A Tale Of Two Cities Notes Essay
A Tale of Two Cities – Book I (Chapters 1 – 4)
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness . . .”
Dickens begins A Tale of Two Cities with this famous sentence. It describes the spirit of the era in which this novel takes place. This era is the latter part of the 1700s – a time when relations between Britain and France were strained, America declared its independence, and the peasants of France began one of the bloodiest revolutions in history. In short, it was a time of liberation and a time of terrible violence. Dickens describes the two cities at the center of the novel: Paris, a city of extravagance, aristocratic abuses, and other evils that lead to revolution and London, a city rife with crime, capital punishment, and disorder. In both cities, the capabilities of an angry mob were a dangerous thing, to be feared by all.
The tale begins on a road between London and Dover (in southern England) in 1775. Three strangers in a carriage are traveling along this dangerous road. The carriage encounters a messenger on a horse who asks for one of the passengers, Jarvis Lorry of Tellson’s Bank. They are wary, because the messenger could be a highwayman, robber, or other undesirable. However, Mr. Lorry ventures out into the rain to receive the message. He recognizes the messenger as a man named Jerry, who works for Tellson’s Bank, as well. Jerry tells him to wait at Dover for the young lady. Lorry tells Jerry to relay to the people at the Bank this message: Recalled to Life. Jerry has no idea what it means and rides off into the rain.
Dickens then ponders how the heart of a person is a true mystery. Lorry can tell who or at least of what class the two other passengers are. Traveling on, Lorry dozes in and out of dreams. His dreams reveal to the reader that his mission is to metaphorically dig a man out of the grave. He dreams of imaginary conversations with this man he is to recall to life. “Buried how long?” Lorry always asks. “Almost eighteen years,” replies the man. Lorry brings the man in his dreams to see a woman (the young woman of which Jerry the messenger spoke). But the man does not know if he still wishes to live or if he can bear to see the young lady after having been “buried” for eighteen long years. Upon arriving at an inn in Dover, Lorry waits for the young lady.
Here the reader learns that the sixty-year-old Lorry is a well-dressed businessman who works for Tellson’s Bank. Tellson’s has an office in London, and an office in Paris. Lorry is above all a man of business, and tries to reduce everything to business terms. When the young lady arrives, Lorry goes to see her. She is Lucie Manette, a seventeen-year-old orphan. Lucie believes that she must go to Paris with Lorry because Tellson’s Bank has discovered something regarding her dead father’s small bit of property. However, Lorry nervously tells her the truth: Her father was a well known scientist in France, whom Lorry knew while working at Tellson’s French office. Lucie vaguely recognizes Lorry because he brought her to London many years ago when she was orphaned and Tellson’s Bank was put in charge of her.
Lucie is shocked when she learns that Tellson’s has found her father alive in Paris. He was imprisoned in the Bastille (a famous French prison) for eighteen years, but no one knows why. Lorry calls in the servants, and a strong, brusque woman (who we later discover is Lucie’s servant and who essentially raised her) comes in to take care of the young lady.
The two cities are very important to the development of this novel. Both are violent cities rife with injustice. The characters travel between them throughout the novel. The cities provide two distinct settings, each with its own secrets and perils. The major themes of this novel are resurrection and revolution. The first of the two themes is introduced in this section. Resurrection is the literal action of bringing the dead back to life. However, Dickens uses it metaphorically. Lorry likens his mission to digging up a man who has been buried for eighteen years, in short, “recalling him to life.” Resurrection in this novel appears as many things: a second chance at life, an escape of a death sentence, release from imprisonment, the digging up of graves, and memories of the dead.
Book 1 (Chapters 5 – 6)
The setting shifts to the same year, 1775, in Saint Antoine, a poor section of Paris. This district is famous because it was home to many of the revolutionaries and members of the starving mob that reeked havoc during the French Revolution. Starving peasants are licking up the wine that was accidentally spilled in front of a wine shop. In this image, Dickens foreshadows the blood that will fill the streets of this district in little over a decade.
With compassion, Dickens describes the horrible condition of these people. The wine shop owner is a man named Defarge. He shoos off a jokester writing the word BLOOD in wine on the wall of his shop. This is ironic because Defarge and these peasants will be the cause of much blood in the future. His solemn wife sits knitting ominously behind the counter. We are to know Defarge and his friends in the shop are revolutionaries, because they refer to each other as Jacques, which is a code used by many revolutionaries at that time. In the corner of the shop sit Lucie and Lorry. Lorry tells Defarge their business (recovering Dr. Manette, Lucie’s father) and Defarge takes them to a filthy apartment. They find him white-haired at forty-five years of age and out of his mind from so many years of prison. He is making shoes in a trance.
After Defarge (Dr. Manette’s former house servant) and Lorry (Dr. Manette’s former acquaintance at Tellson’s in Paris) make many failed attempts at communicating with Dr. Manette, Lucie tries. She speaks to him bravely and at first he only responds in confused sentence fragments. Soon he recognizes something in her voice. He thinks Lucie is his wife, but then discovers that she is too young. Suddenly, Lucie gives an impassioned speech about how she wants to help him get better. Dr. Manette breaks into tears and cries on her shoulder.
Lorry and Lucie take the doctor and his shoe-making equipment to London. In the carriage as it leaves Paris, Lorry thinks of his imagined conversations with Dr. Manette once more: “I hope you care to be recalled to life?” And the doctor answers, “I can’t say.” (Dickens, 81).
Lucie shows that she is strong and good-hearted in this section of the book. Dickens establishes her purity of mind and heart by her automatic devotion to her estranged father. Most importantly, Dickens makes the reader feel sympathetic toward the poor, starving people of Paris. He does this in a number of sections early in the novel. This is important because in the latter part of the book, the author shows how these same people become brutal and murderous, how the oppressed become the oppressors.
