A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
Table of Contents
1. A Tale of Two Cities: Introduction
2. A Tale of Two Cities: Overview
3. A Tale of Two Cities: Charles Dickens Biography
4. A Tale of Two Cities: Summary

A Tale of Two Cities: Summary and Analysis
¨ Book the First, Chapters 1, 2, and 3 Summary and Analysis
¨ Book the First, Chapter 4 Summary and Analysis
¨ Book the First, Chapter 5 Summary and Analysis
¨ Book the First, Chapter 6 Summary and Analysis
¨ Book the Second, Chapters 1 and 2 Summary and Analysis
¨ Book the Second, Chapter 3 Summary and Analysis
¨ Book the Second, Chapters 4 and 5 Summary and Analysis
¨ Book the Second, Chapter 6 Summary and Analysis
¨ Book the Second, Chapters 7 and 8 Summary and Analysis
¨ Book the Second, Chapter 9 Summary and Analysis
¨ Book the Second, Chapters 10 and 11 Summary and Analysis
¨ Book the Second, Chapters 12 and 13 Summary and Analysis
¨ Book the Second, Chapter 14 Summary and Analysis
¨ Book the Second, Chapter 15 Summary and Analysis
¨ Book the Second, Chapter 16 Summary and Analysis
¨ Book the Second, Chapters 17 and 18 Summary and Analysis
¨ Book the Second, Chapters 19 and 20 Summary and Analysis
¨ Book the Second, Chapter 21 Summary and Analysis
A Tale of Two Cities 1
¨ Book the Second, Chapters 22 and 23 Summary and Analysis
¨ Book the Second, Chapter 24 Summary and Analysis
¨ Book the Third, Chapter 1 Summary and Analysis
¨ Book the Third, Chapters 2 and 3 Summary and Analysis
¨ Book the Third, Chapters 4 and 5 Summary and Analysis
¨ Book the Third Chapters 6 and 7 Summary and Analysis
¨ Book the Third, Chapter 8 Summary and Analysis
¨ Book the Third, Chapter 9 Summary and Analysis
¨ Book the Third, Chapter 10 Summary and Analysis
¨ Book the Third, Chapters 11 and 12 Summary and Analysis
¨ Book the Third, Chapter 13 Summary and Analysis
¨ Book the Third, Chapters 14 and 15 Summary and Analysis
A Tale of Two Cities: Quizzes
¨ Book the First, Chapters 1, 2 and 3 Questions and Answers
¨ Book the First, Chapter 4 Questions and Answers
¨ Book the First, Chapter 5 Questions and Answers
¨ Book the First, Chapter 6 Questions and Answers
¨ Book the Second, Chapters 1 and 2 Questions and Answers
¨ Book the Second, Chapter 3 Questions and Answers
¨ Book the Second, Chapters 4 and 5 Questions and Answers
¨ Book the Second, Chapter 6 Questions and Answers
¨ Book the Second, Chapters 7 and 8 Questions and Answers
¨ Book the Second, Chapter 9 Questions and Answers
¨ Book the Second, Chapters 10 and 11 Questions and Answers
¨ Book the Second, Chapters 12 and 13 Questions and Answers
¨ Book the Second, Chapter 14 Questions and Answers
¨ Book the Second, Chapter 15 Questions and Answers
¨ Book the Second, Chapter 16 Questions and Answers
¨ Book the Second, Chapters 17 and 18 Questions and Answers
¨ Book the Second, Chapters 19 and 20 Questions and Answers
¨ Book the Second, Chapter 21 Questions and Answers
¨ Book the Second, Chapters 22 and 23 Questions and Answers
¨ Book the Second, Chapter 24 Questions and Answers
¨ Book the Third, Chapter 1 Questions and Answers
¨ Book the Third, Chapters 2 and 3 Questions and Answers
¨ Book the Third, Chapters 4 and 5 Questions and Answers
¨ Book the Third Chapters 6 and 7 Questions and Answers
¨ Book the Third, Chapter 8 Questions and Answers
¨ Book the Third, Chapter 9 Questions and Answers
¨ Book the Third, Chapter 10 Questions and Answers
¨ Book the Third, Chapters 11 and 12 Questions and Answers
¨ Book the Third, Chapter 13 Questions and Answers
¨ Book the Third, Chapters 14 and 15 Questions and Answers
A Tale of Two Cities: Essential Passages
¨ Essential Passages by Character: Sydney Carton
¨ Essential Passages by Theme: Resurrection
8. A Tale of Two Cities: Characters
9. A Tale of Two Cities: Themes
10. A Tale of Two Cities: Style
11. A Tale of Two Cities: Historical Context
12. A Tale of Two Cities: Critical Overview
eNotes: Table of Contents 2
A Tale of Two Cities: Essays and Criticism
¨ Critical Analysis of A Tale of Two Cites
¨ Obsession with Duality
¨ A Tale of Two Characters: A Study in Multiple Projection
¨ A Tale of Two Cities
14. A Tale of Two Cities: Suggested Essay Topics
15. A Tale of Two Cities: Sample Essay Outlines
16. A Tale of Two Cities: Compare and Contrast
17. A Tale of Two Cities: Topics for Further Study
18. A Tale of Two Cities: Media Adaptations
19. A Tale of Two Cities: What Do I Read Next?
20. A Tale of Two Cities: Bibliography and Further Reading
21. A Tale of Two Cities: Pictures
22. Copyright
A Tale of Two Cities: Introduction
A Tale of Two Cities occupies a central place in the canon of Charles Dickens's works. This novel of the
French Revolution was originally serialized in the author's own periodical All the Year Round. Weekly
publication of chapters 1-3 of Book 1 began on April 30, 1859. In an innovative move, Dickens
simultaneously released installments of the novel on a monthly basis, beginning with all of Book 1 in June
and concluding with the last eight chapters of Book 3 in December. Dickens took advantage of the novel's
serial publication to experiment with characterization, plot, and theme. He described the work in a letter to his
friend John Forster, cited in Rudi Glancy's A Tale of Two Cities: Dickens's Revolutionary Novel, as "a
picturesque story rising in every chapter, with characters true to nature, but whom the story should express
more than they should express themselves by dialogue." The novel that emerged from his experimentation is
now regarded as one of Dickens's most popular and most innovative works.
Dickens's work was very popular with the reading public when it was first published. One review in the
magazine Athenaeum stated that A Tale of Two Cities had attracted the praise of a hundred thousand readers.
On the other hand, a whole set of critics, most notably Sir James Fitzjames Stephen writing in Saturday
Review, criticized the novel precisely for its popularity. "Most of the critics writing in the intellectual and
literary journals of the day considered popular success a good reason to condemn a work," explains Glancy.
"If the public liked it, they certainly could not be seen to approve of it at all." Modern critical opinion,
however, has given the novel an important place among Dickens's most mature works of fiction.
A Tale of Two Cities: Overview
Charles Dickens was the most popular English novelist of the Victorian Age, a time period spanning roughly
from the 1820s to the end of the nineteenth century. While the revolutions in America and France had
happened many years earlier, there was still great social tension in England during these times. Work
conditions for the poor were horrid, often resulting in strikes that ended in violent clashes between the police
and the workers.
A Tale of Two Cities can be seen as a warning to British society of the mid-nineteenth century. Dickens calls
attention to the extraordinary violence of the French Revolution while showing that the overthrow of a
government by violent means inevitably leads to more killing. Many revolutionaries of his day failed to see
that Dickens was more concerned with portraying the death and destruction that accompany revolution than
with endorsing a working class revolt.
A Tale of Two Cities: Introduction 3
Indeed, Dickens’ popularity crossed all class lines. His writings were as much a topic of upper-class drawing
room party conversation, as they were among the factory workers who could afford to buy the weekly
Critics were only slightly less kind to Dickens. While he was sometimes faulted for sentimentality and for
relying on unbelievable plot coincidences, he was more often celebrated for his ability to create characters
who seem alive and who embody a moral principle. Writers in the 1800s were looked to as moral examples,
and Charles Dickens was not short on morality in his novels.
List of Characters
Jarvis Lorry—a lifelong bachelor and clerk at Tellson’s Bank, as well as a friend of the Manette’s and of
Charles Darnay.
Lucie Manette—the daughter of Alexandre Manette. She marries Charles Darnay.
Dr. Alexandre Manette—Lucie’s father. At the novel’s beginning he is freed from 18 years of imprisonment.
Charles Darnay—a self-exiled member of French ruling class society, also known as Charles Evremonde. He
marries Lucie Manette, returns to France, and is sentenced to die.
Ernest Defarge—owns a wine-shop in a Paris suburb. Along with his wife, he is a leader of the revolt in Paris.
Therese Defarge—the wife of Defarge and the co-leader of revolt. She knits names of those to be killed when
the revolution comes.
Sydney Carton—the physical double of Charles Darnay who secretly does Stryver’s legal work. He heroically
dies in place of Darnay.
Mr. Stryver—a lawyer who defends Darnay in England. He wants to marry Lucie Manette.
Jerry Cruncher—valet and personal messenger for Jarvis Lorry.
Miss Pross—Lucie Manette’s dedicated servant. She struggles with and kills Madame Defarge.
Monsieur the Marquis—French nobleman killed by a peasant. He is also the uncle of Charles Darnay.
Monsieur Gabelle—the Marquis’ servant who later summons Charles Darnay to England.
John Barsad—a spy who is also known as Solomon Pross, Miss Pross’ brother.
Roger Cly—he is sentenced to death as a spy in England.
Foulon—Foulon is a French nobleman killed during the revolution.
The Vengeance, the mender of roads/wood-sawyer, and various “Jacques”—various followers of the Defarges
who participate in the revolt in Paris.
A tall man in a nightcap—his baby is killed by the Marquis’ coach. He murders the Marquis and is guillotined.
Mrs. Jerry Cruncher—Jerry Cruncher’s wife.
A Tale of Two Cities: Overview 4
Master Jerry Cruncher—the son of Jerry Cruncher.
Little Lucie Manette—the daughter of Lucie Manette and Charles Darnay.
Woman going to guillotine—she talks with Sydney Carton as they await their deaths.
Summary of the Novel
A Tale of Two Cities is concerned with events in Paris and London before and during the French Revolution.
The story focuses on Charles Darnay, the self-exiled nephew of French nobility, and his wife, Lucie Manette,
daughter of Dr. Alexandre Manette. As the first of the novel’s three sections begins, Jarvis Lorry is on his
way to Paris to reunite Dr. Manette with the daughter who thought he has been dead for the past 18 years.
Over this time Dr. Manette has forgotten his past life; he sits in a small attic room and makes shoes. Slowly,
Jarvis and Lucie Manette “recall (him) to life.”
The novel’s second section starts five years later. Lucie Manette marries Charles Darnay. Darnay confesses a
secret to Dr. Manette on the eve of the wedding. This secret turns out to be that Darnay is really Charles
Evremonde, a member of the French ruling class. Darnay has renounced his past and wishes to settle in
England. Meanwhile, unrest is growing in the Paris suburb of St. Antoine. The center of this unrest is a
wine-shop owned by the Defarges, who are shown leading the storming of the Bastille.
The final section of the novel opens with Darnay on his way to Paris at the entreaty of a former servant who is
endangered. Darnay is arrested and sentenced to die. The Manettes and Lorry hurry to Paris and succeed in
freeing Darnay, but he is soon arrested again. He is sentenced to the guillotine. Sydney Carton, who bears a
striking resemblance to Darnay, sneaks into the prison and switches places with Darnay. Carton is on his way
to the guillotine, willing to die for the love of Lucie, while Darnay, the Manettes and Lorry flee to London.
Estimated Reading Time
Like most Victorian authors, Dickens could be verbose. At roughly 400 pages, A Tale of Two Cities is actually
one of his shorter novels. While the optimal way to read this novel would be to read one weekly installment at
a time, this is impractical. As the novel is broken into three sections, a better reading plan would be to read the
first section in one sitting, while devoting two sittings each to the final two longer sections. Total reading time
should be approximately 12 hours.
A Tale of Two Cities: Charles Dickens Biography
From the time he was twenty-one, Charles Dickens knew he would not be the great actor he had imagined, nor
even the journalist he next attempted to be. Instead, he felt he was destined to become a great novelist. He not
only had experiences with the same joys and tragedies his characters would have, but he also had the great
talent to make his readers feel and see all these experiences in detail. The second of eight children of John and
Elizabeth Dickens, Charles was born on February 7, 1812, in Portsmouth, England. His early childhood was a
happy one. Though plagued by frequent illnesses, his first years were also filled with exciting stories told to
him by his parents and his nurse.
A Tale of Two Cities: Charles Dickens Biography 5
Charles Dickens
However, when Dickens was twelve, his family moved to London, where his father was imprisoned for debts
he could not pay. Charles was forced to go to work pasting labels on bottles at a bootblack factory. Although
this job lasted less than a year, he often felt hungry and abandoned, especially compared to his sister Frances,
who continued studying at the Royal Academy of Music, where she was winning awards. For Dickens, the
injustice was almost more than he could stand, and his suffering was multiplied by his mother's delight about
the job that he always remembered with hatred.
Although his critics are the first to say that Great Expectations is not directly autobiographical, Dickens's own
words tell us that he resented having to work in the factory, where he dreamed of the better life he felt he
deserved, much as Pip is eager to leave Joe's forge. Also, Dickens's essay "Travelling Abroad" describes a
small boy who rides in a coach with Dickens past his grand house, Gad's Hill. Although the boy in the essay
does not know Dickens or that this is the great author's house, he remarks that his father has told him that hard
work will earn him this house, which Dickens had also admired for years before finally being able to afford it
in 1856. Dickens's familiarity with youthful expectations and later-life remembrances of them are clear in this
Likewise, Dickens's first love for Maria Beadnell so impressed him by its horrible failure that even years later
he could barely speak of it to his friend and biographer, John Forster. All that Dickens had written about her
he later burned. He believed that Maria had rejected him because of social class differences, since Dickens
had not yet established his writing career at the time and Maria's father was a banker. Decades later, his
character Miss Havisham would burn, shooting up flames twice her size, in compensation for her cold heart.
Dickens's marriage to Catherine (Kate) Hogarth, the daughter of a newspaper editor, in 1836 produced ten
children. Their union ended in separation in 1858, however. By the time Great Expectations was published in
1860, Dickens had known his mistress Ellen Ternan—an actress he had met when he became interested in the
stage—for several years, and he established a separate household in which he lived with Ternan. It would not
be until after the author's death, however, that Dickens's daughter would make the affair public. Ternan was
twenty-seven years younger than Dickens, a fact that resembles the age difference between the happy,
later-life couple Joe and Biddy in Great Expectations. Dickens protected his privacy because he was worried
about his reputation as a respected writer and the editor of Household Words, a family magazine. Such turmoil
and ecstasy in Dickens's intimate relationships have since been compared to the misery and bliss of couples in
his novels.
If anything, Dickens's descriptions of suffering were and still are his chief endearing quality to readers who
find them both realistic and empathetic. Beginning with Bleak House in 1852, Dickens is widely
acknowledged to have entered a "dark period" of writing. Yet he seemed to enjoy his continuing popularity
A Tale of Two Cities: Charles Dickens Biography 6
with readers and to ignore his critics' remarks that his stories were too melodramatic. While readers have long
accepted that tendency, they have also warmed to Dickens's love of humor.
Critics suggest that the part of Dickens's life that is most reflected in A Tale of Two Cities is his personal
relationships with his wife and Ellen Ternan. In 1855, he reestablished contact with his childhood sweetheart
Maria Beadnell, but he was very disappointed with their meeting and depicted his disillusionment in the 1857
novel Little Dorrit. A quarrel with his publishers Bradbury & Evans over his mistress's reputation led Dickens
to turn to a new publishing house, Chapman & Hall, to publish A Tale of Two Cities. Some critics suggest that
Dickens's depiction of Lucie Manette in A Tale of Two Cities and the behavior of the two principal characters,
Sydney Carton and Charles Darnay, toward her, reflects his own attitude toward Ternan.
Dickens died of a brain aneurysm in June 1870. Although he had expressly wished to be buried at his country
home, Gad's Hill, his request was disregarded, apparently owing to his fame. Instead, he was buried in the
Poets' Corner of Westminster Abbey, London.
