while their amount is being measured Miss Pross recognizes one of the departing customers as her long-lost brother Solomon and she screams aloud in surprise. Mr. Cruncher is also very surprised and looks at the man as if he has seen a ghost. Solomon rudely beseeches his sister to keep her mouth shut unless she wants to see him killed and the trio retires to the street where he bluntly asks what she wants with him. Miss Pross is stunned by her brother’s rude behavior. He admits that he knew she was in the city and has been avoiding her. He is afraid she will give away his true identity to the bloodthirsty revolutionaries with whom he serves as a prison official. Miss Pross begs only a kind word from her brother before he departs but Jerry Cruncher asks the man what other names he has used. As Cruncher struggles to remember the man’s alias, Sydney Carton steps up and announces that Solomon is none other than John Barsad, spy and witness at Charles Darnay’s first trial in England many years ago. Carton explains that he arrived the previous evening and presented himself to Mr. Lorry but that he chose for his presence to remain unknown until he could be useful. Much to John Barsad’s consternation he further explains that Miss Pross’ brother is a “sheep”, or spy, under the goalers at the prison. Carton compels Barsad to accompany him to Tellson’s bank where he relates to Mr. Lorry that Charles Darnay has been rearrested. Using the analogy of a card game, Sydney Carton proceeds to explain why it is in Barsad’s best interest, lest his identity be betrayed, to be Carton’s friend and help him with a special favor. Over the course of the conversation Carton alludes to Barsad’s prior co-conspirator, Roger Cly who he believes is in France as well, but Barsad insists that Cly is dead and offers to produce a death certificate as proof. Upon hearing this claim Jerry Cruncher interrupts and, much to the surprise of all present, angrily states that he knows for a fact that Roger Cly’s body was not in the coffin that was buried. Barsad is compelled by fear of discovery to assist Carton who, after he learns that Barsad can gain access to the prisoners (though he cannot free anyone), pours himself a third glass of brandy and then asks to speak to the spy in private.
While Carton and Barsad converse, Mr. Lorry demands that the visibly disturbed Jerry Cruncher tell him what else he’s been doing for income besides acting as messenger at Tellson’s. Cruncher initially answers “Agricultooral character” but when Mr. Lorry hints that he will lose his job Cruncher beseeches his employer to go easy on him since many doctors have performed the same function as himself but for higher wages. Seeing that this has not mollified Mr. Lorry, Cruncher begs him to let his son continue at Tellson’s while he takes up the more honest profession of grave digging. He claims that the bloody sights of the revolution have caused him to reconsider his nocturnal profession and points out that he need not have volunteered the helpful information regarding Roger Cly. Mr. Lorry agrees to stay Cruncher’s friend if he repents in action not just word. Soon afterward, Barsad leaves and Carton announces that he has ensured access to Darnay at least one time prior to his execution. Mr. Lorry is visibly distressed and saddened and Carton expresses feelings of tenderness for the old man that causes Mr. Lorry to re-evaluate the morose barrister. Mr. Lorry is to go visit Lucie that evening and Carton stresses the importance of keeping his presence in Paris a secret from her. Mr. Lorry affirms that he is ready to leave the city and his papers are in order. Carton reminds Mr. Lorry that though the old man is a bachelor he has the great comfort of knowing that if he were to die the next day there would be mourners at his funeral. He and Carton discuss the manner in which a man’s memory returns to his childhood as he draws nearer to death and Carton admits that he has recently experienced powerful memories of his unhappy youth. Carton walks Mr. Lorry to the Manettes and then wanders the streets of Paris, retracing in part Lucie’s daily walk to the prison. He stops at a chemist’s shop and orders several concoctions, which the chemist cautions him against mixing improperly. As he walks that night he repeats to himself the words on his father’s gravestone: “I am the resurrection and the life.” The next morning he slips unnoticed into the courtroom where Charles is to be retried. The prosecution announces three witnesses, Monsieur and Madame Defarge and, amid great uproar, Doctor Manette himself. The doctor protests vociferously but is shouted down and told to listen to the evidence. Monsieur Defarge reads aloud a manuscript he recovered from the doctor’s old cell the day that the Bastille fell.