Dickens also directs his reader’s sympathies toward Dr. Manette. Once a brilliant scientist, the doctor has been reduced to a broken man; Dickens hints at the terrible conditions and torture Manette had to endure while imprisoned in the dungeons of the Bastille. He remembers little of his earlier intellectual pursuits and can only bury his pain in manual labor: shoe-making. The doctor’s tragic plight indicates the unbridled cruelty of the French authorities.
Book 2 (Chapters 5 – 6)
Carton goes groggily to Stryver’s office late at night to finish up work. Dickens explains that these were drinking days and that all men drank incredible quantities of alcohol. Carton and Stryver are drinking buddies. They went to school together in Paris. Carton was always messing up and Stryver was bullying his way ahead. They worked well together because Carton was clever and Stryver was bold. Stryver was the lion, Carton the jackal. Stryver, to lift Carton’s spirits, brings up the beauty and compassion of Lucie Manette. Carton, hiding his real feelings, says she is nothing but a golden-haired doll.
Dickens allows the reader to see the city through Carton’s depression during his walk home. It is a wasteland and Carton inhabits it: “Sadly, sadly, the sun rose; it rose upon no sadder sight than the man of good abilities and good emotions, incapable of their directed exercise, incapable of his own help and his own happiness, sensible of the blight on him, and resigning himself to let it eat him away.”
Then the novel skips to four months after the trial. Lorry, now a trusted family friend, is walking to Dr. Manette’s house. Finding them not at home, he converses with Miss Pross. We discover that she is the lady who cared for Lucie after Lorry told her of her father five years ago in Dover. Ms. Pross, as described by Lorry, is a tough, brusque, woman, who is fiercely loyal to Lucie. She acts solely out of the goodness of her heart. Pross complains of the great number of suiters that are not good enough for Lucie. In reality, there are only Darnay, Stryver, and Carton, none of whom have expressed intentions yet. Lorry and Pross wonder if the doctor ever thinks about his time in the Bastille. They wonder if he knows why he was imprisoned.
Lucie and the doctor come home and soon Darnay joins them. Darnay tells a tale that he heard while waiting trial in the tower of London. The word “DIG”was inscribed on a stone in a cell. When people dug there, they found the crumbled papers of a prisoner long dead. Dr. Manette has a frightened reaction to this and almost relapses. Carton joins them later on and they sit in the drawing room, listening to footsteps. The strange acoustics of the apartment allow them to hear footsteps that are many miles down the street. Lucie says that she sometimes imagines them to be the footsteps of people that will soon enter their lives. Carton, listening to the footsteps, says if so, then a great crowd must be on its way. Here, Dickens foreshadows the great mob that will one day enter all of their lives.
The Manettes have a happy home life in London. Dickens uses the footsteps to foreshadow the mob of people that will someday wreak this happiness. However, this is not the only event foreshadowed in this section. Darnay’s story about the prisoner’s papers causes such a strong response in Dr. Manette, that the reader must assume that while in the Bastille, the doctor left some such hidden note. Ms. Pross, the faithful woman who took care of Lucie all her life, is developed in this section. Ms. Pross represents order, moderation, lawfulness, and loyalty in this novel. Her counterpart is Madame Defarge who will come to represent mob-mentality, revolution, revenge, and violence. Both women are tough and strong but represent two different sides of the citizen.
Book 2 (Chapters 7 – 9)
In Paris, a powerful aristocrat is entertaining other aristocrats. This man is Dickens’s example of the French aristocracy’s typical extravagance. It takes four servants to serve him his chocolate. He is surrounded by opulence and needless attendants while the commoners starve. Dickens uses this man to show how the aristocrats are detached from utility and reality: “The leprosy of unreality disfigured every human creature in attendance upon Monseigneur.” Greed and incompetence marked the government of France. One Marquis (like a Lord or Duke in England), angry that the powerful aristocrat did not pay any attention to him, leaves. He orders his carriage to speed through the streets of Saint Antoine, where it tramples and kills a small peasant girl. The father of the girl is in shock. The Marquis tosses the man a coin, as if he had broken a piece of merchandise. The aristocrat then notices Defarge who is calming the father of the child. He tells Defarge to keep the coin. As the Marquis drives away, the coin is flung back into his carriage. The Marquis demands to know who has done this. Defarge is no where to be found, but his wife, Madame Defarge is knitting ominously where he was standing.
The Marquis arrives in the village he rules. There too, the people are exploited, poor, and starving. He stops his carriage and asks a road-mender what he was staring at a moment ago. The road-mender says that a man was holding on to the bottom of his carriage. That man then jumped off and ran. Later, at the Marquis’ chateau, Charles Darnay arrives by carriage. He is the nephew of the Marquis. Darnay tells his uncle that he wants to renounce the title and the property when the Marquis dies. The family’s name is associated with blood and oppression. Darnay cannot abide how the peasants are treated. The Marquis, his uncle, merely laughs at him. The next morning, the Marquis is found dead with a knife through his heart. The knife has a note on it which reads, “Drive him fast to his tomb. This, from Jacques.” It is clear that this is one of the first killings of the wave that will come in the Revolution a few years later.
The knitting of Madame Defarge and other women in this novel is ominous from the very beginning of the book. Knitting or weaving is a common literary device used to denote the spinning of fate or destiny. Dickens uses it as such, but in the lives of the Defarges, knitting has a more practical and more sinister use. Later in the novel, it is revealed that the knitting is a code to record a register of the people to be killed during the Revolution. Madame Defarge has recorded the names of many aristocrats. She is knitting, constantly throughout the novel — the list of names has no end for her. Her anger is the anger of revolution; it cannot be quenched, no matter how many heads roll.