A Tale of Two Cities: Summary
Book One: Recalled to Life
On a cold November night in 1775, Mr. Jarvis Lorry, who works for Tellson's Bank, tells a messenger who
stops his mail coach to return with the message, "Recalled to Life," in A Tale of Two Cities. That evening in a
Dover hotel he meets Miss Lucie Manette, a young woman whom Lorry brought to England as an orphaned
child many years earlier and whom he is now to return with to France to recover her father, recently released
from prison after eighteen years.
In Paris, Mr. Lorry and Miss Manette arrive at the wine shop of Madame and Monsieur Defarge. In a top floor
garret room above the shop, working away at a shoemaker's bench, sits an old, white-haired man, too feeble
and too altered to recognize his daughter. With the help of Lorry and Defarge, Lucie takes Dr. Manette away
in a carriage to return him to London.
Book Two: The Golden Thread
On a March morning in 1780, Mr. Charles Darnay is being tried at the Old Bailey for treason. In the court as
witnesses are Dr. Manette and his daughter Lucie, who testifies that on the night five years earlier when she
was returning with her father from France, the prisoner comforted her and her father aboard the boat on which
they crossed the channel. Darnay is acquitted after the counsel for the defense, Mr. Stryver, befuddles a
witness by presenting Mr. Sydney Carton, who so closely resembles Mr. Darnay that the witness is unable to
stand by his story. Mr. Jerry Cruncher, messenger for hire, rushes the news of the acquittal to Tell-son' s
Bank, as he was instructed to do by Mr. Lorry. Outside the courtroom, everyone congratulates Darnay on his
In France, meanwhile, both the abuses of the aristocracy and the furor of the oppressed grow. Monseigneur,
the Marquis St. Evremonde, "one of the great lords in power at the court," drives off in a gilded carriage and
runs over a child. He tosses a gold coin to the child's grieving father, Gaspard. Someone throws a coin at the
carriage, but when the Marquis looks to see who, he sees only Madame Defarge, knitting. She knits into a
scarf growing longer by the day the names in symbols of those who will later die at the hands of the
revolutionaries. Later at his chateau, the Marquis asks if "Monsieur Charles" has yet arrived from England.
Charles Darnay, the nephew, tells the Marquis that he believes his family has done wrong and that he wishes
to redress the wrongs of the past. The Marquis, who scorns Darnay's suggestions, is later found stabbed to
death in his bed.
A Tale of Two Cities: Summary 7
Lucie and her father live in a London apartment with her maid, Miss Pross. Darnay prospers as a teacher in
France and visits England frequently. He speaks of his love of Lucie to Dr. Manette, who grants his
permission for a marriage, although he refuses to hear until the wedding day the secret of his identity which
Darnay tries to tell him. Sydney Carton, self-described wastrel and unsuccessful suitor, tells Lucie he is "a
man who would give his life, to keep a life you love beside you."
At the Defarge wine shop, local anger over the execution of Gaspard and the news that Lucie Manette is about
to marry Charles Darnay, a French Marquis, grows. All the women knit.
After Lucie and Darnay go off to honeymoon, Mr. Lorry discovers Dr. Manette making shoes, lapsed into an
absent mental state which lasts for nine days while Lucie is away. On the tenth day of Dr. Manette's mania, he
recovers, converses with Mr. Lorry about a "friend" who suffered similarly, and agrees to have the things of
his old occupation—his shoemaking bench and tools which he had returned to in his distress—destroyed for his
mental well-being.
On a July evening in 1789 Lucie Darnay, now the mother of a six-year-old girl, sits and worries over the
future. Mr. Lorry speaks of the run on Tellson's Bank as a consequence of the turmoil in Paris. There citizens
storm the Bastille to free its seven prisoners. Among them are Madame and Monsieur Defarge, who find
Manette's old cell. The people of St. Antoine hang a man named Foulon, who had once told the starving
people to eat grass. They seek out aristocrats with a frenzy. One evening they burn down the chateau of the
The chateau was left to itself to flame and burn. In the roaring and raging of the conflagration,
a red-hot wind, driving straight from the infernal regions, seemed to be blowing the edifice
away. With the rising and falling of the blaze, the stone faces showed as if they were in
torment. When great masses of stone and timber fell, the face with the two dints in the nose
became obscured, anon struggled out of the smoke again, as if it were the face of the cruel
Marquis, burning at the stake and contending with the fire.
In August of 1792, Mr. Lorry is about to embark on a trip to Paris to organize accounts there. Darnay learns
from him that the bank has been holding an unopened letter addressed to "Monsieur Heretofore the Marquis,"
whom he says he knows. The letter from Monsieur Gabelle, a servant, begs St. Evremonde/Darnay to come to
France to free him from the mob who hold him. Darnay resolves to leave for France, for his honor demands it.
He leaves a letter to Lucie, but he does not tell her his identity or purpose.
Book Three: The Track of a Storm
On his way to Paris, Darnay is captured, imprisoned, charged with being an aristocratic emigrant, now to
suffer the justice of the revolution. Lucie and her father have also hastened to France to meet Mr. Lorry at
Tellson's Paris bank. Dr. Manette uses his influence as one formerly imprisoned to calm the revolutionaries
and to have Darnay's life spared during the Reign of Terror when the King and Queen and 1100 others lose
their lives to the guillotine. Yet shortly thereafter, Darnay is again arrested, charged by the Defarges and "one
Miss Pross and Jerry Cruncher, with the Manettes in Paris, come upon a man on the streets whom they
identify as Miss Press's lost brother. Sydney Carton then pursues the man's identity to reveal that he is John
Barsad, who had been involved in Darnay's trial in England and who had spied for the English. Carton uses
this knowledge as leverage to persuade Barsad, a turnkey at the prison, to work for him.
At the second trial, Darnay is denounced by the Defarges and "the other," who is no other than Dr. Manette
himself. Defarge tells how when he stormed the Bastille, he found in Manette's old cell a paper in Manette's
hand in a crevice in the wall. He proceeds to read the paper. Manette's story dates to 1857 when he was
A Tale of Two Cities: Summary 8
summoned by two men, the twin St. Evremondes, to attend to a dying peasant woman and a dying, peasant
boy, wounded fighting in her defense. The woman had been raped by the two men. They tried to pay Manette
off, but he refused; when he tried to write to authorities regarding their case, they destroyed his letter and
threatened to kidnap his wife. He then denounced them and their descendants (and thus Charles Darnay).
Darnay is condemned to die within 24 hours.
After Carton takes Lucie home, he visits the Defarges, where Madame Defarge reveals that the woman in
Manette's story was her sister. He returns to the Manettes that evening to find that Dr. Manette has this time
been unsuccessful in freeing Darnay. Carton instructs Lorry on plans to have the Manettes escape Paris the
next day. "The moment I come to you," he says, "take me in and drive away." Carton enters the prison and
Darnay's cell with the help of Barsad. He drugs Darnay, then exchanges clothes with him. Barsad carries
Darnay out; Carton remains behind. The Manettes, Darnay, and Mr. Lorry all escape in a carriage. Miss Pross
and Jerry Cruncher also devise a plan of escape. While Cruncher goes for a carriage, Madame Defarge, armed
with a gun and a knife, comes to the apartment to execute Lucie and her daughter, confronts Miss Pross, and
dies of a gunshot in the ensuing struggle. Miss Pross and Cruncher escape, the former forever after deaf.
Carton is executed as Darnay, willingly giving his life for the one he loves.
A Tale of Two Cities: Summary and Analysis
Book the First, Chapters 1, 2, and 3 Summary and Analysis
Book the First: Recalled to Life
Chapter 1: The Period
Chapter 2: The Mail
Chapter 3: The Night Shadows
New Characters
Jerry Cruncher: messenger who becomes valet and personal messenger for Jarvis Lorry
Jarvis Lorry: lifelong bachelor and clerk at Tellson’s Bank; he is a friend of the Manette’s and Charles
The year is 1775. France is described as on the verge of revolution; England is said to be “scarcely” better. A
coach is taking the mail to Dover. Jarvis Lorry is a passenger on this coach. It is late at night, and a horse is
heard approaching at a quick pace. The passengers and driver fear that it is a highwayman. The coach stops;
the coachman threatens to shoot the man approaching on horseback.
But it is only Jerry Cruncher with a message for Jarvis Lorry from Tellson’s Bank: “Wait at Dover for
Mam’selle.” Lorry gives a message for Jerry to return with—“RECALLED TO LIFE.” The narrator reflects
on the idea that every person is “a profound secret and mystery to every other.” Jarvis Lorry dozes, and
dreams of a conversation with a man who was “buried … almost eighteen years.” Lorry raises the window
shade and sees that the sun has risen.
Discussion and Analysis
These opening chapters set up a parallel between London and Paris in the 1750s. Dickens’ famous opening
line “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.…” draws another parallel with the 1850s, his time,
when A Tale of Two Cities was published. This allows Dickens to develop two themes throughout the novel:
first, that no historical period will ever be without serious problems, and, second, that violence is not the best
answer to societal problems. The coachman’s threat to Jerry Cruncher personifies humankind’s willingness
A Tale of Two Cities: Summary and Analysis 9
to judge others quickly and harshly. The mysterious mention of the buried person without further explanation
is an example of the way in which Dickens uses suspense to prod his reader on to the next chapter.
Book the First, Chapter 4 Summary and Analysis
Book the First: Recalled to Life
Chapter 4: The Preparation
New Character
Lucie Manette: daughter of Alexandre Manette
The mail safely arrives at Dover; Jarvis Lorry is the only passenger left on the coach, the two other passengers
having been dropped off earlier. Lorry checks into the Royal George Hotel, has a haircut, eats breakfast, and
takes a nap. Upon waking, he reserves a room for a young woman he is expecting to meet there. He meets this
woman, Lucie Manette, and we learn that he is to accompany her to France to settle some business concerning
property of her father.
Miss Manette believes that her father is dead. Lorry tries to tell her gently that her father is not dead. He
begins to tell her the story of a man who had not died, but disappeared; Lucie realizes that this man is her
father. She is overwhelmed and grabs hold of Lorry’s wrists. This makes Lorry nervous and he insists that
she calm down, since they are conducting business. Lucie exclaims, “I am going to see his ghost.” Lorry tells
Lucie that her father has lost his memory and that he must be spirited out of France. Lucie becomes insensibly
silent until her servant, Miss Pross, enters and calms her.
Discussion and Analysis
In this chapter, the plot connection between England and France is formed. Jarvis Lorry has worked for
Tellson’s Bank in both London and Paris, and the Manettes are originally from France. We find out that
Alexandre Manette is the man who has been in prison for the past 18 years, but the suspense is not lessened.
Lorry states that Dr. Manette must be secretly removed from France, and that he has lost his memory. Both of
these plot devices keep the reader interested in reading more.
The reader learns of Mr. Lorry’s lifelong dedication to his work, suggesting that one who is so industrious
does not have time for a wife. Lorry can be seen as representing organization, frugality, and self-sacrifice
throughout the novel, even as he comes to befriend the Manettes.
Lucie Manette is portrayed as a weak woman, incapable of doing anything. She is idealized and will later be
contrasted with the evil Madame Defarge. This Victorian portrayal of the ideal woman as passive and reliant
on men is problematic and warrants further discussion.
Book the First, Chapter 5 Summary and Analysis
Book the First: Recalled to Life
Chapter 5: The Wine-Shop
New Characters
Ernest Defarge: owner of wine-shop in Paris suburb; along with wife, a leader of the revolt in Paris
Therese Defarge: wife of Ernest Defarge and co-leader of the revolt; she knits the names of those to be killed
when the revolution comes
Book the First, Chapters 1, 2, and 3 Summary and Analysis 10
The three “Jacques”: followers of the Defarges who participate in the revolt in Paris
Dr. Alexandre Manette: Lucie’s father who is freed after 18 years in a French prison
The scene is a street in the Paris suburb of Saint Antoine. A cask of red wine has been dropped and broken.
All of the people in the area, businessmen and idlers alike, have stopped what they are doing and are drinking
the spilled wine. Many faces and hands have become stained red. A man writes “BLOOD” on a wall.
St. Antoine is described as a gloomy town, full of “cold, dark, sickness, ignorant, and want.” The wine-shop
is said to be of a slightly better standard than most businesses in St. Antoine. Ernest Defarge, the owner of the
wine-shop, is a “man of strong resolution and set purpose.” His wife sits inside the wine-shop, knitting. Three
customers in the wine-shop have a conversation with Defarge about the spilt wine. Defarge refers to all three
men as “Jacques.” Defarge directs the three “Jacques” to a bachelor apartment that they wish to see. In
reality, he is directing them to the room where Dr. Manette is.
Mr. Lorry and Lucie, who have been sitting quietly in the corner, now approach Defarge. Defarge leads the
two of them up a staircase; they pass the three “Jacques” on the way. We learn that Dr. Manette is in a locked
room, above the wine-shop, and that Defarge shows him to people on occasion.
Lorry leads Lucie into the room, murmuring of “business, business!” She is afraid of her father and again
clutches Lorry. The room is dark; Dr. Manette is stooped over a bench, making shoes.
Discussion and Analysis
The spilt wine is a foreshadowing of the bloodshed to come. This is made obvious by the peasant who writes
“BLOOD” on the wall, and when the narrator says “the time was to come, when that wine too would be
spilled on the street-stones, and when the stain of it would be red upon many there.” We see that the Paris
suburbs are full of disgruntled people living in virtual squalor; these are the very masses that will provide the
manpower for the coming revolution. The single-mindedness of the crowd anticipates the mob logic that leads
to much more violence later in the novel. The power and horror of crowds is one of the major themes in A
Tale of Two Cities.
The use of the name “Jacques” comes from the ruling class’ dismissal of all members of the lower class as
so many “Jacques.” The peasants empower themselves by adopting the term and referring to their cohorts in
revolutionary thought as “Jacques.” Defarge shows the “Jacques” Dr. Manette because he thinks it will help
the revolutionary cause by letting people know that Dr. Manette was a prisoner of the nobility.
Once again we see the weak nature of Lucie Manette when she has to cling to Lorry. Madame Defarge is
barely sketched out in this chapter, but already there are ominous overtones to her character. She is “stout,”
with “large hands,” and “a watchful eye.” In other words, she does not fit the Victorian ideal of a fragile,
docile woman.
Book the First, Chapter 6 Summary and Analysis
Book the First: Recalled to Life - Chaper 6: The Shoemaker
Dr. Manette is a feeble old man, nearly destroyed by physical weakness. Defarge wants to let more light into
the room, and the old man is indifferent. Dr. Manette tells them that he is making “a young ladies
walking-shoe.” When they ask him his name, he replies “One Hundred and Five, North Tower.” Dr. Manette
Book the First, Chapter 5 Summary and Analysis 11
returns to the shoe. He slowly begins to recall his daughter and Mr. Lorry. Lucie holds him and kisses him,
and he remembers her and makes an impassioned speech. It is decided that they should leave for England
immediately. Mr. Lorry makes another reference to “business.” As they are leaving, Lorry says to Dr.
Manette, “I hope you care to be recalled to life?” to which Dr. Manette replies, “I can’t say.” This is the end
of the first section of the novel.
Discussion and Analysis
In this chapter we see the terrible nature of what a long imprisonment can do to a man. His reciting of his cell
number, “One Hundred and Five, North Tower,” when asked his name shows the extent to which prison has
robbed him of his identity. This point is further emphasized by the fact that he is making shoes and has
forgotten that he is a doctor.
We also see what is supposed to be the strength of Lucie, that is, her power to restore her father’s memory
through love, hugs, and kisses. Dr. Manette is overcome by emotion on hearing his daughter’s voice. Her
love for him apparently gives him the power to remember his past.
Mr. Lorry’s insistence that he is merely doing “business” is repeated once again, perhaps suggesting that he
is beginning to feel a personal attachment to the Manettes, but is unwilling to admit this to himself.
This chapter once again ends on a suspenseful note, with the reader unsure if Dr. Manette will ever be
“recalled to life.”
Book the Second, Chapters 1 and 2 Summary and Analysis
Book the Second: The Golden Thread
Chapter 1: Five Years Later
Chapter 2: A Sight
New Characters
Mrs. Jerry Cruncher: wife of Jerry Cruncher
Master Jerry Cruncher: son of Jerry Cruncher
Charles Darnay (a.k.a. Charles Evremonde): self-exiled member of French ruling class society
Members of the British Court: the spectators, the judge, and the attorney-general who is prosecuting Darnay
Five years have passed since the end of the first section of the novel. Tellson’s Bank is described as an
old-fashioned place, proud of its smallness, darkness, and ugliness. We learn that the death penalty was put to
great use in England in 1780 for such minor crimes as forgery and petty theft.