The manuscript is in the doctor’s hand was written after he had been a prisoner for ten years. It relates the incidents of his capture and detainment. One night in 1757 he was walking home from a case, a young surgeon with a growing reputation, when a carriage containing two twin gentlemen stopped him and under threats of violence took him to a house where a woman lay restrained on a bed. She was hysterical and kept repeating the phrase “My husband, my father, and my brother!” She then would count from one to twelve and say “Hush” before repeating the lines again. The two brothers seemed inconvenienced by the woman’s condition and after the doctor gave her a sedative, which does not cease her litany, the brothers reluctantly admitted that there was another patient. In a back room filled with hay, the doctor found a young man dying of a saber wound. The brothers showed no pity for this boy whom they referred to as a “brute.” As he died, the boy told the doctor how his sister, who lies in the other room, married a poor man like herself and when he would not consent to allowing one of the brothers to have his way with her the nobleman harnessed her husband to a cart and drove him like an animal until he died one day at noon, sobbing once for each stroke of the bell. The noble took the girl and when the boy told his father the old man’s heart burst from grief and he died. The young man then came to kill the nobleman and free his sister but was outmatched and suffered the mortal wound that he soon died from. The noble who took the girl was none other than the Marquis Evr�monde. The girl lingered a week in great pain and the brothers only concern during this time was that the whole situation seemed ridiculous and potentially degrading to their family. When she finally died the nobles offered the doctor money and insisted on his discretion. He refused, however, to take their gold. The next morning the doctor found the gold on his front doorstep and wrote a letter to his Minister describing the whole situation. The next day, before sending the letter, he was visited by the wife of the Marquis St. Evremonde who had heard of the girl’s mistreatment and was greatly distressed. She expressed her hope that the girl’s younger sister would have a good life. The Doctor saw that the woman had a young son (who is Charles) with her and she shared her belief that in the future her son would have to pay for the wickedness of his father and uncle. The doctor delivered the letter that very day. That night he was summoned by a carriage for an urgent case but soon thereafter the carriage stopped and the brothers stepped from the roadside shadows, burnt the letter in front of the doctor and interred him in the prison where he has remained ever since without communication to the outside world. The Doctor’s manuscript ends with a curse upon the Evremonde’s and all their descendents. After the reading the crowd and the jury are unanimous in their condemnation of the Evremondes and sentence Charles to be executed the following day.
Lucie and Charles are allowed to briefly embrace. Charles comforts the distraught doctor with the thought that he has done everything in his power but that none can stop fate. Only after hearing the manuscript does the family understand the true nature of the doctor’s years of torment. The doomed man is carried back to his cell and Lucie collapses at her father’s feet. The doctor utters a great cry of anguish. Sydney Carton appears and carries the unconscious Lucie to a carriage and then into the Manette’s apartment where he gently lays her on a couch. Little Lucie hugs Carton and begs him to do something to help them. Carton kisses the still insensible Lucie on the cheek and only little Lucie hears him whisper “A life you love.” Carton immediately becomes business-like and brings the distraught doctor to his senses. Though he admits to Mr. Lorry that he has no hope of success, Carton charges the doctor with the task of working to spare Charles’ life and then to report the result at Mr. Lorry’s quarters that evening at 9 o’clock.
Analysis of Book III Chapters 6-11
A great deal happens in this section to move the plot forward and reveal some the stories lingering mysteries. Like Doctor Manette, who is able to use his influence to free his son-in-law, Sydney Carton becomes a changed man in revolutionary Paris. Both men seem at their best when those they love are threatened. Like his friend Stryver, Carton is suddenly energetic and cunning as when he convinces Barsad to help him and, as in his conversation with Mr. Lorry, surprisingly open and sympathetic. His maneuverings and calculated steps (as when he visits the chemist) belie a greater scheme. The doctor’s letter reveals, for the first time, the circumstances surrounding his imprisonment and explain the reason for his request that Darnay keep his true identity and secret and the relapse that followed that confession. The audience is reminded of the aristocrat’s cruelty during the years leading up to the revolution by the letter. Ironically, it’s author’s term of imprisonment, recently made a source of strength, becomes the means for his son-in-law’s sentence of death. In this way Fate, as personified by Madame Defarge, achieves mastery over the Evremonde clan and the dying boy’s request is honored by the doctor himself.
A Tale of Two Cities Summary – Book III Chapter 12-15
With several hours to spare, Carton goes to the Defarge’s wine shop with the purpose of making his face known to the revolutionaries. At the shop, he pretends to be unfamiliar with the French language and Madame Defarge closely examines his appearance. He overhears the Defarge’s commenting on his likeness to Darnay and also overhears Monsieur Defarge meekly suggest to his wife that Lucie and her daughter’s life should be spared in order to please the doctor who has suffered much in the cause of the revolution. Madame Defarge and her compatriots scoff at the idea and Madame reminds her husband that she is the younger daughter of the girl who died so horribly in the doctor’s manuscript. Madame Defarge is without mercy and has sworn to wipe out the Evremonde race in its entirety. Carton returns to Mr. Lorry’s apartment and waits for the doctor. When Doctor Manette returns soon after midnight it is not only apparent that Charles is doomed but that the Doctor’s senses have become deranged. The doctor pitifully begs for his shoemaking tools. Before Mr. Lorry leaves to take the doctor to Lucie, Carton demands that the banker follow his instructions exactly. Mr. Lorry is to hold on to Carton’s letters of transit and is to hold the similar papers of the doctor, Lucie and her daughter. He tells Mr. Lorry that Lucie and little Lucie are in grave danger and it is imperative that the family flees the city the next day before the transit papers can be rescinded. Mr. Lorry is to be ready to leave with the family at exactly 2pm the next day but he is not to depart until Carton has rejoined them after visiting Charles in his cell. That night Carton walks outside of Lucie’s apartment for the last time.