It is interesting to note that Dickens disapproves equally of those who caused the revolution and those who carried it out. It is obvious that Dickens despises mob-mentality and the needless killing of the revolutionaries. However, he also hates the greedy aristocrats who are bleeding the peasants dry, as we see in his description of the opulence of the powerful aristocrat and the cruelty of the Marquis. The author places blame on both sides of the conflict: those who are oppressed will learn to oppress others. Also of interest is the fact that Dickens foreshadows the death of the Marquis by describing the red glow of the sunrise upon the chateau. The glow turns the water red, like blood, in the fountain outside.
In Chapter Nine Dickens uses the metaphor of the Gorgon. The mythological gorgon, Medusa, could turn people to stone with her gaze. He describes the chateau as having a face of stone, as well as the cruel count. This description breeds irony when the next morning the Marquis is found petrified by a blade in his heart: “The Gorgon had surveyed the building again in the night, and had added the one stone face wanting…It lay back on the pillow of Monsieur the Marquis.” In life and in death the cruel Marquis (who the reader will learn more about) had a face of cold stone.
Book 2 (Chapters 10 – 13)
A year later Darnay is a moderately successful French teacher in London. He goes to the doctor and admits his love for Lucie in a very romantic and touching way that demonstrates the good heart of Charles Darnay. He says that he would never weaken the bond between father and daughter, nor would he want the doctor to influence Lucie to marry him. The doctor, who is fond of Darnay, agrees to let them marry if Lucie agrees.
Darnay then attempts to tell the doctor his real name. The doctor stops this confession and makes Darnay promise to tell him on his wedding day. Hours later, Lucie comes home to find her father, in a similar state to when she first saw him, making shoes at his bench. She is shocked and paces back and forth with him until he is himself again. Meanwhile, Carton and Stryver are working late. Stryver, in his puffed-up and arrogant manner announces that he intends to marry Lucie Manette. Carton is disturbed by this, but does not show it to his friend, except in his increased consumption of alcohol.
The next day Stryver goes to propose, but is warned off by Lorry. Lorry persuades Stryver to let him see if he has a chance. Eventually, Lorry informs Stryver that Lucie respectfully declines and Stryver takes it in stride, commenting that the marriage would not benefit him financially anyway. This whole episode is rather comic and makes fun of Stryver’s arrogance. However, the novel becomes solemn again as it describes Carton’s late night walks past Lucie’s house. One day, he enters and speaks to Lucie alone. He is at the depths of his depression and relates to her his sorrows. He says he will never show this side of himself to her again, but she must believe it exists underneath his indifferent exterior. He says he is not worthy of her, but she is the only bright part of his life. At the end of his confession, he vows that his life is hers and he would gladly give it to save someone dear to her.
This series of confessions and proposals are written of back to back for a reason. They show how Lucie brings to surface the true character of these three men. In Darnay, she inspires honest love. In Stryver, she brings out his arrogance and preoccupation with worldly things. She allows Carton, for the first time in his sad life, to show his true self. He is capable of true feelings and good thoughts, but his depression and alcoholism always keep them hidden. Not only is Lucie the golden thread which binds people together, but the thread that connects people to their true selves.
Book 2 (Chapters 14 – 16)
One morning outside Tellson’s, Jerry Cruncher sees a crowd passing by. It is angrily mobbing the hearse carrying Roger Cly’s body. Cly was one of the people who testified against Darnay. The mob is angry because at some point Cly was accused of being a spy against His Majesty. For fun, Cruncher joins the mob. Dickens points out that this is a characteristic mob: not knowing anything about the deceased man in the coffin, rioting for their own enjoyment.
The hearse reaches the graveyard and Cly is buried while the crowd loots nearby stores. At home that night, Jerry harangues his wife about praying again, then announces that he is going fishing that night. In reality he is going out after dark to dig up Cly’s body in order to sell it to scientists. His son, unbeknownst to Cruncher, follows and witnesses.
Months later in Paris, the mender of roads (the man who witnessed the person clinging to the bottom of the dead Marquis carriage) is in the Defarges’ wine shop. He tells the story of the man under the carriage to Defarge and three other revolutionaries. He adds that a few months after, the man under the carriage was caught and imprisoned in the village. He was the same man whose child was killed in the streets of Saint Antoine and was guilty of murdering the Marquis.
The next day, the Defarges take the mender of roads to see the King and Queen in a parade. The man cheers because he is caught up in the excitement, and Madame Defarge says that the more unsuspecting the aristocrats are, the easier it will be to kill them. The Defarges return to Saint Antoine later that evening. A policeman friend tells Defarge that a spy by the name of John Barsad is in the neighborhood. Madame Defarge knits his name into the register.
That night Defarge tells his wife of his fear that the revolution will not come in his lifetime. She says that it does not matter as long as it comes. The next day Barsad visits the wine shop. He pretends to be a sympathizer, commenting on how horribly the peasants are treated. The spy tells them that the daughter of Dr. Manette is to marry Charles Darnay, the nephew of the Marquis. Madame Defarge gives away nothing, but her husband acts nervously. When the spy is gone, Defarge says he hopes Lucie’s husband stays in England, because his name is in the register.
Again, Dickens shows his distaste for mob-mentality. He uses this mob to characterize all mobs as purposeless, self-interested, and easily swayed. Also, the theme of resurrection appears in this section. Jerry Cruncher’s grave-digging is a very literal interpretation of the theme. In this section, the theme of revolution is developed. Madame Defarge is revolution personified. She patiently puts names into her register, waiting for the terror to strike. It does not matter when the revolution comes; it is inevitable. She tells her husband, “I tell thee it never retreats, and never stops. I tell thee it is always advancing. Look around and consider the lives of all the world that we know, consider the faces of all the world that we know, consider the rage and discontent to which the Jacquerie addresses itself with more and more of certainty every hour.”