Jerry Cruncher is sitting outside Tellson’s Bank, waiting to be appointed an errand to run. His 12-year-old
son waits with him.
The scene then shifts to the Crunchers’ small apartment, in a bad neighborhood. Mr. Cruncher argues with his
wife; she claims that she is praying, and he complains that she is praying against him. Mr. Cruncher calls his
wife a “conceited female” and asks her what she thinks her prayers are worth. She replies, “They only come
from the heart, Jerry. They are worth no more than that.” Mr. Cruncher and his son, who are said to look
Book the First, Chapter 6 Summary and Analysis 12
extremely like each other, go off to Tellson’s Bank. A porter is called for, and the elder Cruncher is off,
leaving young Jerry to contemplate why his father’s fingers are always rusty.
Cruncher’s job is to go to the Old Bailey, which is the court, and wait there for instructions from Mr. Lorry.
Cruncher finds out that a man is on trial for treason. Cruncher meets a man at the court who is excited about
the prospects of seeing the defendant in the treason case drawn and quartered “when” he is found guilty.
Cruncher asks if he means “if” they find him guilty. The man replies, “Oh! They’ll find him guilty.”
The man on trial is Charles Darnay. He is described as 25, “well-grown, and well-looking.” The crowd in the
courtroom cannot wait to see this man put to a public death. Dr. and Lucie Manette are in the courtroom.
Lucie is described as full of compassion for the prisoner, “a compassion that saw nothing but the peril of the
accused.” She sits close to her father in her fear. The crowd begins to ask “Who are they?” We learn that
Lucie and Dr. Manette are witnesses against the prisoner.
Discussion and Analysis
Jerry Cruncher provides a comic element to the plot. We are confronted with the mystery of why he has rust
on his hands all of the time, a question that will tie in later with the main plot. It is a Dickens’ trademark to
have all of his subplots integrate with the main plot line in a nearly unbelievable way by the end of the story.
Cruncher and his son are described as very much alike, perhaps to show that it is impossible for young Jerry
ever to be anything besides what his father is, an illustration of the rigidity of social class.
The scene in the courtroom shows that when crowds lose their sense of identity, they can also lose all sense of
responsibility and compassion. Their desire to see Darnay publicly executed illustrates this. The remark that
they will find Darnay guilty reflects on the idea that justice in England in 1780 was anything but fair to the
Lucie Manette is seen in direct opposition to the crowd; she is full of feminine compassion for Darnay. This
compassion is again said to be her great strength, even though she is so physically fragile that she has to hold
tightly to her father. The revelation that Dr. Manette and Lucie are witnesses against Darnay, despite their
compassion for him, once again ends a chapter on a suspenseful note.
Book the Second, Chapter 3 Summary and Analysis
Book the Second: The Golden Thread - Chapter 3: A Disappointment
New Characters
Mr. Stryver: lawyer who defends Darnay in England; he wants to marry Lucie Manette
John Barsad: a spy also known as Solomon Pross; Miss Pross’ brother
Roger Cly: killed as a spy in England
Sydney Carton: physical double of Charles Darnay who secretly does Stryver’s legal work
The Attorney-General tells the jury that the prisoner has been conducting secret business between France and
England for at least five years. He describes, in glowing terms, a patriot who has figured out the devious
nature of the spy. A second witness, the prisoner’s servant, will present some papers that will condemn the
prisoner. The first witness, John Barsad, is called. Upon cross-examination by Mr. Stryver, it becomes known
Book the Second, Chapters 1 and 2 Summary and Analysis 13
that Barsad has been in debtor’s prison and that he owes the prisoner money. Roger Cly, the prisoner’s
servant, is revealed to have known Barsad for seven or eight years. The papers that Cly says are the
prisoner’s cannot be proven to be in the prisoner’s handwriting.
The prosecution builds its case around the fact that five years ago Lucie Manette talked with Darnay on a boat
going from France to England. She says that Darnay told her he was traveling under an assumed name
because of the sensitive nature of what he must do.
The prosecution has a witness who insists that he can identify and incriminate Darnay. Just at this point, Mr.
Stryver draws the court’s attention to Sydney Carton, a man who bears a striking physical resemblance to
Darnay. Lucie nearly faints; the jury acquits Darnay on the grounds that mistakes of identification can easily
be made. Darnay apologizes to Lucie. Barsad and Cly are exposed as swindlers. The crowd leaving the
courtroom is described as “dispersing in search of other carrion.”
Discussion and Analysis
Dickens uses comedy to make a serious point in this chapter. The Attorney-General describes his witnesses in
a way that is antithetical to their true nature. This outright lying nearly leads to a conviction until the
unbelievable coincidence of the look-alike is revealed. This reliance on coincidence in plot is one of the chief
criticisms of Dickens as a novelist.
Lucie Manette is once again shown to be physically weak in her heroism, while at the same time, a hint of her
affection for Darnay is revealed.
Dickens builds more suspense by never addressing just exactly what Darnay was doing traveling secretly
between England and France, if he was not a traitor. This suspense continues for many more chapters.
The mob mentality grows more ominous in this chapter, foreshadowing the revolution in France, as the
dispersing crowd is described as needing to find a release for their need to see death.
Book the Second, Chapters 4 and 5 Summary and Analysis
Book the Second: The Golden Thread
Chapter 4: Congratulatory
Chapter 5: The Jackal
Dr. Manette, Lucie, Lorry, and Stryver are congratulating Charles Darnay in a passageway outside the
courtroom. Darnay kisses Lucie’s hand. Dr. Manette gives Darnay a mysterious look of “distrust,”
“dislike,” and even “fear.” The group leaves the courthouse and encounters Sydney Carton. Lorry and
Carton discuss business. Lorry says that he puts his bank ahead of himself; Carton says that he has no
business whatsoever.
Carton and Darnay dine at a nearby inn. They drink a toast to Lucie. Carton gets drunk and calls himself “a
disappointed drudge.” He tells himself that he hates Darnay because in Darnay he sees what he could have
Carton meets with Stryver the next morning. We learn that Carton “boils down” Stryver’s legal briefs,
making them into compact documents that Stryver can understand. Carton complains some more about his
Book the Second, Chapter 3 Summary and Analysis 14
life; he calls Lucie “a golden-haired doll,” while it is clear that Stryver is very fond of Lucie. The final
paragraph shows Carton as a man who has wasted his abilities and emotions, and who has resigned himself to
having nothing.
Discussion and Analysis
The unexplained way in which Dr. Manette looks at Darnay foreshadows a coming ominous plot twist. Lorry
and Carton are contrasted in this chapter; Lorry is a successful man with talent and ambition, and thus a job,
while Carton has talent, but no ambition or desire to have a “business.” Victorian readers would expect an
idle man who wastes his talents to be pathetic, and Dickens does not disappoint them. Darnay functions as a
mirror of an alternate, more successful life that Carton feels he could have had. In saying that he hates Darnay,
Carton is really saying that he hates what has happened to his life.
We also see in this chapter that all three men—Darnay, Stryver, and Carton—have all taken an interest in Lucie
Manette. Carton’s description of her as “a golden-haired doll” is quite accurate; he has revealed her for what
she is—a plaything who relies on the men around her for strength.
Book the Second, Chapter 6 Summary and Analysis
Book the Second: The Golden Thread
Chapter 6: Hundreds of People
It is four months later, and the trial is forgotten. Lorry is on his way to have Sunday dinner with the Manettes,
whom he has befriended. The Manettes live in a quaint London house, where Dr. Manette receives his
patients. Lorry arrives at the Manette house and talks with Miss Pross as he awaits the Manettes’ return. He is
surprised to see that Dr. Manette still has a bench and tools from his shoemaking days. Miss Pross tells Lorry
that “hundreds of people” come to visit “Ladybird,” her pet name for Lucie. She says that all of these people
are unworthy of Lucie; Miss Pross believes that only her brother, Solomon, is worthy of Lucie—even though
her brother has left Miss Pross in poverty by stealing everything that she possessed. Lorry admires miss
Pross’ unswerving devotion.
Lorry and the Manettes have dinner; Charles Darnay shows up, and Dr. Manette briefly gives him a strange
look again. Sydney Carton drops by, but no “hundreds of people” turn up. The corner where the Manettes’
house is located is said to possess a curious acoustical quality: the echoes of distant footsteps sound as if they
are very close by. A storm approaches, and the echoes grow louder as people hurry to take shelter. The
chapter ends with these lines: “Perhaps, see the great crowd of people with its rush and roar, bearing down
upon them, too.”
Discussion and Analysis
This chapter can be seen as the calm before the storm. Lorry has betrayed his business sense by becoming
friends with the Manettes, which is not a bad thing. There is a sense of normality and quietness to this chapter,
but hints are given that this quiet normalcy is about to be shattered. The fact that Dr. Manette still has his
shoemaking tools and bench shows that he cannot forget the horrors of his imprisonment. Dr. Manette again
gives Darnay that mysterious look of distrust and dislike. The echoing footsteps are an obvious foreshadowing
that something involving crowds of people is about to happen. And the coming storm can be seen as yet
another symbol of trouble to come. The final paragraph of this chapter further shows that something ominous
is bearing down on the people in Dr. Manette’s house.
Book the Second, Chapters 4 and 5 Summary and Analysis 15
Book the Second, Chapters 7 and 8 Summary and Analysis
Book the Second: The Golden Thread
Chapter 7: Monseigneur in Town
Chapter 8: Monseigneur in the Country
New Characters
Monseigneur: a French nobleman
Monsieur the Marquis: French nobleman and Uncle of Charles Darnay
A tall man in a nightcap: the marquis’ coach runs over and kills his child
The mender of roads: a French peasant
Monsieur Gabelle: servant of the Marquis
The scene is a reception in Paris thrown by the Monseigneur. The scene is decadent; the Monseigneur has four
people serving him chocolate. He is ironically called noble for thinking that “The earth and the fulness thereof
are mine.” The party is populated by ne’er-do-wells who have no saving grace, except that they are all
“perfectly dressed.” A storm comes, and the party breaks up.
The Marquis is described as a man of 60 with a “face like a fine mask,” treacherous and cruel, yet
“handsome.” He departs for his chateau in the countryside; his carriage drives crazily through the streets until
it hits something and the horses stop. The Marquis sees a tall man in a nightcap, holding a baby that has been
killed by the carriage. The Marquis blames the accident on the peasants, whom he calls “you people,” and
wonders if his horses have been injured. Ernest Defarge emerges from the gathering crowd and tells the man
that it is good his baby died quickly without pain; he questions if it “could have lived an hour so happily?”
The Marquis throws a coin to Defarge and drives away. The coin comes flying back at the carriage. The
Marquis continues on to his chateau, stopping only to talk to the mender of roads, who tells him that a man
was riding along on the outside of the carriage. The Marquis tells Monsieur Gabelle to find this man.
Upon arrival at the chateau, the Marquis asks a servant, “Monsieur Charles, whom I expect; is he arrived
from England?” His servant replies, “Monseigneur, not yet.”
Discussion and Analysis
These chapters show the decadence and callousness of the French nobility, a class that cares only about
pleasure and about how they dress. The Marquis kills a child and is indifferent. The gap between the classes is
so large that the Marquis does not even realize that Defarge is threatening the class structure by outwardly
saying that the peasants would be better off dead; therefore, they have no fear of dying for a cause. The man
riding on the outside of the Marquis’ carriage foreshadows the coming struggle and the nobility’s total
ignorance of its coming. The Marquis asks his servant if Charles from England has arrived, leaving the reader
to wonder as to this Charles’ relationship to Charles Darnay.
Book the Second, Chapters 7 and 8 Summary and Analysis 16
Book the Second, Chapter 9 Summary and Analysis
Book the Second: The Golden Thread - Chapter 9: The Gorgon's Head
The Marquis’ chateau is said to be made of stone “as if the Gorgon’s head had surveyed it.” The Marquis
sits down to dinner; he thinks he hears something outside, but a servant assures him that it is nothing. The
Marquis’ nephew finally arrives; he is indeed Charles Darnay. Darnay and his uncle have a strained
relationship. Darnay feels that the family name is detested all over France. His uncle replies, “Detestation of
the high is the involuntary homage of the low.” They continue to argue, with Darnay saying that the family
has done “a world of wrong.” The Marquis argues that class distinctions are necessary; he tells Darnay,
“Better to be a rational creature … and accept your natural destiny.” Darnay then renounces France and the
property that will be his upon the death of his uncle; he tells the Marquis that he wants to settle in England.
They retire for the evening.
In the morning, a crowd has gathered in the town; the news that the Marquis has been murdered has traveled
fast. The Marquis is described as having been turned to stone, a knife through his heart. A note attached to the
knife says: “Drive him fast to his tomb. This, from JACQUES.”
Discussion and Analysis
The stone look of the Marquis’ chateau represents the hard, unfeeling nature of the nobility. The Marquis
becomes briefly frightened when he thinks that someone is outside, but he quickly forgets, oblivious to the
fact that he could be in any real danger.
The arrival of Charles Darnay begins to explain his secret trips between England and France although only a
slight amount of information is revealed. This deepens the plot’s mystery. Darnay and his uncle debate the
whole class system. This allows Dickens to show how the ruling class felt that they were naturally superior to
the peasants. Darnay’s argument that his family has caused nothing but suffering seems a more reasonable
way of looking at the situation.
The murder of the Marquis shows that the peasants can only take so much mistreatment before they violently
revolt. Dickens shows how violence can easily lead to more violence: The Marquis kills a child and pays for it
with his life.
Book the Second, Chapters 10 and 11 Summary and
Book the Second: The Golden Thread
Chapter 10: Two Promises
Chapter 11: A Companion Picture
It is one year later. Charles Darnay is now a tutor of French and French Literature in England, as well as a
translator. He has made a success of himself by finding a labor and dedicating himself to it. Darnay meets
with Dr. Manette and reveals that he loves Lucie and wants to marry her. Darnay assures Dr. Manette that this
marriage will strengthen the bond between father and daughter, a bond formed after 18 years of imprisonment.
Dr. Manette tells Darnay that Lucie may have two other suitors, Mr. Stryver and Sydney Carton. Darnay
Book the Second, Chapter 9 Summary and Analysis 17
informs Dr. Manette that he has a secret that he wished to share; Dr. Manette shouts “Stop!” and tells Darnay
to wait until the morning of the wedding to reveal his secret. Darnay takes his leave.
Lucie returns home to find her father working at his shoe-maker’s bench. She takes his hand and they walk
up and down the hallway together for a long while.
Meanwhile, Mr. Stryver is informing Sydney Carton that he intends to marry Lucie. Stryver also tells Carton
that he has no social skills, that he is “an insensible dog,” and that he should find a wife who will take care of
him, “against a rainy day.” Carton replies, “I’ll think about it.”
Discussion and Analysis
Darnay’s occupation as a tutor of French refers to the idea that one needs an occupation to be considered a
good person; it also shows that he has not completely forsaken his French past.
Dr. Manette’s refusal to hear Darnay’s secret until the morning of the wedding reveals that it must be a
shocking secret indeed, something that Manette may already know, but may not yet be willing to face. Dr.
Manette returns to his shoemaker’s bench; this suggests that something has reminded him of his
imprisonment. Dr. Manette will continue to return to the shoemaker’s bench whenever he encounters
something that reminds him of his lost 18 years. Lucie gently helps him regain his sense, just as she helped
him regain his memory.
Stryver comes across as arrogant. He believes that Lucie will readily marry him, and he puts down Carton,
despite the fact that Carton does all of Stryver’s legal work. Stryver’s remark that Carton should find a
woman who will protect him “against a rainy day” shows who the real “insensible dog” is.