That same night in prison Charles Darnay composes his mind and resolves himself to accept the death that certainly awaits him. He writes letters to Lucie, Doctor Manette and Mr. Lorry but never once thinks of Carton. Eventually he falls into an uneasy sleep and dreams of the happiness of their Soho home. He awakes and knows instantly that on that day, a day marked for 52 executions, he will die. As a church bell tolls the hours he counts each one that he will never see again until it tolls one o’clock and he hears footsteps approaching his cell. Sydney Carton enters and with quick dialogue and forceful appeals he convinces Darnay to change clothing with him one article at a time. Darnay believes that Carton wants to break him out of jail and knowing this to be impossible begs him not to perish in the attempt. Carton denies this plan and orders Darnay to begin writing as he dictates. As Darnay writes Carton prepares a chemical mixture and then forcibly applies it to Darnay, rendering the latter unconscious. Although Barsad fears that Carton will betray himself before the Guillotine falls, and endanger the spy as well, he yields to Carton’s assurances and takes the still comatose Darnay out in his place. At two o’clock Carton is taken to a room where the other fifty-two victims wait. A young girl, a seamstress who knew Darnay from his prior imprisonment, approaches Carton, and after some dialogue in which she expresses her fears of death she realizes it is a different man. He motions for her to keep his secret and she implores him “O you will let me hold your brave hand, stranger?” He promises to do so until the last. The narrator looks forward in time and observes that the carriage bearing the still unconscious Darnay, his family and Mr. Lorry proceeds safely from the city and slowly but surely makes its way to the coast.
At the same time that Sydney Carton is awaiting execution in Darnay’s place, Madame Defarge, the Vengeance and Jacques Three (the most bloodthirsty of the Jacques) hold a meeting in the woodsawyer’s shed. Madame Defarge expresses her sadness that her husband lacks the resolve to see the Evremonde clan completely exterminated and she asserts that she must ensure that Evremonde’s wife and daughter do not escape the Guillotine. Furthermore, Madame Defarge asserts that the doctor must also fall before the blade. To her compatriot’s joy, Madame Defarge announces that she will go to the doctor’s apartment and confront Lucie. She agrees to meet the others at the execution site before the blade falls. She carries with her a loaded pistol and a dagger. At the apartment Miss Pross and Jerry Cruncher are waiting to leave in a lighter carriage that will overtake and join the one that recently departed containing the family. They know that Carton has traded places with Darnay and that every moment counts. Jerry is so emotional that he proclaims to Miss Pross that he will never do “It” any more, (by which he means unearthing dead bodies) and that he will never again forbid Mrs. Cruncher from “flopping.” Miss Pross understands neither of these allusions but passionately signifies that she has heard him. Miss Pross expresses her belief that it would be best if the second carriage did not depart from the apartment and raise suspicions. She sends Jerry to intercept their carriage and await her at a certain Cathedral door familiar to them both. After Jerry departs, Miss Pross is washing her face when she is surprised to see that Madame Defarge has entered the apartment. Madame Defarge demands to know the family’s whereabouts. Miss Pross does not understand French and Madame Defarge speaks no English but the two women immediately understand that they are at cross-purposes. Madame Defarge inspects all the rooms but the one that Miss Pross blocks and the two women struggle and the pistol explodes and kills Madame Defarge. Miss Pross composes herself and then locks the apartment and flees. On her way to meet Jerry she drops the key in the river. When she meets Jerry he realizes that the poor woman has become deaf though he cannot understand why.
The tumbrels carrying those to be executed roll through the Paris streets. The doomed display varying countenances, from resolved to insane. John Barsad sees Sydney Carton holding the hand of a young girl and prays that he will not betray him. The Vengeance asks her friends in vain if they have seen Madame Defarge. As the Guillotine begins its work upon the fifty-two condemned to die, Sydney Carton and the seamstress hold hands and express their belief that God has sent them each other at this moment. They kiss each other’s lips before they are parted. She is executed before him. Sydney Carton looks peaceful and sublime as he is led to the blade. Before he dies his thoughts are of the family that will live long and peacefully in England because of his sacrifice. He imagines that a son is born to them that is named for him and, as the blade falls, he says to himself, “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”
Analysis of Book III Chapters 12-15
These chapters bring to the story to a close the story at the cost of two lives. Sydney Carton is able to fulfill his promise to give his life for Lucie’s happiness by trading places with Darnay. Good, as personified by Miss Pross, triumphs over evil, personified by Madame Defarge when the latter dies by her own gun. Some critics have asserted that Carton’s sacrifice is meant to be interpreted as a Christ-like act but others have insisted that because he dies for Lucie’s happiness and not merely to save another his death is borne of selfish desires. In either case, Carton is depicted as having found true happiness in the moments before his death when he is able to bring comfort to the seamstress and assures her that like his own impending death hers will not be without purpose.