Through Madame Defarge, Dickens is saying that revolution is inevitable under such conditions. She and the other women of Saint Antoine are almost literally weaving the revolution. Knitting is a metaphor for fate, and the fate of many men and women are woven into the register of Madame Defarge. “So much was closing in about the women who sat knitting, knitting, that they their very selves were closing in around a structure yet unbuilt here Dickens means the guillotine, where they were to sit knitting, knitting, counting dropping heads.”
Book 2 (Chapters 17 – 22)
The lives of Lucie, her father, and those around them are blissful. It is the night before her marriage to Darnay. For the first time, Dr. Manette speaks of his days in the Bastille. In prison he speculated upon what sort of person Lucie would grow up to be. He is very happy now, thanks to her. Later that night Lucie is roused from sleep by unshaped fears. She checks on her father, then goes back to bed. On the morning of the wedding, Darnay tells Dr. Manette his real name. After the wedding, Lucie and Darnay leave for their short honeymoon.
Pross and Lorry find Dr. Manette at his shoe-making equipment, lapsed into an incoherent state. They do everything they can to bring him back and after nine days, he comes out of it. It is important to note that the reader does not know what Darnay’s real name is at this point, or why it would cause such a reaction in Dr. Manette. Lorry gently asks the doctor what might have caused this relapse. The doctor either cannot or will not remember. Lorry suggests that the shoe-making equipment be taken away. Dr. Manette is reluctant to part with it because it gave his mind so much relief while in prison. In the end he relents and while he is away, Lorry and Pross burn the shoemaker’s bench and bury the tools.
When Lucie and Darnay arrive home from their honeymoon (they now live in the apartment above Dr. Manette’s), Carton comes to see them. Pulling Darnay aside, Carton apologizes for being rude that night in the bar. Carton tells Darnay that he truly wants to be his friend; Darnay agrees that they should be friends.
Later on, after Carton has left, Darnay makes an innocent comment about Carton’s tendency toward carelessness and recklessness. Lucie tells her husband that Carton has a good heart and cannot help his own unhappiness. Darnay is touched by her compassion and promises to be understanding of Carton’s faults. Years go by and their lives are happy. Lucie is the golden thread that binds the family and friends together. Lucie still listens to the echos of footsteps, and hears both happiness and sorrow in their future. She gives birth to a daughter, little Lucie, and a son, who dies in infancy. Carton still visits the family and has a special bond with little Lucie. Darnay marvels at how his wife can be everything to everyone and never seen hurried or negligent. In 1789, the footsteps that Lucie listens to sound like a great storm. One day in July, Lorry comes to their house after work. He is disturbed because people in France are putting their money with Tellson’s at an alarming rate. (We are supposed to assume that French aristocrats, fearing the worst, are putting their money in an English bank because it is safer to have it out of the country.) Darnay says it does not look good for France. Lorry comments that the echoes of footsteps sound thunderous. Dickens then abruptly and effectively shifts the scene to the storming of the Bastille in Paris. These are the thunderous footsteps foreshadowed in Lucie’s home. Defarge is one of the leaders of the mob. Madame Defarge is leading the women of the mob.
Once inside the Bastille, Defarge and another revolutionary grab a guard and demand to be taken to 105 North Tower. This is the cell in which Dr. Manette was held. Defarge searches the cell and the reader does not yet know if he found what he was looking for. Defarge rejoins the mob as they murder and mutilate the governor of Paris. The peasants of Saint Antoine hang people from the lampposts and carry decapitated heads on spikes. Dickens describes the horrible scene: “The sea of black and threatening waters, and of destructive upheaving of wave against wave, whose depths were yet unfathomed and whose forces were yet unknown. The remorseless sea of turbulently swaying shapes, voices of vengeance, and faces hardened in the furnaces of suffering until the touch of pity could make no mark on them.” Dickens makes a plea for the safety of the main characters: “Now, Heaven defeat the fancy of Lucie Darnay, and keep these feet far out of her life! For, they are headlong, mad, and dangerous; and in the years so long after the breaking of the cask at Defarge’s wine-shop door, they are not easily purified when once stained red.”
A week later in Saint Antoine the peasants still starve, but they have tasted blood. Defarge arrives with the news that Foulon, a wealthy man who once declared that the people could eat grass if they starved, has been captured. The man Foulon and his grisly fate are based on an actual historical incident. Foulon had faked his own death and had been hiding in the country. The mob brutally kills him. “Madame Defarge let Foulon go — as a cat might have done to a mouse — and silently and composedly looked at him while they made him ready…and his head was soon upon a spike, with grass enough in the mouth for all Saint Antoine to dance at the sight of.” In contrast, Dickens describes the same peasants who killed Foulon standing calmly in line that evening, to buy their meager bread. Defarge says to his wife that at last the revolution has come. Almost, replies Madame Defarge. The people of Saint Antoine are changed forever.
The footsteps that Lucie fancies to be echoes of people that will someday come into her life effectively foreshadow the revolutionary mob in Paris. And, very soon, this mob will figure prominently in Lucie’s life. Dickens uses foreshadowing throughout this novel, but the footsteps are the most obvious use of this device. Dickens also refers to previous foreshadowing when he tells us that the people of Saint Antoine are changed forever. He makes the reader remember when the peasants sopped spilled wine up off the street. Their hands and feet were stained with it, just like their hands and feet are stained with blood now. And once stained, it is hard to become clean again. By this the author means that once the people start killing, it is almost impossible to stop. Also interesting is the “resurrection” of Foulon, who faked his own death to avoid the mob. The mob finds him “resurrected” and then promptly sends him to his grave for real.