Book the Second, Chapters 12 and 13 Summary and
Book the Second: The Golden Thread
Chapter 12: The Fellow of Delicacy
Chapter 13: The Fellow of No Delicacy
Mr. Stryver decides to tell Lucie of his intentions, “to make her happiness known to her.” He sees his desire
to marry her in terms of a legal case that he has a good chance of winning. Stryver decides to stop into
Tellson’s Bank to tell Mr. Lorry of his intentions. Lorry exclaims “Oh dear me!” when told of Stryver’s
plan. As a businessman, Lorry says that he has no opinion on the matter; as a friend of the Manettes, he
advises against it. He tells Stryver that “the young lady goes before all,” that nothing else matters. Stryver
says Lucie must be a “mincing fool” if she does not want to marry him. Stryver takes Lorry’s advice to
heart, proclaiming that he was uncertain of his intentions anyway. He proclaims that it is impossible to control
the “vanities and giddinesses of empty-headed girls.”
Sydney Carton pays Lucie Manette a visit. She sees that he looks ill and asks him if it is not “a pity to live no
better life?” Carton declares that it is too late. Lucie becomes upset; Carton says, “God bless you for your
sweet compassion.” He tells her that he loves her, that she is too good for him, and that he would “give his
life” for her. He asks her to keep this conversation in the strictest confidence and takes his leave.
Book the Second, Chapters 10 and 11 Summary andAnalysis 18
Discussion and Analysis
This chapter reveals Stryver as arrogant. He cannot admit to himself that a rational being would not want to
marry him; Lucie Manette is a “mincing fool” if she will not have him. Lorry is capable of separating
business from friendship, an ability which means that both can co-exist within him now.
Lucie is once again portrayed as full of compassion. No explanation is given as to why Carton loves her; it
seems that every man who sees her falls in love with her. Yet all we know about Lucie is that she has a great
store of “compassion.” Carton’s pledge that he would “give his life” for Lucie is something for the reader to
keep in mind.
Book the Second, Chapter 14 Summary and Analysis
Book the Second: The Golden Thread - Chapter 14: The Honest Tradesman
Jerry Cruncher is sitting on his stool outside Tellson’s Bank. A funeral procession passes by; it is the funeral
of Roger Cly, Charles Darnay’s former servant. There is a mob following the funeral vehicles, shouting
“Spies! Pull’em out, there!” The narrator writes, “A crowd in those times stopped at nothing, and was a
monster much dreaded.” Jerry Cruncher joins the crowd as they proceed to the cemetery. The crowd becomes
violent, proceeds to window-breaking, and then engages in looting, before breaking up. Cruncher and his son
return home. His wife asks him if he is “going out to-night.” Mr. Cruncher does go out late at night; he takes
with him a sack, a crowbar, and some rope and chain. Young Jerry secretly follows him to the cemetery,
where he sees his father digging up a grave. Young Jerry runs home in horror. In the morning, Jerry and his
wife argue about this “dreadful business.” Young Jerry asks his father what a “resurrection-man” is. Mr.
Cruncher replies that a resurrection-man” is an honest tradesman whose goods are “person’s bodies.”
Discussion and Analysis
This chapter provides a bit of comedy. Jerry Cruncher calls himself “an honest tradesman,” when in reality
he is a grave-robber. This is a play on the idea that every man needs an occupation; Jerry knows this, but he
sees nothing wrong in digging up bodies.
A violent crowd is presented in this chapter, with the narrator directly stating that crowds are dangerous. This
is an ominous forewarning of even more violent mob action to come.
It is important to keep in mind the idea that all subplots will eventually tie into the main story; remember what
Jerry Cruncher does at the cemetery, and remember whose funeral had been on that same day.
Book the Second, Chapter 15 Summary and Analysis
Book the Second: The Golden Thread - Chapter 15: Knitting
The scene is the Defarges’ wine-shop, where there has been much activity of late. Ernest Defarge brings the
mender of roads to the wineshop and introduces him as “Jacques” to the other “Jacques.” The mender of
roads tells what he knows about the tall man in the nightcap: how he first saw him hanging on to the
Marquis’ carriage, how he next saw this man, with his arms bound to his sides, being taken somewhere by
soldiers. The mender of roads says that he does not know what became of this prisoner. He has heard a rumor
that a petition has been presented to the King explaining that the man was in great distress because the
Marquis had callously killed his child. The mender of roads thinks that this petition may have saved the
man’s life. One of the Jacques tells him that a petition was presented to the King, by none other than Ernest
Book the Second, Chapters 12 and 13 Summary andAnalysis 19
Defarge. This petition was ignored, and the man was hanged on a 40-foot gallows that was erected in the town
The Jacques decide that the whole Evremonde family should be “registered,” that is, their names are taken
down as people to be executed when the revolution arrives. This register is what Madame Defarge is knitting;
she knits the name, in code, of those who are to die. The Defarges take the mender of roads to see the King
and Queen pass by in their coach. The mender of roads joins in the jubilation of seeing royalty; Defarge tells
him that he is “a good boy” because “you make these fools believe that it will last forever. Then, they are the
more insolent, and it is nearer ended.”
Discussion and Analysis
This chapter shows how the revolution is nearing, with the Defarges masterminding the insurrection in St.
Antoine. Ernest Defarge brings the mender of roads into the fold, by telling him what happened to the man
who killed the Marquis. The Defarges want to encourage people like the mender of roads to vocally support
the King and Queen, since this will give the nobility a false sense of security, thus making them commit more
callous acts, which in turn will lead to more insurrection. When they are watching the King and Queen pass,
Madame Defarge tells the mender of roads that “if you were shown a great heap of dolls, and were set upon
them to pluck them to pieces … for your own advantage, you would pick the richest and gayest … and if you
were shown a flock of birds, unable to fly, and were set upon them to strip them of their feathers for your own
advantage, you would set upon the birds of the finest feathers; would you not?” The mender of roads agrees;
Madame Defarge tells him, “You have seen both dolls and birds to-day” and sends him off to think about
this. These metaphors explain the Defarges’ revolutionary ideas in terms that the peasants can easily
Book the Second, Chapter 16 Summary and Analysis
Book the Second: The Golden Thread - Chapter 16: Still Knitting
The mood in St. Antoine has changed; it now bears a “cruel look of being avenged, which they would
henceforth bear for ever.” The Defarges make a trip to Paris to speak with “Jacques of the police.” He
informs them that there is a spy in their quarters: John Barsard, a “rather handsome” man whose nose has “a
peculiar inclination towards the left cheek.” The Defarges return to the wine-shop. Various Jacques are sitting
around talking when a man enters the wine-shop. Madame Defarge puts a rose in her hat; the conversations
break up, and the Jacques slowly disperse. This man speaks with Madame Defarge, asking her about her
family, trying to get her to say something incriminating. This man fits the description of John Barsard;
Madame Defarge knits his name as she speaks to him. Ernest Defarge comes in; Barsard asks him about Dr.
Manette. He wonders if they have kept in touch. Defarge says no; Barsard informs him that Lucie is going to
marry the nephew of the Marquis, Charles Darnay, in England. Barsard takes his leave. Defarge tells his wife
that he hopes the Manettes and Lucie stay out of France if the revolution ever comes. Madame Defarge
reminds him that Darnay and his entire family are registered. The chapter ends with Madame Defarge and
other women, “knitting, knitting, counting dropping heads.”
Discussion and Analysis
This chapter reveals that the Defarges have a serious organization of revolutionaries. They have friends in the
police and secret signals that all of the Jacques know, such as the rose in the hat. Madame Defarge is shown to
have no compassion; she knits Barsard’s name as she speaks with him, and her only response to her
husband’s wish that Darnay and the Manettes stay out of France is to remind him that they are all registered.
Book the Second, Chapter 15 Summary and Analysis 20
The plot thickens in this chapter. The revolution is quickly approaching; there are spies and counter-spies.
Ernest Defarge begins an internal moral debate with himself about his loyalties, to Dr. Manette and to the
cause of revolution. A Tale of Two Cities is building towards its climax.
Book the Second, Chapters 17 and 18 Summary and
Book the Second: The Golden Thread
Chapter 17: One Night
Chapter 18: Nine Days
It is the night before Lucie’s wedding. She and her father are sitting in the moonlight, under the plane tree.
They are both very happy as they assure each other that Lucie’s marriage will not change their close
relationship. Dr. Manette says to Lucie, “my future is far brighter, Lucie, seen through your marriage, than it
could have been … without it.” Dr. Manette speaks to Lucie of his imprisonment for the first time; he tells her
that he thought often of his daughter who did not know he was alive. He says to her, “My thoughts, when they
were wildest, never rose near the happiness that I have known with you.” Lucie prays that night “that she
may ever be as true to him as her love aspired to be, and as his sorrows deserved.”
In the morning, Darnay tells Dr. Manette his secret. Mr. Lorry notices that Dr. Manette looks pale, a pallor
which he takes as an “indication that the old air of avoidance and dread had lately passed over him.” The
couple is married with only Mr. Lorry and Miss Pross in attendance. Mr. Lorry gushes over how beautiful
Lucie is; he reflects on what his life might have been like if he had married 50 years ago. Dr. Manette tells
Darnay, “Take her, Charles! She is yours!” They leave on their honeymoon. Lorry checks in at the bank;
when he returns to the Manettes’ house, Miss Pross informs him that Dr. Manette is “making shoes.”
Manette does not remember Lorry; Lorry realizes that it is useless to talk to him. This goes on for nine days.
Discussion and Analysis
Light is shed on the closeness that bonds Lucie and her father. She feels that he deserves love because of his
previous sorrow; he describes himself as being happier than he ever could have imagined. Yet the dark specter
of Darnay’s secret looms over this happiness. The reader still does not know what this secret is. It has
something to do with Dr. Manette’s imprisonment in France and with Darnay’s past in France, but the
connection is still mysterious and unclear. The extent to which this secret affects Dr. Manette is made clear
when it prompts him to return to making shoes.
Lucie’s compassion is once again illustrated through her prayer for her father. Dr. Manette telling Darnay,
“Take her, Charles! She is yours!” once again illustrates that Lucie has no identity of her own; she is spoken
of only in relation to the men in her life.
Book the Second, Chapters 19 and 20 Summary and
Book the Second: The Golden Thread
Chapter 19: An Opinion
Book the Second, Chapter 16 Summary and Analysis 21
Chapter 20: A Plea
On the morning of the tenth day, Dr. Manette has regained his senses. Mr. Lorry decides not to confront Dr.
Manette directly about his problem; he speaks to Manette of “a curious case in which I am deeply interested.”
Dr. Manette has no recall of the past nine days. He tells Lorry that “the relapse was not unforeseen by its
subject.” He tells Lorry that the “subject” is greatly burdened, yet unable to speak about this burden. Manette
assures Lorry that the worst is over. Lorry convinces Manette that the shoemaker’s bench should be
destroyed; he couches this discussion by speaking of a man returning to a forge to do blacksmith work.
Manette tells Lorry to destroy it in the name of his daughter. Two weeks later, Dr. Manette goes to join Lucie
and her husband; while he is gone, Lorry and Pross destroy the bench.
The honeymooners return to the house; Sydney Carton visits them. He talks with Manette about the dinner
they had together in the past. Carton asks Darnay to forgive him for being rude; Darnay says he has not
thought about it. He thanks Carton again for helping to have him acquitted all those years ago. Later that
night, Lucie asks Charles to be “very lenient with Carton,” and to “believe that he has a heart he … seldom
reveals, and that there are deep wounds on it.” She tells him, “I have seen it bleeding.” The narrator says that
if Carton had heard this exchange, he would have once more proclaimed, “God bless her for her sweet
Discussion and Analysis
Once again, Lorry uses his business sense to make a difficult situation easier. Just as he told Lucie that her
father was alive by pretending that he was talking of somebody else, he talks to Dr. Manette about his
situation by addressing the problem as if it were happening to someone other than Manette. His business
acumen can be applied to his friendships. The smashing of the forge is symbolic of Manette letting go of the
past. Sydney Carton’s discussion with Darnay serves the same purpose although to a lesser degree. He clears
the air with Darnay so that past worries can be put to rest. The chapter concludes with Dickens once again
reminding us of Lucie’s incredible compassion.
Book the Second, Chapter 21 Summary and Analysis
Book the Second: The Golden Thread - Chapter 21: Echoing Footsteps
New Character
Little Lucie: daughter of Charles and Lucie
Time passes. Lucie hears the echoes of distant footsteps. On occasion this seems ominous, but for the most
part she hears “in the echoes of years none but friendly and soothing sounds.” She has one child, a daughter
named Lucie. She has a boy child who dies but even this is not a terribly sad occasion, as “the rustling of an
Angel’s wings got blended with the other echoes.”
Six years pass, and various changes take place in the lives of the characters, but nothing shocking happens.
Then, one night Mr. Lorry comes over. There is a storm; he tells them that “there is such an uneasiness in
Paris, that we have actually had a run of confidence upon us!” He is calmed when he sees that everything is as
usual at the Manette household.
The scene is not nearly so calm in St. Antoine; the peasants have taken up weapons and are led by the
Defarges, storming the Bastille. Madame Defarge is heard shouting, “To me, women…we can kill as well as
the men when the place is taken.” Prisoners are freed; Defarge forces a guard to show him “One Hundred and
Book the Second, Chapters 19 and 20 Summary andAnalysis 22
Five North Tower.” It is the cell where Dr. Manette had been held.
Defarge finds the initials A.M. carved into the wall, along with the words “a poor physician.” The governor is
killed, Madame Defarge cuts off his head, and heads are carried on spikes. The chapter ends with the hope
that these footsteps stay out of Lucie Manette’s life since “they are head long, mad and dangerous … (and)
not easily purified when once stained red.”
Discussion and Analysis
Lucie’s life is described as passing along uneventfully. The death of her child shows that she can withstand
pain and suffering; this death also shows that tragedy is never very far away. The wish at the end of the
chapter that the footsteps stay out of Lucie’s life seems to say that this is impossible. The echoing footsteps
that Lucie hears are indeed the distant footsteps in France.
The revolution finally begins; the power of crowds is finally unleashed in its full force. In the midst of this,
Ernest Defarge takes the time to find out what “One Hundred and Five North Tower” is. The fact that he does
this in the midst of chaotic violence is a testament to how much Dr. Manette is on his mind, perhaps even
suggesting that Dr. Manette’s imprisonment helped spark the revolutionary fervor within Defarge. Madame
Defarge is described as a brutal woman who takes easily to murder. The final paragraph of the chapter refers
to the wine that was spilled in the street many years earlier, but the wine is now truly blood; there is no way
out of the violence of revolution once it has started.
Book the Second, Chapters 22 and 23 Summary and
Book the Second: The Golden Thread
Chapter 22: The Sea Still Rises
Chapter 23: Fire Rises
New Characters
The Vengeance: follower of Madame Defarge who participates in the revolt in France
Foulon: a French nobleman killed during the revolution
One week has passed. Madame Defarge and one of her “sisterhood” are knitting. This woman has “already
earned the complimentary name of The Vengeance.” Ernest Defarge comes into the wine-shop, shouting that
“old Foulon, who told the famished people they might eat grass,” has been captured.
A crowd gathers to go to Foulon and serve him justice. Madame Defarge and The Vengeance go from house
to house, “rousing the women.” The women are described as leaving their children and the aged and sick to
fend for themselves while they go out in “madness.”
The crowd reaches Foulon; grass is stuffed into his mouth, and he is hanged from a lamppost. Madame
Defarge is said to have treated him “as a cat might have done with a mouse.” Word spreads that Foulon’s
son-in-law is on his way to Paris under a guard 500 strong. Yet the mob captures him and puts his head on a
pike next to Foulon’s.
Book the Second, Chapter 21 Summary and Analysis 23
The French countryside is described as ruined. The peasants burn down the Marquis’ chateau. Monsieur
Gabelle flees the chateau on horseback; no one is willing to help him extinguish the fire. The mob spares
Gabelle’s life, but “there were other functionaries less fortunate, that night … whom the rising sun found
hanging across once-peaceful streets.” The narrator states that there were also revolutionaries who were
losing their lives as well.
Discussion and Analysis
The sheer power of the crowd is further revealed in these chapters. Women are active, but they are full of
“madness” and blood-lust as they seek “Vengeance.” This representation of women serves to justify the
passivity of Lucie as heroic. There seems to be no middle ground for women; either they are passive and full
of “compassion” or active and searching for “Vengeance.” Madame Defarge is especially evil, in the view of
the narrator, as she plays a “cat and mouse game” with the dying Foulon. Vengeance is a frightening thing;
the treatment of Foulon is horrifying. Yet he showed no concern for the starving peasants; no one is free of
guilt in this chapter.