Book 2 (Chapters 23 – 24)
Back in the village of the dead Marquis the people are starving and desolate. A man, weary from travel, meets the mender of roads. They address each other as Jacques, showing that they are revolutionaries. The mender of roads shows the man where the chateau is located.
Later that night, the townspeople gather around the town center to watch the chateau burn. A rider from the chateau urges the people to help put out the fire, but they do not assist him. Even the soldiers and officers guarding the prison admit that the chateau should burn. From the chateau, the four men who lit the fire ride in all directions. All over France, more stately houses such as this one are burnt to the ground. Monsieur Gabelle, the local tax collector in the village of the Marquis, barely escapes being killed by the peasants. In England, Tellson’s Bank has become the center for information regarding the ongoing French Revolution.
Many aristocrats have fled to England and keep money at Tellson’s, thus, news arrives there. Darnay is at the Bank trying to persuaded “characters.html” Lorry not to go to France. Tellson’s is sending him to the Paris office to save the ledgers, papers, and records from destruction. Lorry says he must go tonight, but that he will bring Jerry Cruncher as a bodyguard. A letter for the Marquis Evremonde has arrived at Tellson’s, but no one knows where to find this Marquis. Darnay takes the letter, because, unbeknownst to anyone but Dr. Manette, Darnay is the new Marquis Evremonde. It is a plea from Monsieur Gabelle, who has been imprisoned by the mob for serving the Evremonde family. Gabelle, who has always been faithful to the Marquis, begs Darnay to return and save him. Darnay decides that it would be wrong to let this man die. He writes letters explaining himself to Lucie and the doctor, then leaves for Paris.
In this section, Dickens comments on how as individuals, aristocrats are worthy people, but as a class they have brought these horrible conditions upon the country. The distinction between the individual and the class is important, because groups of people are capable of atrocities that the individual could never imagine. Take for example, the mob. Individual peasants would never murder and mutilate people, but as an angry mob they are capable of anything. This idea relates to Dickens’s opinions about revolution. The theme of revolution is never separated from mob-mentality. In fact, Dickens would argue that revolution and the mob are inextricably tied. It is important, when reading this novel, to distinguish between the actions of individuals and the actions of mobs. At the end of Book Two, Darnay leaves the safety of one city for the danger of the other. The violent mobs of France enter the life of Lucie Manette, as the footsteps predicted it would.
Book 3 (Chapters 1 – 5)
Darnay is imprisoned upon arriving in Paris. He is delivered to La Force (a prison where many aristocrats were held before they were sent to the guillotine) by Defarge, who will give him no help even though he is the son-in-law of Dr. Manette. Lorry is at Tellson’s Bank in Paris when Lucie and Dr. Manette storm in. To his surprise, they inform him that Darnay has been imprisoned in La Force. Lorry sends Lucie into the back room while he tells Dr. Manette in secret that the people sharpening blades on the lawn are preparing to raid the prison and murder the inmates. Dr. Manette uses his influence (he is revered and respected for having been a prisoner in the Bastille many years ago) to save Darnay from this crowd.
Dr. Manette is changed by this experience. He now feels powerful and brave; his horrible experience years ago now has a purpose. Lorry lodges Lucie, Dr. Manette, Pross, and little Lucie in a nearby apartment. Cruncher is put in charge of guarding them.
Late in the night, Defarge comes to the bank and delivers a message from Manette: Charles is safe for now, but still imprisoned in La Force. Defarge, his wife, and a woman revolutionary known as The Vengeance, go with Lorry to deliver a message to Lucie. The message is a reassuring one from Darnay. Madame Defarge regards Lucie and her child coldly. It is clear that her intentions toward Lucie and her family may not be kind ones.
Four days later, Dr. Manette returns. He tells them of how he persuaded the Tribunal (a self-appointed body that “tries” the prisoners before sending them to the guillotine) to keep Darnay imprisoned but alive. Dr. Manette has secured a job as the doctor in charge of three prisons, one of which is La Force. This enables him to make sure Darnay is safe. Dr. Manette is stronger than ever; he is now their leader.
A year and three months pass as the family waits for Darnay to go to trial. In this time King Louis XVI and his queen are beheaded, along with hundreds of others. Dickens ponders on the work of the guillotine: “It sheared off heads so many, that it, and the ground it most polluted, were a rotten red . . . it hushed the eloquent, struck down the powerful, abolished the beautiful and good.” Dr. Manette during this time used his fame to protect Darnay.
Everyday during this time, Lucie would go to an alley near the prison because sometimes her husband would pass by a window where he could see her. She could not see him, but the hope that he would be cheered by seeing her was enough to keep her there. A woodcutter who worked in the alley would harass her everyday, and once a crowd lead by the woman known as Vengeance danced a horrible, violent dance through the alley past Lucie. Despite these disturbances, Lucie would wait in the alley everyday.
One day, her father arrives in the alley and tells her that Charles is going to trial tomorrow. Dr. Manette says he has taken steps to make sure the trial goes well for Charles. They go to the bank to see Lorry, but decide not to go in because there is a mysterious man inside talking to their banker friend.
Lucie’s life has come full circle now. Once her father was imprisoned unfairly and now her husband has befallen the same fate. Dickens draws this circle for the reader carefully by reminding us of how the sick Dr. Manette used to pace his room at nights. Dickens describes Darnay, in the beginning of his imprisonment, pacing back and forth in his cell. Dr. Manette, in his incoherent and tortured states used to pace around his room as he once did in the Bastille. By this, Dickens demonstrates how history repeats its injustices. However, the injustice done to Dr. Manette now serves a purpose. The horrible wrong he suffered is used for right; it is saving the life of his daughter’s husband. Darnay is not free of danger yet, however. Dickens uses clever imagery to remind the reader that the guillotine is still hard at work. The woodcutter in the alley describes his hatchet as if it was the guillotine and his logs were the heads of aristocrats. The dance of the mob led by Vengeance mimes the motions of the guillotine, celebrating its horrible efficacy. All this keeps the reader on edge. The mob is ruthless and almost no one in their registers (one of which knitted by Madame Defarge) is spared.