The killing of Foulon’s son-in-law shows to what extent the peasants will go in their desire to be rid of the
upper class. This can also be seen as foreshadowing what might happen, if, perhaps, the Marquis’ nephew
made his way to France. Chapter 23 ends, noting that death is occurring all over France on both sides of the
Book the Second, Chapter 24 Summary and Analysis
Book the Second: The Golden Thread - Chapter 24: Drawn to the Loadstone Rock
Three years have passed. Royalty and the court are gone from France. Mr. Lorry decides to go to France to
help at the unsettled Paris branch of Tellson’s Bank. Darnay says that he wishes he was going to France.
Lorry leaves, taking only Jerry Cruncher with him. The French ruling class has become exiled in England,
planning how to get the country back. Charles Darnay is uneasy. Stryver suggests that the whole peasant class
in France should be wiped out. It is revealed that only Dr. Manette knows Darnay’s true connection to
France. He secretly gets a letter addressed to the Marquis’ nephew. It is a letter from Gabelle. Gabelle is now
in prison because he has “acted for an emigrant,” Darnay. Darnay sees the nobility being driven from France;
he reasons that he has never oppressed anyone, so France must be safe for him. He resolves to go to France to
save Gabelle. Darnay decides to leave in secret, making himself known to Lorry only upon arrival in Paris.
Darnay begins his journey “as he left all that was dear on earth behind him.” Thus ends the second section of
the novel.
Discussion and Analysis
This chapter sets up the action that will take place in the third and final section of A Tale of Two Cities. Lorry
is off to France with Jerry Cruncher in tow. Charles Darnay decides to go to Paris, as well. One can guess
what may happen next, recalling the treatment of Foulon’s son-in-law. Darnay’s decision to go to France
seems completely unbelievable. He is aware of the peasants’ attitude toward nobility, and his assurance that
he will be safe because he renounced his own family name does not appear to be a convincing argument.
Dickens’ audience probably forgave him this heavy-handed plot device though. Darnay has to have some
reason to go to France if the events of the final section are going to unfold. The warning that Darnay has “left
all that was dear on earth behind him” hints that it will be difficult for him to reacquire what he has left
Book the Second, Chapters 22 and 23 Summary andAnalysis 24
Book the Third, Chapter 1 Summary and Analysis
Book the Third: The Track of a Storm - Chapter 1: In Secret
New Characters
Various French patriot-citizens: members of the peasant class who are now in power
Charles Darnay meets difficulty on his way to Paris. He is stopped in every small town that he passes through
and forced to show his papers before he can proceed. He quickly realizes that he cannot go back “until he
should have been declared a good citizen at Paris.”
In one small town, it is decided that Darnay will be provided an armed escort to Paris. Darnay notices that all
the citizens are wearing red caps. He reaches Beauvais: he is called “a cursed emigrant” and “a cursed
aristocrat.” His claim that he has returned on his own accord falls on deaf ears.
Darnay hears one of the armed guards say that he will be “judged” at Paris. Darnay learns that a decree was
just passed that takes all property rights away from emigrants; he learns that another decree is about to be
passed, declaring that all emigrants be put to death. Darnay reaches France where he is referred to as a
He is called Evremonde and sentenced to La Force prison. He objects but is told that emigrants have no rights.
The officer writes “In secret” on a piece of paper and hands it to a guard. This guard happens to be Ernest
Defarge. He asks Darnay if he is married to Dr. Manette’s daughter. Darnay asks Defarge if he will help him;
Defarge replies, “I will do nothing for you. My duty is to my country and my people.”
Darnay learns that the King is in prison. Darnay, identified as Evremonde, is thrown in a cell; a fellow
prisoner hopes Darnay is not “in secret.” Darnay says that he does not understand what this means, but he has
heard the guard say it of him. The chapter ends with Darnay thinking “He made shoes, he made shoes, he
made shoes.”
Discussion and Analysis
This chapter reveals the fateful mistake that Charles Darnay has made: a mistake that leads him to prison. The
revolution is gathering steam, and Darnay is caught in the middle of it. New decrees have been passed since
he set out from England, decrees that doom him. The fact that he has renounced his property and his family
means little to the patriots. His petition falls on deaf ears just as the peasants have always been ignored by the
nobility. Dickens is showing that the nobility and peasants have traded places, with the peasants acting just as
callously as the nobility has in the past.
We see that Defarge has decided that his allegiances lie with the revolutionary cause and not with personal
relationships. The revolution has gathered so much steam that it is impossible for it to be stopped by personal
considerations. Darnay finds out that he is “in secret.” We do not know what this means, but it is a very
ominous and suspenseful phrase. Darnay thinks of Dr. Manette upon his imprisonment and is able to grasp
why Manette made shoes.
Book the Third, Chapters 2 and 3 Summary and Analysis
Book the Third: The Track of a Storm
Chapter 2: The Grindstone
Book the Third, Chapter 1 Summary and Analysis 25
Chapter 3: The Shadow
Tellson’s Bank in France is in the house of a member of the nobility. The house has been seized by the newly
formed republic and marked by the tricolor flag. There is a grindstone within the gates of the house. Mr. Lorry
says, “Thank God that no one near and dear to me is in this dreadful town tonight.”
Just as he says this, Dr. Manette and Lucie show up. They tell him that Charles is in a prison in Paris. A crowd
of 40 to 50 people pours into the courtyard; they sharpen their various weapons at the grindstone. This crowd
is described as blood-stained “savages.”
Dr. Manette decides that, as a former prisoner in the Bastille, he has influence with these people. They lead
him towards Paris, shouting, “Help for the Bastille prisoner’s kindred in La Force.” Mr. Lorry worries about
compromising the bank by harboring the wife of an emigrant. He finds other lodgings for Lucie, her daughter,
and Miss Pross.
Defarge comes to the bank with a note from Dr. Manette. The note says: “Charles is safe, but I cannot safely
leave this place yet.” Lorry, Defarge, and his wife take this note to Lucie, along with a note from Charles.
Madame Defarge accompanies them so that “she may be able to recognize their faces … for their safety.”
Madame Defarge is knitting. Lucie begs Madame Defarge to be merciful to her husband. Madame Defarge
coldly replies that since she has seen so much suffering, “is it likely that the trouble of one wife and mother
would be much to us now?” Lucie says, “That dreadful woman seems to have thrown a shadow on me and on
all my hopes.” Lorry tries to reassure Lucie, but “in his secret mind,” he is “troubled greatly.”
Discussion and Analysis
This chapter brings all of the principal characters to France, just as Lorry ironically said that he was glad he
had no loved ones here. Dr. Manette tries to put his imprisonment to good use, using it to show sympathy with
the new republic, in hopes of freeing Darnay. Lorry has not abandoned his business sense; he removes Lucie
from Tellson’s in fear of compromising the bank.
It seems that Ernest Defarge may still have some loyalty to Dr. Manette since he is delivering the note to
Lucie. Or, this may be a ploy so that Madame Defarge may see Darnay’s family. She is knitting; one could
assume that Lucie and her daughter are being registered. Madame Defarge dismisses Lucie’s pleas on the
grounds that the suffering of one person has no importance. Lucie does not realize the extent to which she is
in danger; the chapter ends with Lorry starting to understand that Darnay and all his relations are in great
Book the Third, Chapters 4 and 5 Summary and Analysis
Book the Third: The Track of a Storm
Chapter 4: Calm in Storm
Chapter 5: The Wood-Sawyer
Dr. Manette returns four days later; he assures Lucie that Charles was not killed during the violent attack
against the prisoners. He does not tell Lucie that 1,100 other prisoners were not so lucky. Dr. Manette uses his
status as “a notable sufferer under the overthrown system” to enter a plea before “the lawless court” to free
Book the Third, Chapters 2 and 3 Summary and Analysis 26
Charles Darnay. While the court refuses to free Darnay, they allow Dr. Manette to stay around the prison to
assure that Darnay is safe. Soon, using his influence, Dr. Manette becomes the inspecting physician in La
Force. He sees Darnay on a regular basis, an arrangement which comforts Lucie.
The new republic begins under the banner of “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, or Death.” Beheadings are
rampant, thanks to the invention of the guillotine, which is referred to as a “sharp female.” One year and
three months pass in this manner. Dr. Manette becomes known as the “Bastille Captive,” a status that keeps
him above all suspicions and questions.
Lucie remains true to Darnay through this time “as all the quietly loyal and good will always be.” Her father
takes her to a place where Darnay, looking out from his prison window, can sometimes see her. Lucie stands
on this spot for two hours every day. This spot happens to be near the shop of a wood-sawyer (who happens to
be the former mender of roads). He takes an interest in Lucie’s activity, but declares, “It’s not my business.”
One day Madame Defarge passes by this spot “like a shadow.” The chapter ends with Dr. Manette telling
Lucie and Lorry that “Charles is summoned for tomorrow.”
Discussion and Analysis
Dr. Manette begins to view his imprisonment in a new light; he is a hero to the new republic because of it, and
he revels in this influence as he tries to get Charles Darnay free. The court of the new republic is presented as
just as corrupt as the English Court that first tried Darnay and no better than the French court that it has
Lucie is once again shown as displaying a strong, quiet, passive resolve, this time in opposition to the deathly
feminine guillotine. That fact that the spot where Lucie stands is outside the shop of the former mender of
roads is another example of Dickens’ reliance on melodramatic coincidence. The wood-sawyer’s insistence,
“It’s not my business,” followed presently by the appearance of Madame Defarge at this very spot, suggests
that maybe he made it his business. Remember that he knows and supports the Defarges; this does not bode
well for Lucie.
Book the Third Chapters 6 and 7 Summary and Analysis
Book the Third: The Track of a Storm
Chapter 6: Triumph
Chapter 7: A Knock at the Door
Charles Darnay is called before the new republic’s court: “a dread Tribunal of five judges, public prosecutor,
and determined jury.” The court is described in less-than-glowing terms; it looks as if “the felons were trying
the honest men.”
The trial begins; Darnay proceeds to present his case as Dr. Manette has directed. He tells the court that he is
the son-in-law of Dr. Manette and that he has come back to France voluntarily, to save a citizen’s life. He
addresses the crowd that has gathered: “Was that criminal in the eyes of the republic?” He is met with a
resounding “No!”
Darnay is acquitted, and the crowd carries him home on their shoulders. When Lucie sees him, she drops
“insensible in his arms.” Lucie says a prayer, and then Charles says of Dr. Manette, “No other man in all this
France could have done what he has done for me.”
Book the Third, Chapters 4 and 5 Summary and Analysis 27
This happiness is short-lived. Miss Pross and Jerry Cruncher go out shopping for food and wine. In the short
time while they are gone, soldiers show up at Lucie and Charles’ apartment. They arrest Darnay again, telling
him that he has been “denounced—and gravely, by the Citizen and Citizeness Defarge.” One other person has
denounced Darnay, but the guards will not reveal this name, saying, “you will be answered to-morrow.”
Discussion and Analysis
This chapter once again illuminates the fickle nature of crowds and the danger of unpredictability that
accompanies this fickleness. Darnay is playing to the sympathy of the crowd, as he was coached by Dr.
Manette. His behavior in this chapter is reminiscent of the manner adopted by the attorney-general who tried
to have Darnay convicted in England by playing on the jury’s emotions. This shows that both systems of
justice are corrupt, suggesting that the violent revolution will replace one unjust form of government with
Lucie’s reaction upon seeing Charles is in character with her celebrated weakness. She collapses into his
arms, physically overcome by emotion; still, she recovers quickly enough to offer a prayer. Her behavior
exemplifies the Victorian ideal of the passive, emotional, worshipful woman; once again Lucie can be seen as
the polar opposite of the active, violent, unfeeling Madame Defarge.
The earlier hints that the Defarges were up to something horrid begin to see their fruition here. They have
conspired to denounce Darnay just at the moment when he is in high favor with the people and is happy and
confident. In other words, he is blind to any vulnerability. His false sense of security makes it that much easier
to hurt him; this follows the same philosophy that had the Defarges encouraging the mender of roads to cheer
for the King and Queen. Finally, the mysterious nature of the accuser piques interest for the next chapter.
Book the Third, Chapter 8 Summary and Analysis
Book the Third: The Track of a Storm - Chapter 8: A Hand at Cards
Miss Pross and Jerry Cruncher, unaware of Darnay’s arrest, continue to shop for dinner and wine. They enter
a wine-shop; Miss Pross is shocked to be standing face to face with her brother, Solomon. He tells her not to
call him Solomon and quickly leads her outside. Solomon tells Miss Pross that he is now an official and very
busy because of it. Cruncher interrupts the conversation to ask Solomon what his name was “over the water,”
in England, when he was “a spy-witness at the Bailey.”
Before Solomon can answer, another voice says that Solomon’s name was “Barsad.” This voice belongs to
Sydney Carton, who has just arrived in England, and has business he wishes to conduct with Barsad. Carton
informs Miss Pross that her brother is a spy; he then “asks” Mr. Barsad to accompany him to Tellson’s Bank
to discuss some business.
Jerry Cruncher accompanies Carton and Barsad to the bank, where they inform Mr. Lorry that Charles Darnay
has been arrested again. Carton states that “this is a desperate time, when desperate games are played for
desperate stakes. Let the Doctor play the winning game; I will play the losing one.…Any one carried home by
the people to-day may be condemned to-morrow.”
Carton then proceeds as if he is playing cards, with Barsad being the prize. Carton speaks of many reasons
why the republic may find Barsad suspicious; he then plays his “ace,” “denunciation of Mr. Barsad to the
nearest section committee.” Carton then finds that he has another card. Carton has seen Barsad with another
suspicious man, Roger Cly. Barsad claims that Cly is dead; he even has the death certificate to prove it. Jerry
Cruncher, upon hearing this, states, “you buried paving stones and earth in that there coffin.”
Book the Third Chapters 6 and 7 Summary and Analysis 28
Barsad admits that Cly’s death was faked so that he could escape the angry mob in England; he is incredulous
as to how Cruncher knows this. Carton finds out that Barsad can come and go as he pleases at the prison
where Darnay is being held; Barsad tells Carton that it would be impossible to arrange an escape. Carton then
insists that the final part of the bargain be conducted in secret, known only to himself and Barsad.
Discussion and Analysis
This chapter overflows with plot. In another one of Dickens’ famous coincidences, Barsad/Pross, Miss Pross,
Jerry Cruncher, and Sydney Carton all meet on a street in St. Antoine. Carton’s statement about playing the
losing hand suggests that he has some plan to free Darnay that might endanger his own life. Jerry Cruncher is
aware of what was buried in Cly’s coffin; this refers back to Jerry’s work as “an honest tradesman,” or
grave-robber. This coincidence verges on the unbelievable.
Carton’s plan is not revealed in this chapter, only that he has one. All of the characters who were present at
the first trial of Charles Darnay are now in St. Antoine (except for the inconsequential Mr. Stryver). Carton
comments that “any one carried home by the crowd to-day may be condemned to-morrow,” a reference to the
treatment of Charles Darnay, that also makes a more general point about the fickleness of crowds, one of the
continuing themes of A Tale of Two Cities.
We can see in this chapter how every minor plot development so far is going to tie into the main plot. We are
left awaiting the final six chapters, wondering how all of these elements are going to fit together in the plot’s
Book the Third, Chapter 9 Summary and Analysis
Book the Third: The Track of a Storm - Chapter 9: The Game Made
This chapter begins with Mr. Lorry asking Jerry Cruncher, “What have you been, besides a messenger?”
Cruncher explains, in his colloquial accent, just why he has sometimes been a grave robber. Lorry threatens to
end his friendship with Cruncher; he reconsiders when Jerry tells him that it is only the odd jobs from
Tellson’s that prevent grave-robbing from being his full-time profession. Carton returns and tells Lorry, “If
things should go ill with the prisoner, I have ensured access to him, once.” Lorry does not see how this could
help Darnay; Carton implores Lorry not to tell Lucie of these arrangements. Lorry swears to keep the secret;
Carton thanks him and says, “She has such a strong attachment to you and reliance on you.”
Lorry and Carton discuss Lorry’s long life and his lifelong commitment to business. Lorry speaks of how
pleasant memories long forgotten come back to him now that he is near the end of his life. Carton passes the
wood-sawyer on the street and they have a discussion of the guillotine; the wood-sawyer is impressed that 63
people were beheaded that very day.