Book 3 (Chapters 6 – 8)
The crowd is motley and blood-thirsty at the trial of Charles Darnay. We are reminded of his first trial and the British crowd that similarly demanded his death. The doctor had somehow managed to make sure the right questions were asked of Darnay at the trial. Consequently, the crowd was swayed in his favor by these facts: Darnay had long ago renounced his title, he disapproved of how the peasants were treated by his family, he was the son-in-law of the famed Dr. Manette, and the aristocrats of England had once accused him of being a friend of the United States.
The jury acquits him and the crowd carries him home on their shoulders. Now the family is reunited in the apartment near Tellson’s Bank in Paris. They cannot leave for England yet because it is still not safe.
The next day, Pross and Cruncher go out to do the family’s shopping. Then four soldiers arrive at the door and take Darnay back to prison. It appears that someone in Saint Antoine has accused him of being an enemy to the Republic (the new Republic of France, set up by the revolutionaries after they deposed the monarchy).
Meanwhile, Cruncher and Pross (who do not know Darnay has been re-arrested) encounter Miss Pross’s long lost brother. They find him, Solomon Pross, in the marketplace. He scolds Pross for making such a scene, because he cannot afford to be identified — he is working as a spy for the Republic. Cruncher also recognizes this man as the witness who accused Darnay of treason in the first trial.
Suddenly Sydney Carton appears behind them. Carton identifies Ms. Pross’s long lost brother as the spy, John Barsad. Carton explains that he arrived the other day, revealed his presence to Mr. Lorry, and kept himself hidden until now. Carton tells Pross that he is sorry her brother is a prison spy, used to solicit confessions from prisoners. Carton threatens to reveal his real identity (an English criminal) to the revolutionaries if Barsad does not come immediately to Tellson’s.
Upon arriving at Tellson’s, Carton informs Lorry that Darnay has been arrested again. He overheard Barsad talking about it in a bar. There are four men present in Tellson’s bank when Carton threatens to expose Barsad: Lorry, Cruncher, Barsad, and Carton. Barsad, if he does not cooperate with Carton’s secret plan, will be exposed as a spy for the aristocratic government of England. (It won’t matter whether he still is or not, the mob will kill him on mere suspicion). Carton can arouse enough suspicion because he saw Barsad conversing with Roger Cly, a known English spy. Barsad presents Cly’s certificate of burial — proving that Cly is actually dead. Carton is confounded until Cruncher announces that Cly was not actually buried: Crusher exhumed his coffin in order to sell his body, but found only bricks. Barsad gives in and agrees to help Carton in his secret plan. Carton takes Barsad into the back room so Lorry and Cruncher do not hear his plan.
Obviously, the themes of revolution and resurrection are very present in this section. Revolution is demonstrated by the fickleness of the crowd at Darnay’s trial: one minute they want his head chopped off, the next minute he is their hero. The mob is easily swayed from one extreme to the other, but is never moderate. Such is the nature of the Reign of Terror period of the French Revolution. The Reign of Terror is the period when thousands of people were killed indiscriminately by the leaders of the new Republic. The law of suspects, a law that made mere suspicion of aristocratic affiliation punishable by death, put an end to many innocent people.
The theme of resurrection is also strong in this section: Darnay is resurrected, if only briefly, from death by the guillotine, Pross’s brother is resurrected from obscurity, and Roger Cly is proven to have resurrected himself after faking his own death.
What is most important about this section, however, is the reappearance of Carton. Carton has set himself on the path that will eventually lead to his own salvation. At one moment, after he has forced Barsad to agree to assist him, Carton empties his last glass of brandy onto the desk. His secret plan is in force and he symbolically gives up his old, indifferent, alcoholic way of life. He has, for the first time in his sad life, something to live for. At last, he will put his meaningless life to good use.
Book 3 (Chapter 9)
While Carton is talking to Barsad in secret, Lorry scolds Cruncher for leading a secret life beyond his job at the Bank. Cruncher makes some threats to the business of Tellson’s if he is fired. He then tells Lorry to give his job to Jerry Cruncher, Jr., because Cruncher intends to start fresh as a gravedigger, in order to make up for digging-up so many bodies.
After Barsad leaves, Carton tells Lorry and Cruncher that he has arranged time to see Darnay before he dies, if Darnay is convicted. Lorry is disappointed, because he was expecting some plot to save Darnay, should he be convicted. Carton says it was all that could be done. Lorry then becomes sad and ponders his seventy-eight years on earth. The banker calls himself a solitary old bachelor and worries that no one will weep when he dies. Carton points out that Lucie and little Lucie would certainly weep. Carton then says to Lorry, “If you could say, with truth, to your own solitary heart, tonight . . . I have secured to myself the love and attachment, the gratitude and respect, of no human creature; I have won myself a tender place in no regard; I have done nothing good or serviceable to be remembered by!’ your seventy-eight years would be seventy-eight curses; would they not?” Lorry responds that, yes, they would be.
Carton asks Lorry if he remembers his childhood. Lorry says yes, more than ever now, because in his old age his memory is coming full circle, drawing nearer to the beginning of his life. That night, Carton wanders the streets of Paris, thinking of Lucie. His days at school in Paris left him with a good memory of the layout of the city. He encounters the woodcutter, who tells him that sixty-three heads fell to the guillotine today.
Carton goes to a chemist’s shop and buys a mysterious substance. The words spoken by the priest at his father’s funeral echo through his mind: “I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me, shall never die.” He helps a small girl across the muddy street, and she gives him a kiss. The words echo again in his mind. He wanders until sunrise, then makes his way to the courthouse for Darnay’s trial. Darnay is called and the judge names his accusers: Monsieur Defarge, Madame Defarge, and Doctor Manette. Dr. Manette is shocked and denies any such accusation. Defarge then takes the stand and speaks of the paper he found, hidden in 105 North Tower of the Bastille.
Cruncher decides to lead a better life from now on, thus resurrecting himself to a second chance at life. He vows to make-up for his bad deeds by becoming a gravedigger. This, in a sense, is the opposite of resurrection: burying the dead. This is a wonderful and playful irony Dickens has created.
In this section, Carton becomes and remains the protagonist of the novel. His conversation with Lorry erases all doubt about what Carton must do: in order to make his life count, to leave behind people that will weep for him, to resurrect himself in the memories of others, he must die in Darnay’s place. Lorry speaks of coming full circle in old age, but Carton comments that he was never one to grow old. Carton’s life, instead, will come full circle when he carries out his promise to Lucie. Long ago he promised to give his life for someone she loved.
Once again, the true souls of people are brought forth by the compassion of Lucie Manette. In this one act, Carton will find meaning for his life. The woodcutter’s mention of the guillotine foreshadows Carton’s own fate. The kiss from the young girl is perhaps the kiss of death or perhaps an attempt by Dickens to show Carton as a Christ-like figure (before Christ was crucified he was kissed by Judas). The words spoken at his father’s funeral echo through Carton’s mind until the end of the novel. These words and Carton’s fate are the culmination of the theme of resurrection in this novel. Carton will never truly die because in his death, he will have resurrected his own life, giving it purpose and meaning.
Book 3 (Chapters 10 – 12)
Defarge reads aloud the paper of Dr. Manette. It is the truth of his imprisonment in the Bastille, written long ago by the doctor. In 1757, a pair of twins, one the Marquis Evremonde (Darnay’s father) and the other the next in line to be Marquis (Darnay’s uncle, the man who ran over the child in his carriage), ordered Dr. Manette to care for a young peasant woman who was dying of a fever and her brother who was dying of a stab wound. The Marquis’ brother had raped the young woman, killed her husband, and stabbed her brother as he tried to rescue her. The brother, before he dies, utters a curse on the Evremondes. The young woman dies a day later. Dr. Manette declines payment and leaves the chateau. At home he writes a letter to the Minister and tells him of the horrible things the brothers Evremonde had done. The next day a kind woman comes to his door. She is the Marquis’s wife (and Darnay’s mother). She heard about the horrible things done to this girl and her family and wants to help the girl’s sister, who was hidden away so the Marquis could not find her. Unfortunately, Manette does not know where the sister has been hidden. The next day, Manette was taken away and imprisoned in the Bastille on the orders of the Marquis Evremonde.
After hearing this, the jury sentences Darnay to death, to pay for the sins of his father and uncle. The courtroom crowd pours into the streets to celebrate. Barsad, who is in charge of ushering Darnay back to his cell, lets Lucie embrace Darnay one last time. Dr. Manette falls to his knees in front of Darnay. Darnay replies, “No, no! What have you done…that you should kneel to us! We know now, what a struggle you made of old. We know now, what you underwent when you suspected my descent, and when you knew it. We know now, the natural antipathy you strove against, and conquered, for her dear sake. We thank you with all our hearts, and all our love and duty. Heaven be with you!” Darnay shows his good soul by not blaming the doctor for his death sentence. Darnay is escorted back to his cell to await execution the following morning. Carton picks her up and takes her back to the apartment. Little Lucie, the child, pleads to Carton to help her mother and save her father. Carton bends over Lucie, and kisses her whispering, “A life you love.” Only little Lucie hears this reference to his old vow. Carton tells Dr. Manette to try his influence one last time with the prosecutors and then meet him at Tellson’s at nine in the evening. Lorry and Carton know there is no chance, but they want the doctor to try anyway to sooth Lucie’s suffering. Carton, thinking quickly, goes to the wine shop of Defarge. He pretends that he cannot speak French very well. The Defarges marvel at how much he looks like the condemned Darnay. There Carton overhears Madame Defarge’s plan to accuse Lucie, her child, and the doctor of spying. Monsieur Defarge does not think it is necessary to kill them as well. But Madame Defarge reminds him that she is the hidden sister of the woman raped and the brother killed by the Evremondes. She wants all of them dead. “Tell Wind and Fire where to stop, but don’t tell me,” she remarks. Carton pays for his wine and leaves.
Carton waits for the doctor at Tellson’s. Finally, at midnight, the doctor arrives completely out of his mind. The strain of Darnay’s sentence, his long lost letter, and Lucie’s grief are too much for him. Lorry and Carton sit him before the fire. Then Carton makes Lorry swear to do as he asks: have a carriage ready to depart Tellson’s at two in the afternoon the next day. He is to wait in the carriage with Lucie, the child, the doctor, and himself until Carton arrives.
Carton takes the papers that will allow Lucie, the doctor, and the child to leave the city out of the doctor’s coat and gives them to Lorry. Then, Carton gives Lorry his own papers and refuses to explain why. Carton says that the papers may be recalled soon because Madame Defarge intends to accuse the entire family, maybe in a week or less. That is why the family must leave tomorrow. Carton, alone in the street that night, utters a final goodbye and blessing to Lucie.