Carton then stops in at a chemist’s shop and buys two “packets”; the chemist comments, “You will be
careful to keep them separate, citizen? You know the consequences of mixing them?” Carton wanders the
street, thinking of his father’s funeral long ago, and the words that were spoken there: “I am the resurrection
and the life, saith the Lord: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.” Carton stands on
a bridge and watches the current of the river, all the while repeating, “I am the resurrection.”
The trial begins; the list of those who denounced Darnay is read: Ernest and Therese Defarge and Alexandre
Manette. Dr. Manette insists that this is not true. Ernest Defarge then produces a paper that he says he found
in Dr. Manette’s former cell in the Bastille. The chapter ends with this paper about to be read.
Book the Third, Chapter 8 Summary and Analysis 29
Discussion and Analysis
Mr. Lorry is angry with Jerry because he thinks that Jerry has caused Tellson’s Bank harm. He is about to end
their friendship but shows his human side when Jerry explains that grave-robbing was all he could do to
supplement his income.
Sydney Carton’s plan is still shrouded in mystery. Hints are given that it involves his own death, though: his
conversation with Lorry about death, his remembrance of his father’s funeral, his purchase of volatile
chemicals, and his recitation of “I am the resurrection.” Carton is comparing himself to Christ, and perhaps
preparing a similar fate for himself.
We learn that Dr. Manette is the mysterious third voice that has denounced Darnay but are left waiting until
the next chapter to find the substance of this denunciation.
Book the Third, Chapter 10 Summary and Analysis
Book the Third: The Track of a Storm - Chapter 10: The Substance of the Shadow
Dr. Manette’s letter is produced in this chapter. In it, he explains how he has come to be in prison. He writes
that he keeps this letter in the wall of the chimney, in a place of concealment that he has dug out, hoping that
“Some pitying hand may find it there, when I and my sorrows are dust.”
Dr. Manette’s story begins in December 1757. He is stopped on the street by a carriage. Two men insist that
he enter the carriage as they have a patient who needs his attention. The men are armed; Dr. Manette enters
their carriage. These two men take Dr. Manette to the patient: a beautiful 20-year-old woman, “in high
fever,” her arms bound with a gentleman’s clothing, a portion of which bore the letter E. She is shrieking,
over and over, “My husband, my father, my brother,” and then counting to 12.
One of the two men (who are brothers) who had brought Dr. Manette to this place, the elder brother,
indifferently tells Dr. Manette that there is another patient. The other patient is a 17-year-old “handsome
peasant boy.” His wound is a “sword-thrust” in the chest. Manette asks the elder brother how this has
happened; the man replies that his brother was forced to duel this “common dog.” He tells Manette this
information without “pity, sorrow, or kindred humanity.” The boy tells Dr. Manette that the woman is his
The boy explains to Dr. Manette that one of these “noble” men had taken an interest in his sister. The man
abused his class privilege and drove the woman’s husband to his death. He died on his wife’s bosom at the
stroke of 12. The two brothers then took the woman away. The boy tracked them to the house they are now in.
The boy falters in the telling of his story here; he condemns the “Marquis … to the last of (his) bad race” to
answer for what he and his brother have done. The boy dies. The older brother then tells Dr. Manette that he
must keep all of this secret in order to protect his brother. The woman lingers for a week and then dies. Dr.
Manette notes that he never learned her family name. The brothers offer him money, which he refuses. Dr.
Manette keeps their secret, only writing a letter to his minister, so that he can unburden his heart with the
assurance that the minister will stay in his confidence.
Soon, a woman arrives at Dr. Manette’s house; she presents herself as the wife of “Marquis St. Evremonde.”
Dr. Manette realizes that she is the wife of the elder brother. She wishes to make amends to the dead
woman’s younger sister for her family’s behavior. She points to a small boy in her carriage and says she
wishes to make atonement for “his sake.” She calls the child “Charles.” Later that night, a man shows up and
arrests Dr. Manette in the presence of his servant, Ernest Defarge. Dr. Manette ends his letter by addressing
Book the Third, Chapter 9 Summary and Analysis 30
the Evremonde family: “them and their descendants, to the last of their race … I denounce them to Heaven and
to earth.” The reading of this letter leads to Darnay’s condemnation and a sentence of “Death within
four-and-twenty hours!”
Discussion and Analysis
This chapter explains the substance behind Dr. Manette’s condemnation of the whole Evremonde family and,
thus, Charles Darnay. The reading of this letter allows the reader to make some connections. The horrible sins
of the family that Darnay spoke of with his uncle are presented here. We can now assume that Darnay’s
secret, revealed to Dr. Manette on the wedding night, was his family name. Dr. Manette has known all along
that he has denounced the whole family, and his struggle to forgive Darnay can be seen as the cause of his
many relapses into shoemaking.
While one mystery has been solved, Dickens presents another one. The family name of those wronged by the
Evremondes is still not known to the reader. Also, we are not yet aware of Therese Defarge’s reasons for
denouncing Charles Darnay.
The behavior of the Evremonde family is the final, most chilling example of the horrible way in which the
nobility treated the peasants.
Book the Third, Chapters 11 and 12 Summary and Analysis
Book the Third: The Track of a Storm
Chapter 11: Dusk
Chapter 12: Darkness
These chapters open with Lucie imploring the crowd that has gathered to let her embrace her husband one last
time. They allow it; Darnay and Lucie say their farewells. Darnay is taken away and Lucie collapses at her
father’s feet. Sydney Carton carries her to a coach and then up to her apartment. There he sees Little Lucie,
who says to him, “Now that you have come, I think … you will do something to save Papa!” Carton kisses
Lucie, says, “A life you love,” and goes into the next room. Dr. Manette leaves to make a final attempt to
save Darnay. Both Lorry and Carton state that they have no hope. Sydney Carton takes his leave and proceeds
to the Defarges’ wine-shop. He overhears Madame Defarge say that he looks like Evremonde. He also learns
that Madame Defarge is the sister of the two who were so violently mistreated by the Evremondes. Madame
Defarge wishes to condemn Dr. Manette and Lucie as relations of Evremonde/Defarge. Her husband thinks
this is going too far, but she tells him, “Tell the wind and the fire where to stop; not me.” Carton leaves and
visits Mr. Lorry.
Dr. Manette comes home, looking for his shoemaking tools. He has lost all reason, and no one can restore
him. He is “the exact figure that Defarge had had in keeping.” Carton speaks with Lorry; he gives Lorry a
certificate that allows Carton to leave France asking Lorry to hold it for him until the next day. He also gives
him a certificate that allows Dr. Manette and his daughter to leave. He then tells Lorry of Madame Defarge’s
plan to denounce Dr. Manette and Lucie. Carton tells Lorry to secure a coach for the next day at two o’clock.
He tells Lorry to have Lucie and Dr. Manette in the coach and to wait for him before departing. Carton says to
Lorry, “Wait for nothing but to have my place occupied, and then for England.”
Discussion and Analysis
This chapter helps to explain Madame Defarge’s character. As the sister of those wronged by the
Book the Third, Chapter 10 Summary and Analysis 31
Evremondes, she has a personal stake in the Revolution. These personal motivations are very ironic when one
considers that Madame Defarge had earlier stated that personal concerns are of no importance to the
Revolution. Her desire to see Darnay and his family dead is based on past injustice, and for the first time in
the novel, it becomes possible to feel sympathy for Madame Defarge.
Dr. Manette’s relapse shows that things have gotten nearly as bad as they can get. It is Little Lucie who offers
a glimmer of hope with her faith that Sydney Carton will save her “Papa.” We still do not know what
Carton’s plan is, but Little Lucie’s confidence seems a hint that he will indeed save the day.
Book the Third, Chapter 13 Summary and Analysis
Book the Third: The Track of a Storm - Chapter 13: Fifty-two
Fifty-two prisoners are awaiting the guillotine, “From the farmer of seventy … to the seamstress of twenty.”
Charles Darnay, after some deliberation, resigns himself to his fate and writes loving notes to Lucie, Dr.
Manette, and Mr. Lorry; he never thinks of Sydney Carton, “never once.” He falls asleep, knowing that he is
to be executed at two o’clock the next day. A little after noon, Sydney Carton comes to his cell. Carton tells
Darnay he comes with a “most earnest, pressing, and emphatic entreaty” from his wife. Carton insists that
Darnay switch boots with him. Carton subtly passes his hand before Darnay’s face, prompting Darnay to ask,
“What vapour is that?” Carton tells him, “I am conscious of nothing.” Carton then holds his fist under
Darnay’s nose; Darnay faints. Carton then switches clothes with Darnay and calls Barsad into the room.
Carton tells Barsad to carry Darnay out under the claim that he is Carton, who “was weak and faint when you
brought me in, and I am fainter now you take me out.” This is done. A short time later a man leads Carton (as
Evremonde) to a large, dark room.” A condemned woman who was in La Force with Darnay addresses
Carton in secret, “Are you dying for him?” He replies, “And his wife and child.” Meanwhile, Lorry, Dr.
Manette, Lucie, her daughter, and Darnay (disguised as Carton) are making their way through a checkpoint on
the way to England, “with the whole wild night in pursuit of us; but so far … pursued by nothing else.”
Discussion and Analysis
Sydney Carton’s plan is finally revealed. His physical similarity to Darnay allows for the plot to proceed as it
does. This unbelievable coincidence makes it slightly difficult to fully believe what is taking place.
Carton uses the chemicals he purchased at the chemist’s shop to knock Darnay out. His conversation with the
condemned woman allows Carton to reveal that he is dying for Lucie and her child, as much as for Darnay.
This conversation also portrays Carton as a hero for probably the first time in his life. He is making good on
his earlier promise to Lucie that he would die for her. The fact that Darnay never once thinks of Carton
illustrates that Carton is indeed taking Darnay’s place for Lucie’s sake. It is now apparent why Carton was
comparing himself to Christ in Chapter 9. Little Lucie’s confidence that Carton would save her father proves
true. The only suspense now centers around whether or not Lucie and her family will safely escape France.
Book the Third, Chapters 14 and 15 Summary and Analysis
Book the Third: The Track of a Storm
Chapter 14: The Knitting Done
Chapter 15: The Footsteps Die Out For Ever
Book the Third, Chapters 11 and 12 Summary and Analysis 32
While Carton is waiting to die, Madame Defarge is holding counsel with The Vengeance and Jacques Three.
She is explaining to them that as a member of the Evremonde family, Lucie and her daughter must die.
Madame Defarge does not trust her husband to join her in these feelings; she even thinks that he may warn Dr.
Manette of these plans. For this reason, Madame Defarge says that the arrest of Lucie and her daughter must
be carried out without delay. Madame Defarge also decides that Dr. Manette will be condemned with Lucie
and the girl. Madame Defarge is described as “strong and fearless” and beautiful, but with a “hatred of a
class” that makes her “absolutely without pity.” Madame Defarge begins to make her way toward Lucie’s
Meanwhile, Miss Pross and Jerry Cruncher are preparing to leave France. Cruncher repents for all his past
sins, swearing that he will respect his wife and give up grave robbing. Miss Pross returns to the empty
apartment just before Madame Defarge gets there. Madame Defarge realizes that Lucie and her family have
already left; she attempts to leave the apartment in order to pursue them. Miss Pross blocks the door. A
struggle ensues; Madame Defarge gets shot by her own gun. The shot kills her and makes Miss Pross deaf.
The narrator then reflects on the revolution: “Sow the same seed of rapacious license and oppression over
again, and it will surely yield the same fruit according to its kind.” As he awaits the guillotine, Carton
comforts the young woman who is to go before him. As she is led to the guillotine, Carton once again says, “I
am the Resurrection.…”
A Tale of Two Cities ends with the words that Sydney Carton may have been thinking as he was about to be
beheaded. He looks into the future and thinks of Lucie and her family. He sees that he holds “sanctuary in
their hearts.” He sees a child named after him; he sees that his sacrifice will be remembered for generations to
come. His final words and the final words of the novel, are: “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.”
Discussion and Analysis
These final chapters of A Tale of Two Cities tie up all the loose ends. An attempt is made to explain Madame
Defarge’s behavior; her death relieves the reader of having to decide whether or not she should be held
accountable for her actions.
Jerry Cruncher repents for all of his sins and promises to be a better man when he gets back to England. Miss
Pross loses her hearing as the depth of her loyalty to Lucie is revealed; her deafness makes her a martyr.
But it is Sydney Carton who is the true martyr. Carton looks to the future and sees that he will live on in the
minds and hearts of Lucie and her family. This knowledge allows him to die at peace with himself. His final
words show that he feels his selfless sacrifice is the only thing that could ever redeem his worthless life.
A Tale of Two Cities: Quizzes
Book the First, Chapters 1, 2 and 3 Questions and Answers
Study Questions
1. What are the two cities of the novel’s title?
2. What purpose does the comparison of England and France serve?
3. What further comparison is implied by the connection of England and France?
Book the Third, Chapters 14 and 15 Summary and Analysis 33
4. Why is the coachman nervous when he hears a horse approaching?
5. What is the man on horseback’s true purpose, and what exchange takes place?
6. What does the narrator reflect upon concerning humankind?
7. For how long has the man in Jarvis Lorry’s thoughts been buried?
8. What else do we know of this man who has been “buried”?
9. Why is this all of the information the reader has on this subject?
10. How does this scene end?
1. The two cities are Paris and London.
2. It serves to show that people are very similar, no matter where they are.
3. This connection makes the larger point that Dickens’ readers are not much different from people during the
time of the French Revolution.
4. The coachman fears that it may be a highwayman wanting to rob them.
5. He has a message for Jarvis Lorry: “Wait at Dover for Mam’selle.” Lorry, in return, gives him the
message: “RECALLED TO LIFE.”
6. The narrator reflects on the fact that no person can really know another person.
7. He has been buried for 18 years.
8. We know nothing else of this man.
9. This is all the information that the author supplies in order to build suspense so that the reader will continue
10. The scene ends with Jarvis Lorry looking out the coach window to see the sun rising.
Book the First, Chapter 4 Questions and Answers
Study Questions
1. What does Mr. Lorry do upon arrival in Dover?
2. Whom does Lorry meet here, and what plans do they make?
3. How does Lorry begin to tell Lucie that her father is not dead?
4. Why does he employ this method?
5. Why does Lorry insist to Lucie that all of his relations are mere business relations?
Book the First, Chapters 1, 2 and 3 Questions and Answers 34
6. What does Lucie say upon learning that she is going to see her father?
7. What are the two conditions concerning Dr. Manette?
8. What is Lucie’s reaction to this?
9. Who comes into the room at this point to help Lucie?
10. What is problematic about this portrayal of Lucie Manette?
1. He checks into the Royal George Hotel and takes a nap.
2. Lorry meets Lucie Manette here, and they make plans to go to France concerning some property of her
father. Since she thinks she is an orphan, she has asked the bank to provide her with an escort.
3. He begins to tell her the “story” of a man like her father, who did not die 18 years ago, but was
4. He fears that telling her that her father is alive may be more than she can handle.
5. She has grabbed his wrists in her fear. Lorry does not want to get personally involved; as a model of
organization and frugality, he must keep his distance.
6. She says, “I am going to see his ghost! It will be his ghost—not him!”
7. First, that he has lost his memory of any past life. Second, that he must be removed from France in secret.
8. She sits silently in her chair, unable to utter a word.
9. Her servant, Miss Pross, enters and calms Lucie.
10. Lucie is portrayed as unable to take care of herself. She will constantly be defined in terms of her reliance
on others.
Book the First, Chapter 5 Questions and Answers
Study Questions
1. What is happening at the beginning of this chapter?
2. What does the man write on the wall? What does this foreshadow?
3. What kind of town is Saint Antoine?
4. Who are the proprietors of the wine-shop?
5. What is the significance of the name “Jacques”?
6. What is the impression of Madame Defarge from this chapter?
Book the First, Chapter 4 Questions and Answers 35
7. Why does Defarge show Dr. Manette to the “Jacques”?
8. Where is Dr. Manette being held?
9. What is Lucie’s reaction upon seeing him?
10. What is Dr. Manette doing when they enter his room?
1. A cask of wine has broken open on the street of a Paris suburb. All of the townspeople are engaged in
drinking the wine and staining themselves with its red color.
2. He writes “BLOOD.” This anticipates the real blood that will be spilled in the name of revolution.
3. Saint Antoine is described as a place full of “cold, dark, sickness, ignorance, and want.”
4. The proprietors of the wine-shop are Ernest and Therese Defarge.
5. The peasants adopted this name from what the nobility called them. They turned a derogatory name into
one that helped give them a sense of common purpose.
6. She is “stout” and ominous; she can be seen as the polar opposite of the diffident Lucie Manette.
7. He feels that Dr. Manette is a symbol of the cruelty of the ruling class.
8. He is being held in a tiny, dark room in an apartment above the wine-shop.
9. She is scared and reaches to Mr. Lorry for comfort.
10. He is bent over a bench, making shoes.
Book the First, Chapter 6 Questions and Answers
Study Questions
1. What is Dr. Manette’s condition?
2. What does Dr. Manette say his name is?
3. What is the significance of what he says?
4. What helps Dr. Manette begin to remember his past?
5. How soon do they decide to leave France?
6. Why does Mr. Lorry refer to “business” again?
7. What is Lucie’s “strength” in this chapter?
8. What is the importance of Dr. Manette returning to the shoe he is making?
Book the First, Chapter 5 Questions and Answers 36
9. What does Mr. Lorry say to Dr. Manette?
10. What is the nature of Dr. Manette’s reply? What function does his reply serve regarding the plot?
1. Dr. Manette is weak and feeble. He cannot remember his past; he cannot even remember his name.
2. He says “One Hundred and Five, North Tower.”
3. This is the number of his prison cell and an illustration of how his long imprisonment has stolen his
4. Lucie shows that she loves him by showering him with affection.
5. They decide to leave France immediately.
6. He refers to “business” because he may be trying to deny that he is forming a personal connection with the
7. Her strength is that her love is able to do good–for instance, helping her father remember his past.
8. This shows that he has a long way to go in recalling his past as a doctor.
9. Mr. Lorry asks Dr. Manette, “I hope you care to be recalled to life?”
10. Dr. Manette replies, “I can’t say.” This leaves the plot dangling, urging the reader on to the next
Book the Second, Chapters 1 and 2 Questions and Answers
Study Questions
1. How is Tellson’s Bank described at the beginning of the chapter?
2. What is the eighteenth century view of the death penalty in England?
3. Why does Jerry Cruncher call his wife “a conceited female,” and what is her reaction to this?
4. What is the significance of the striking physical resemblance between Jerry Cruncher and his son?
5. Why is there such a large crowd in the courtroom?
6. What does Jerry Cruncher ask the man who assumes that Darnay will be found guilty?
7. Why do all eyes in the courtroom turn to Lucie Manette?
8. How is Lucie Manette different from those around her in the courtroom?
9. How is this strength undermined?
10. On what suspenseful note does the chapter end?
Book the First, Chapter 6 Questions and Answers 37
1. Tellson’s Bank is an unchanging, old-fashioned place, proud of its dirtiness and ugliness.
2. The death penalty was in great use for even minor crimes.
3. He calls her conceited because he assumes that she thinks her prayers are worth something. She tells him
that the prayers come from her heart, and that is all that they are worth.
4. This shows that young Jerry will probably end up just like his father, stuck rigidly in a low social class.
5. The crowd is large because many people wish to see a public execution.
6. He asks this man if he means “if” they find the defendant guilty. The man assures Cruncher that the jury
will find him guilty.
7. All eyes turn to her because of the striking expression of fear and compassion on her face.
8. She is one of the few people in the courtroom who are able to feel pity for the prisoner.
9. Her moral strength is undermined by her physical weakness, shown by her need to cling to her father.
10. We learn that, although Lucie feels compassion for the prisoner, she is a witness against him.
Book the Second, Chapter 3 Questions and Answers
Study Questions
1. What does the Attorney-General say about the prisoner in his opening statements?
2. Who are the two witnesses that the Attorney-General says will incriminate Darnay?
3. How does Stryver show that these two men are not credible witnesses?
4. Why is Lucie Manette called to the witness stand?
5. What did Darnay tell Lucie on the ship five years ago?
6. What leads to Darnay’s acquittal?
7. What problem concerning Dickens’ use of plot does this reveal?
8. What happens to Lucie Manette, once again, in this chapter?
9. What is the final line of this chapter?
10. What are the implications of this line?
1. He says that the prisoner has been engaged in secret business between France and England for at least the
past five years.
Book the Second, Chapters 1 and 2 Questions and Answers 38
2. One is described as a patriot who has been able to figure out what the prisoner has been doing; his name is
John Barsad. The other is the prisoner’s former servant, Roger Cly.
3. He shows that Barsad has been in debtors’ prison and that he owes the prisoner money. Stryver proves that
Cly is a thief who has been friends with Barsad for many years.
4. She is called to the witness stand because she talked to Darnay on a boat ride from France to England five
years before.
5. He told her that he was conducting business of a sensitive nature and that he was traveling under an
assumed name.
6. A man who looks exactly like Darnay proves to the jury that it is very easy to mistake one person for
7. This plot twist is too coincidental to be believable.
8. Her physical strength fails her when she feels strong emotions.
9. The crowd is described as “dispersing in search of other carrion.”
10. This line implies that a crowd can easily develop a lust for violence that has little to do with justice.
Book the Second, Chapters 4 and 5 Questions and Answers
Study Questions
1. What is happening at the beginning of Chapter 4?
2. How does Darnay greet Lucie?
3. How does Dr. Manette look at Darnay? What does this mean?
4. What does their conversation reveal as the difference between Lorry and Carton?
5. What happens while Carton and Darnay are dining?
6. Why does Carton say that he hates Darnay?
7. Why do Stryver and Carton meet?
8. What does Carton say about Lucie?
9. What else does Carton complain about?
10. What does the final paragraph say about Sydney Carton?
1. Dr. Manette, Lucie, Lorry, and Stryver are congratulating Darnay on his acquittal.
2. He greets Lucie by kissing her hand.
Book the Second, Chapter 3 Questions and Answers 39
3. He look at Darnay with “distrust,” “dislike,” and “fear.”
4. Lorry is a man of ambition who believes in “business,” while Carton, even though he has ability, lacks the
desire to do anything.
5. Carton gets drunk and calls himself “a disappointed drudge.”
6. He says that he hates Darnay because Darnay reflects everything good that Carton could have been.
7. They meet because Carton does Stryver’s legal paperwork.
8. Carton calls Lucie “a golden-haired doll.”
9. Carton complains more about his life and that he is always behind everybody else.
10. It says that Carton has given up all hope of making anything of his life.
Book the Second, Chapter 6 Questions and Answers
Study Questions
1. Where is Mr. Lorry going at the beginning of this chapter?
2. What is the tone of this chapter?
3. Is Miss Pross’ claim that “hundreds of people” visit the house accurate?
4. What has Miss Pross’ brother done to her?
5. What has Dr. Manette kept as a reminder of his 18 years in prison?
6. Who else comes to the Manettes’ house on this Sunday?
7. What is odd about Dr. Manette’s house?
8. Of what is this symbolic?
9. What happens when a storm approaches?
10. What is foreshadowed by the storm?
1. He is on his way to dine with Lucie and Dr. Manette, with whom he has become friends.
2. This chapter starts out with a tone of quiet normality but conveys an ominous sense that this normality is
about to be shattered.
3. No. In fact, only three visitors show up on this day.
4. He has stolen everything that she owns, yet she still holds him in high esteem.
Book the Second, Chapters 4 and 5 Questions and Answers 40
5. He has kept his shoemaker’s bench and tools.
6. Charles Darnay and Sydney Carton are the other visitors.
7. The house has an acoustical property that allows distant footsteps to be heard as if they were up close.
8. These distant footsteps are symbolic of the danger that is coming to the people in the house.
9. The sound of echoing footsteps grows louder as people hurry for shelter from the storm.
10. The storm foreshadows that something ominous is about to happen.
Book the Second, Chapters 7 and 8 Questions and Answers
Study Questions
1. What is the Marquis’ party like?
2. What does the Marquis believe about himself?
3. Describe what the Marquis looks like.
4. What happens as the Marquis is traveling to his chateau?
5. What is his reaction to this?
6. What does Defarge say to the distraught man in the nightcap?
7. What does Defarge do with the coin that the Marquis throws to him?
8. What does the mender of roads tell the Marquis?
9. What does this man represent?
10. How does this chapter end?
1. It is incredibly decadent, full of morally corrupt people who are only concerned with how they look.
2. He believes that “the earth and the fulness thereof are mine.”
3. He is 60 years old, with a cruel “face like a fine mask.”
4. His carriage runs over and kills a small child.
5. He blames the peasants and is so indifferent that he cares more about his horses.
6. He tells the man that the child is better off dead because it would have been impossible for the child to have
a happy life.
7. He throws the coin at the carriage as it is driving away.
Book the Second, Chapter 6 Questions and Answers 41
8. He tells the Marquis that a man was riding on the outside of the carriage.
9. He represents the fact that the nobility has no idea that the peasants have any power.
10. The chapter ends with the Marquis awaiting the arrival of “Charles … from England.”
Book the Second, Chapter 9 Questions and Answers
Study Questions
1. What is the Marquis’ chateau like?
2. What happens when the Marquis sits down to dinner?
3. What does this reveal about the Marquis?
4. Who is the nephew of the Marquis?
5. How does Darnay feel about the family name?
6. What does his uncle reply?
7. What is the larger issue at stake in this conversation?
8. What is the Marquis’ final word about class?
9. What does Darnay do concerning the property in France?
10. How does this chapter end?
1. His chateau is described as silent and made of stone.
2. He thinks that he hears somebody outside but quickly forgets about it.
3. It reveals that he thinks he is protected from any harm because of his class.
4. Charles Darnay is the Marquis’ nephew.
5. Darnay feels that the family name is feared and detested throughout France.
6. He tells Darnay: “Detestation of the high is the involuntary homage of the low.”
7. Darnay and the Marquis are debating the whole idea of class structure.
8. He feels that it is “Better to be a rational creature … and accept your natural destiny.”
9. He renounces the property, and he renounces France deciding that he wants to settle in England for good.
10. The chapter ends with the Marquis murdered in his bed.
Book the Second, Chapters 7 and 8 Questions and Answers 42
Book the Second, Chapters 10 and 11 Questions and
Study Questions
1. What is Charles Darnay’s occupation?
2. What does this reveal about his character?
3. What do Darnay and Dr. Manette discuss?
4. How does Dr. Manette react when Darnay tells him that he has a secret to reveal to him?
5. What does Dr. Manette do after Darnay leaves?
6. What does this reveal about Dr. Manette’s character?
7. How does Lucie help Dr. Manette when she finds him at the shoemaker’s bench?
8. What does Stryver wish to confide to Carton?
9. What is Stryver’s opinion of Carton?
10. Why is this opinion problematic?
1. He is a tutor of French language and literature.
2. This shows that he is industrious and that he has not forgotten his past in France.
3. They discuss Darnay’s intention to marry Lucie.
4. He tells Darnay to wait until the morning of the wedding to reveal his secret.
5. He returns to making shoes.
6. It shows that he cannot forget his past, either; his way of dealing with this past is by returning to it.
7. She takes his hand and walks with him for a long while.
8. He tells Carton that he intends to marry Lucie.
9. Stryver has a low opinion of Carton, telling him that he lacks social grace and is “an insensible dog.”
10. It reveals Stryver as a hypocrite since it is Carton who does all of Stryver’s legal work.
Book the Second, Chapters 12 and 13 Questions and
Book the Second, Chapters 10 and 11 Questions and Answers 43
Study Questions
1. What does Stryver decide to do at the beginning of the chapter?
2. What is the gist of Stryver’s conversation with Lorry?
3. How does Stryver react to this?
4. What does this say about his character?
5. Is Lorry capable of having both a business life and a personal life?
6. What is Stryver’s final comment about Lucie?
7. Who pays a call on Lucie?
8. How does Carton look to Lucie?
9. What does Carton tell Lucie?
10. Why does Carton love Lucie?
1. He decides to tell Lucie of his intentions so that she may know she is going to be happy.
2. Lorry tells Stryver that he should not ask Lucie to marry him.
3. He proclaims that Lucie must be “a mincing fool” if she will not marry him.
4. It shows that he is very arrogant and bitter.
5. Yes, he finally is. He achieves this by making a clear distinction between business and friendship.
6. He says that “you cannot control … the giddinesses of empty-headed girls.”
7. Sydney Carton pays a call of Lucie.
8. He looks ill and she asks what she can do to help him.
9. He tells her that he loves her and that he is willing to die for her.
10. From the evidence given, it must be because of her “sweet compassion.”
Book the Second, Chapter 14 Questions and Answers
Study Questions
1. What passes by Tellson’s Bank?
2. What is the crowd shouting?
3. What does the crowd do after the body is put in the ground?
Book the Second, Chapters 12 and 13 Questions andAnswers 44
4. Mr. Cruncher takes what tools with him when he goes out later that night?
5. Why does young Jerry follow his father? What does he find out?
6. What does Mrs. Cruncher think of her husband’s “occupation”?
7. How does Mr. Cruncher view his “occupation”?
8. Why does young Jerry ask his father what a resurrection-man is?
9. What is comedic about this chapter?
10. Whose body could be inferred to have been dug up?
1. A funeral procession, followed by a large mob.
2. They are shouting “Spies! Pull ‘em out!”
3. They proceed to go on a rampage of violence and looting until a rumor spreads that the guard is coming.
4. He takes a crowbar, a sack, and some rope and chain.
5. He is curious as to his father’s “business.” He finds his father digging up a grave.
6. She thinks it is a “dreadful business.”
7. He calls himself “an honest tradesman.”
8. It is young Jerry’s way of letting his father know that he approves of the grave-robbing business.
9. Mr. Cruncher actually believes that grave-robbing is an honest trade; thus he fits the Victorian ideal of
having a “labor.”
10. We can infer that is the Roger Cly’s body.
Book the Second, Chapter 15 Questions and Answers
Study Questions
1. Why does Defarge bring the mender of roads to the wine-shop?
2. Who presents the petition to the King and what was the result?
3. What does it mean to be “registered?”
4. How is this register kept secret?
5. Where do the Defarges take the mender of roads?
6. How does the mender of roads act?
Book the Second, Chapter 14 Questions and Answers 45
7. Why is Ernest Defarge happy with the way the mender of roads acts?
8. What does Madame Defarge say about dolls and birds?
9. To whom is she referring?
10. How does this scene end?
1. He brings the mender of roads to the wine-shop, so that the mender of roads can hear the whole story of the
man in the nightcap.
2. Ernest Defarge presented the petition to the King; it was ignored and the man was executed.
3. A person who is registered is marked to be killed when the revolution arrives.
4. Madame Defarge secretly knits the register in code.
5. They take him to see the King and Queen pass by.
6. He joins in the applause for the King and Queen.
7. He is happy because he feels that this adoration will lull the nobility into a false sense of security, thus
allowing the revolution to begin sooner.
8. She tells the mender of roads that he would naturally attack the finest birds and dolls if it were to his
9. “Birds” and “dolls” represent the French ruling class.