The story has come full circle once again. Events of long ago (the imprisonment of Dr. Manette, the cruelty of the Evremondes, the hidden sister of the peasant family) have determined the novel’s outcome. The brilliance of Dickens’s storytelling lies in his ability to make every detail of ultimate importance. Everything that has happened up until this point has greatly affected the destinies of the main characters. Also important in this section is the unrelenting anger of Madame Defarge. As representative of revolution, she will stop at nothing. No number of heads, no amount of blood is enough to make right the wrongs she has suffered. Like revolutions of oppressed people everywhere, she was created by the conditions of the time. Her oppressors made her, and from them she learned cruelty, ruthlessness, and the methods of oppression. As Dickens warned earlier in the novel, feet and hands stained with blood do not come clean easily.
Book 3 (Chapters 13 – 15)
Fifty-two people are condemned to die that day. Darnay in his cell writes letters to his wife and father-in-law. He thinks of Lorry and others. Sydney Carton never once crosses his mind. Suddenly, Carton appears at the door to his cell. Darnay observes that there is something new and bright in Carton’s face. Carton tricks Darnay in to switching clothes with him. Then he uses a drug to knock-out Lucie’s husband. He tells Barsad to carry Darnay to the carriage outside Tellson’s and put him in it. Carton is alone in the cell. The clock strikes two and he is ordered out of his cell.
Carton, dressed as the Marquis Charles Evremonde stands in line with the condemned. A poor seamstress also falsely sentenced to death, thinks he is Darnay. Upon closer inspection she realizes that it is another man, taking his place. She asks, “Are you dying for him?” He replies, “And his wife and child. Hush! Yes.” “O you will let me hold your brave hand, stranger?” “Hush,” he replies, “Yes, my poor sister; to the last.”
Meanwhile, Barsad puts Darnay, whom everyone thinks is Carton passed out, in the carriage. Lorry presents their papers and they leave the city. A man stops their carriage to ask how many prisoners were to be put to death today. Fifty-two, Lorry answers. Simultaneously, Madame Defarge goes to the apartment to try and catch Lucie in the act of mourning for a dead prisoner (which is illegal). This will strengthen the case she wants to make against the family.
Dickens explains that last night, Lorry told Cruncher and Pross to leave in a separate carriage at three o’clock. This would aid in their chances of escaping. Pross and Cruncher are making final arrangements in the apartment. Pross tells Cruncher, in a comic scene, to wait for her with the carriage at the cathedral. When Cruncher leaves, Pross is left alone. Suddenly Madame Defarge comes in and is surprised to see the family gone and Pross alone. They fight and Madame Defarge draws a gun but in the struggle kills herself.
Pross bravely leaves the apartment and joins Cruncher in the carriage. There he discovers that she is deaf from the gunshot. Pross’s bravery and determination allowed the family to escape before Madame Defarge sent soldiers to stop them.
Finally, Carton and the young woman reach the guillotine. They are waiting in line to be killed. Vengeance worries that her friend Madame Defarge will miss the beheading of Charles Darnay. In her hand she holds Madame Defarge’s knitting, but her friend will never knit again. The young seamstress asks Carton if the Revolution and the new Republic will help poor people like herself, if so she doesn’t mind dying. They have a touching conversation and just before she is taken to the guillotine, she kisses him. She goes calmly to her death.
The knitting women in the crowd counts 22 heads. Dickens says that those who saw Carton die that day said he had a prophetic look upon his face. If he had been able to write down his thoughts before he died, they would have been these: The faces of oppressors in the crowd were born out of the oppressors they put to death. Someday the city will recover from these horrors and become beautiful. He sees Lucie and Darnay with a child named after him. He sees Dr. Manette happy and healthy. He sees Mr. Lorry living a long and peaceful life. Carton sees a future where he is special in their hearts and in the hearts of generations hence. He sees the child named after him “winning his way up in the path of life that once was mine. I see him winning it so well that my name is made illustrious there by the light of his. I see the blots I threw upon it, faded away.”
Carton concludes with this statement: “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.”
In the showdown between Pross and Madame Defarge, Dickens gives us a metaphorical battle between order and revolution. Neither woman speaks the other’s language, and the reader can take this to signify that order and revolution are incompatible entities, separated forever by nature. Revolution is fiercer and wilder, but order proves stronger and steadier. Dickens discusses how people like Madame Defarge came about. It is his main point about the theme of revolution: “And yet there is not in France, with its rich variety of soil and climate, a blade, a leaf, a root, a sprig, a peppercorn, which will grow to maturity under conditions more certain than those that have produced this horror. Crush humanity out of shape once more, under similar hammers, and it will twist itself into the same tortured forms. Sow the same seed of rapacious license and oppression over again, and it will surely yield the same fruit according to its kind.” In other words, the oppressors created the conditions that caused the poor French to rise up and slaughter thousands. The oppressed learned violence and brutality from their oppressors, and consequently, became oppressors themselves.
The young seamstress whom Carton befriends near the end of his life is very significant. She is the person the Revolution was supposed to help, instead it is putting her to death. She sees his true soul, a brave soul, and is honored to hold his hand. He is not indifferent or insolent. He gives her strength and eases her thoughts by finding meaning in her death, just as he has found meaning in his life. Carton does not have to wait until after his own death to be loved, because this young woman, in his last moments, loves him for his bravery and strength. Carton’s prophetic thoughts at the end further enforce his Christ-like martyrdom. He sees clearly the meaning of his life, a life he once thought had no meaning, no direction, and no worth. He told Lorry that if a person dies without the respect of one human being, without being held dear in any heart, then that life is a curse.
Carton knows now that he is held dear in the hearts of Darnay, Lucie, their children, the doctor, Lorry, and everyone else who will enter their lives. Through this selfless act, he fulfills his vow to Lucie and gives meaning to his life. He will never die, for his life is forever resurrected in the hearts of those he loved.