10. Madame Defarge sends the mender of roads home to think about what she has told him.
Book the Second, Chapter 16 Questions and Answers
Study Questions
1. Why do the Defarges go to Paris?
2. What do they learn there?
3. What is distinctive about John Barsard?
4. Why does Madame Defarge put a rose in her hat?
5. What is Madame Defarge doing while she speaks with Barsard?
6. What does Barsard tell the Defarges about the Manettes?
7. How does Ernest Defarge react to this?
8. What would happen if Darnay and the Manettes were to come to France?
Book the Second, Chapter 15 Questions and Answers 46
9. How does Madame Defarge feel about this?
10. What are Madame Defarge and the other women doing as the chapter ends?
1. They go to Paris to meet with “Jacques of the police.”
2. They learn that there is a spy in St. Antoine, by the name of John Barsard.
3. He has a crooked nose.
4. It is a signal to the Jacques that there is a suspicious stranger amongst them.
5. She is knitting his name, thus condemning him to death.
6. He tells them that Lucie Manette is going to marry the nephew of the Marquis.
7. He hopes that the Manettes stay in England.
8. They would be killed as nobility when the revolution arrived.
9. She is indifferent, saying only that they are registered.
10. They are “knitting, knitting, counting dropping heads.”
Book the Second, Chapters 17 and 18 Questions and
Study Questions
1. Of what do Lucie and her father assure each other on the night before her wedding?
2. What does Dr. Manette speak of for the first time?
3. What does Lucie pray for that night?
4. How does Dr. Manette react to hearing Darnay’s secret?
5. Who is present at the wedding?
6. What does Dr. Manette say to Darnay after the wedding?
7. What does this reveal about Lucie’s character?
8. What does Dr. Manette do after Lucie and Charles leave?
9. How does Lorry react to this? What does he try to do?
10. How long does this go on?
Book the Second, Chapter 16 Questions and Answers 47
1. They assure each other that Lucie’s marriage will only make them closer.
2. He speaks of his 18 years in prison.
3. She prays that she may be able to stay as devoted to her father as she now is.
4. He hides his distress well, but Lorry notices that something is wrong.
5. Besides Lucie, Charles, and Dr. Manette, only Lorry and Miss Pross are at the wedding.
6. He says, “Take her, Charles! She is yours!”
7. It reveals that her character is defined according to her relationship to the men around her.
8. He returns to “making shoes.”
9. He tries to talk to Dr. Manette, but soon realizes that it is useless. He can do nothing except keep watch
over Dr. Manette.
10. It goes on for nine days.
Book the Second, Chapters 19 and 20 Questions and
Study Questions
1. What happens after Dr. Manette’s ninth day of making shoes?
2. How does Lorry approach Dr. Manette concerning his relapse?
3. What does Dr. Manette say about the cause of this relapse?
4. How does Lorry convince Manette to allow him to destroy the bench?
5. What is the symbolic nature of smashing the bench?
6. Who visits the couple upon their return from their honeymoon?
7. What do Carton and Darnay talk about?
8. What function does this serve?
9. What does Lucie ask her husband to do?
10. Why does she ask this of him?
1. He regains his composure and stops making shoes.
2. He tells Manette he wants to speak of “a curious case” that he knows of.
Book the Second, Chapters 17 and 18 Questions andAnswers 48
3. He says it is caused by an apprehension that the “subject” is unable to talk about.
4. He tells Manette that it should be done “for his daughter’s sake.”
5. It is symbolic of Dr. Manette’s attempt to put the past behind him.
6. Sydney Carton is their first visitor.
7. Carton and Darnay speak of the trial and the meal they shared afterwards.
8. It serves to clear the air concerning past events.
9. She asks him to be generous and kind to Carton and to not speak ill of him when he is not present.
10. She says that she is aware of some deep wounds in Carton’s soul that he keeps hidden from everybody
Book the Second, Chapter 21 Questions and Answers
Study Questions
1. How many children does Lucie have? What are their fates?
2. What does the death of the second child signify?
3. What else happens as six years pass?
4. What news does Mr. Lorry bring that marks the beginning of the end of normalcy?
5. What happens in Paris?
6. What does Ernest Defarge do in the midst of the storming of the Bastille?
7. Why is this important?
8. What does Madame Defarge do to the governor’s dead body?
9. What does the final paragraph of this chapter have to say about Lucie?
10. To what event does the final paragraph refer?
1. She has two children. The daughter lives and flourishes while her son dies at a young age.
2. His death shows that tragedy is always close by.
3. The six years pass calmly, and Lucie and her family build a quiet, uneventful domestic life.
4. Lorry tells them that there has been a run of confidence on Tellson’s because of the instability in France.
5. The peasants storm the Bastille.
Book the Second, Chapters 19 and 20 Questions andAnswers 49
6. He makes a guard take him to “One Hundred and Five, North Tower.”
7. It reveals that Dr. Manette’s imprisonment has deeply affected him.
8. She cuts off his head.
9. It states a hope that the events in France do not affect her quiet life in England.
10. It refers to the wine that was spilled in St. Antoine many years ago.
Book the Second, Chapters 22 and 23 Questions and
Study Questions
1. How does Chapter 22 open?
2. What does Ernest Defarge tell the crowd at the wine-shop?
3. What is the result of this news?
4. How are the women who join Madame Defarge described?
5. What has Foulon said to the peasants before?
6. What is his fate?
7. Who joins him in this fate?
8. How could this relate to Charles Darnay?
9. How does Madame Defarge react towards Foulon?
10. What do the peasants do next?
1. Madame Defarge and The Vengeance are sitting in the wine-shop, knitting.
2. He tells them that Foulon has been captured.
3. A mob forms and proceeds to where Foulon is being imprisoned.
4. They are described as “mad” women who leave their children behind.
5. He has said of the starving peasants that they might eat grass.
6. His head winds up on a pike, with his mouth full of grass.
7. His son-in-law soon has his head on a pike, next to him.
8. It shows what may happen to Darnay, nephew of the Marquis, if he were to come to France.
Book the Second, Chapter 21 Questions and Answers 50
9. She slowly kills him “as a cat might have done to a mouse.”
10. They burn down the Marquis’ chateau.
Book the Second, Chapter 24 Questions and Answers
Study Questions
1. How many years have passed between chapters?
2. Why does Lorry decide to go to France?
3. Whom does he take with him?
4. What has happened to the French nobility?
5. What is Mr. Stryver’s opinion of the situation in France?
6. From whom does Charles Darnay receive a letter?
7. What decision does this letter lead Darnay to make?
8. Whom does he tell of his plans?
9. Why is this decision unbelievable?
10. What is the main function of this chapter?
1. Three years have passed.
2. He is going to help out at the chaotic Paris branch of Tellson’s Bank.
3. He takes only Jerry Cruncher with him.
4. They are exiled in England, planning how to get their country back.
5. He thinks that the peasants should all be killed.
6. He receives a letter from Gabelle, the Marquis’ functionary in France. Gabelle is now in prison.
7. Darnay decides to go to France to help Gabelle.
8. He keeps his plan secret, telling no one.
9. Darnay would have to be aware of the incredible danger he was putting himself in.
10. It serves to set up the action that will unfold in the novel’s final section.
Book the Second, Chapters 22 and 23 Questions andAnswers 51
Book the Third, Chapter 1 Questions and Answers
Study Questions
1. What difficulties does Darnay meet at the beginning of his journey?
2. How does he finally reach Paris?
3. What decrees have been passed since Darnay has left England?
4. How is Darnay referred to by the officer in Paris?
5. Whom does Darnay meet in Paris?
6. What does Ernest Defarge say to Darnay?
7. What ominous phrase is connected with Darnay’s imprisonment?
8. What does Darnay learn of the King’s fate?
9. What does Darnay think of when in his cell?
10. What is this a reference to?
1. He is stopped innumerable times and forced to show his papers before he can proceed.
2. He reaches Paris under an armed escort.
3. Emigrants have lost all of their property rights and may be condemned to death.
4. He is referred to as “the prisoner.”
5. He meets Ernest Defarge.
6. He tells Darnay that he cannot help him because his allegiance is to the newly formed state.
7. The phrase is “in secret.”
8. He learns that the King has been imprisoned.
9. He thinks, “He made shoes, he made shoes, he made shoes.”
10. This is a reference to Dr. Manette’s long imprisonment.
Book the Third, Chapters 2 and 3 Questions and Answers
Study Questions
1. Where is Tellson’s Paris branch located?
2. What is on the grounds of this house?
Book the Third, Chapter 1 Questions and Answers 52
3. Who comes to France in this chapter?
4. What does Defarge bring to Mr. Lorry?
5. Where does Lorry take the Defarges?
6. Why does Madame Defarge accompany them?
7. Is this the only reason?
8. What does Lucie ask of Madame Defarge?
9. What does Madame Defarge reply?
10. What is Mr. Lorry thinking as the chapter ends?
1. It is located in a house that the republic has seized from a nobleman.
2. There is a grindstone on the grounds of the house.
3. Lucie, her daughter, Dr. Manette, and Miss Pross come to France.
4. He brings a note from Dr. Manette.
5. He takes them to see Lucie.
6. The reason given is that she may see them, so that they may be protected.
7. There are hints that Madame Defarge has another reason; she wants to see Lucie and the child so that she
may register them.
8. She asks for her mercy concerning her husband.
9. She tells Lucie that one person’s suffering has become irrelevant.
10. He is greatly troubled as to Charles and Lucie’s future.
Book the Third, Chapters 4 and 5 Questions and Answers
Study Questions
1. What does Dr. Manette keep secret from Lucie?
2. How does Dr. Manette gain influence with the new republic?
3. What is the slogan of this new republic?
4. What new device has led to more beheadings and how is this device described?
5. How does Lucie cope with her husband’s imprisonment?
Book the Third, Chapters 2 and 3 Questions and Answers 53
6. What small consolation does Dr. Manette arrange for Lucie and Charles?
7. Where is the coincidental location of this spot?
8. What interest does the wood-sawyer take in Lucie?
9. Yet, who passes by this very spot soon after?
10. How does this chapter end?
1. He does not tell her that 1,100 prisoners have been killed in the past four days.
2. He takes advantage of his status as a martyr in the eyes of the new republic.
3. “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, or Death.”
4. The guillotine is the device, and it is described as a “sharp female.”
5. She displays her “quietly loyal … and good” strength.
6. He arranges for Lucie to stand on a spot where Charles can see her from his prison window.
7. It is right outside the shop of the wood-sawyer, who used to be the mender of roads.
8. He outwardly claims that what she is doing is none of his business.
9. Madame Defarge appears at this spot.
10. It ends with Dr. Manette announcing that Charles’ trial will be on the next day.
Book the Third Chapters 6 and 7 Questions and Answers
Study Questions
1. How is the court that tries Darnay described?
2. How does Darnay defend himself?
3. From whom did he learn to appeal to the court in this way?
4. What is the result of the trial?
5. To what can this courtroom scene be compared?
6. How does Lucie react upon seeing Charles?
7. What does Lucie do next?
8. What happens when Charles and Lucie return to their apartment?
Book the Third, Chapters 4 and 5 Questions and Answers 54
9. How has this happened?
10. What mystery does the chapter end on?
1. It is a horrid place that looks as if “the felons were trying the honest men.”
2. He reminds the court that he is the son-in-law of Dr. Manette and he appeals directly to the crowd’s
3. Dr. Manette advised him to proceed in this way.
4. Darnay is acquitted.
5. It can easily be compared to Darnay’s earlier trial in England.
6. She collapses “insensible” into his arms.
7. She recovers and offers a prayer to God.
8. Four soldiers show up and arrest Charles again.
9. The Defarges have denounced him.
10. It ends by saying that there is a third person who has denounced Darnay, but it does not reveal who this
third person is.
Book the Third, Chapter 8 Questions and Answers
Study Questions
1. Who does Miss Pross see in the wine-shop?
2. What does Jerry Cruncher ask Solomon Pros, and what is this a reference to?
3. Who provides Jerry with an answer to his question?
4. What does Carton want with Barsad?
5. What do they discuss there?
6. What does Jerry Cruncher reveal about Roger Cly?
7. How does Barsad explain this?
8. To whom does Carton refer to in his comment about crowds and what is the point of this?
9. What does Barsad tell Carton after Carton questions Barsad’s access to the prison?
10. How does this chapter end?
Book the Third Chapters 6 and 7 Questions and Answers 55
1. She sees her long-lost brother, Solomon.
2. He asks Pross what his name was back in England when he was a spy-witness at Charles Darnay’s trial.
3. The just-arrived-in-France Sydney Carton states Barsad’s name.
4. He wants Barsad to accompany him to Tellson’s Bank.
5. They discuss why Carton has power over Barsad.
6. He reveals that Roger Cly was not in the coffin that Barsad claims he was in.
7. He says that Cly had to fake his death or risk being murdered by an unruly mob.
8. It refers to Charles Darnay’s being carried home on the shoulders of a crowd, only to be arrested again.
9. He tells Carton that an escape is impossible.
10. It ends with Carton leading Barsad into a darkened room so that they can finish their negotiations in
Book the Third, Chapter 9 Questions and Answers
Study Questions
1. Why is Mr. Lorry angry with Jerry Cruncher?
2. What deal has Sydney Carton worked out with Barsad?
3. What is Lorry’s reaction to this?
4. Where does Carton go after he leaves Lorry?
5. What does he do there?
6. What does Carton do for the rest of the night?
7. What goes through his head during this long night?
8. Where had he first heard these words?
9. Who is the mysterious third person who has denounced Charles Darnay?
10. How has this denunciation come about?
1. Lorry feels that Cruncher has imposed on Tellson’s Bank by being a grave-robber as well as an odd job
man for the bank.
2. He has ensured access to Charles Darnay, once.
Book the Third, Chapter 8 Questions and Answers 56
3. He says that this can do the prisoner no good.
4. He goes to a chemist’s shop.
5. He buys two chemicals that are dangerous when mixed together.
6. He wanders the streets of Paris.
7. He keeps thinking, “I am the resurrection.”
8. He first heard these words of the Lord at his father’s funeral.
9. The mysterious third person is Alexandre Manette.
10. Ernest Defarge produces a paper that is said to hold this denunciation.
Book the Third, Chapter 10 Questions and Answers
Study Questions
1. What does this chapter consist of?
2. How do the two men who take Dr. Manette to the “patients” get him to enter the carriage?
3. Who are the two patients?
4. How has the boy received his wound?
5. What is this boy’s fate?
6. What becomes of his sister?
7. What important fact does Dr. Manette not learn?
8. To whom does Dr. Manette confide his secret?
9. How does Dr. Manette learn the name of the two evil brothers?
10. What is the result of the reading of this letter?
1. The bulk of this chapter is a reproduction of the letter Dr. Manette wrote while he was imprisoned.
2. The two men are armed, so Dr. Manette has no choice but to go with them.
3. A young peasant boy with a wound in his chest and his 20-year-old sister who is “in high fever.”
4. The younger of the two brothers has stabbed him.
5. He dies after denouncing the two men and their family name.
Book the Third, Chapter 9 Questions and Answers 57
6. She dies a week later.
7. He does not learn the names of the brother and sister.
8. He writes a letter to his minister.
9. The wife of the elder brother comes to him, asking him to help her make atonement. She tells Dr. Manette
their name.
10. Charles Darnay is condemned to die in 24 hours.
Book the Third, Chapters 11 and 12 Questions and Answers
Study Questions
1. What does Lucie ask of the crowd at the trial?
2. Who helps Lucie when she faints?
3. What does Little Lucie say to Carton?
4. What happens to Dr. Manette in this chapter?
5. What does Carton learn about Madame Defarge while he is at the wine-shop?
6. What is ironic about this revelation?
7. What are Madame Defarge’s plans for Dr. Manette and Lucie?
8. What does Carton tell Lorry to do?
9. What does Carton give to Lorry?
10. What is the final condition that Carton gives Lorry?
1. She asks them to let her touch her husband for one last time.
2. Sydney Carton helps Lucie.
3. She says that she knows Carton will save her father.
4. He relapses into his shoemaking ways of prison.
5. He learns that she is the sister of those who were wronged by the Evremondes.
6. It reveals that she had personal motives when she earlier stated that individuals do not matter in the
7. She plans to denounce both of them.
Book the Third, Chapter 10 Questions and Answers 58
8. He tells Lorry to reserve a coach for two o’clock the next afternoon.
9. He gives him certificates that will allow Carton, Dr. Manette, and Lucie to leave France.
10. He tells Lorry, “Wait for nothing but to have my place occupied, and then to England!”
Book the Third, Chapter 13 Questions and Answers
Study Questions
1. How many prisoners are awaiting their deaths?
2. What does Darnay do once he resigns himself to dying?
3. Who is not in Darnay’s mind at all?
4. What does Sydney Carton tell Darnay?
5. How does Carton then proceed with his plan?
6. Whom does Carton call into the room to carry Darnay out?
7. Who does Carton meet as he awaits death?
8. What does this woman say to Carton?
9. What is Carton’s reply?
10. How does this chapter end?
1. Fifty-two prisoners are awaiting death.
2. He sits down and writes letters to Lucie, Dr. Manette, and Mr. Lorry.
3. Darnay does not think of Sydney Carton.
4. He tells Darnay that he comes with an urgent entreaty from Darnay’s wife.
5. He knocks Darnay out with the chemicals he purchased earlier.
6. Carton call John Barsad into the room.
7. He meets a woman who knew Darnay in the prison, La Force.
8. She asks him if he is dying for Evremonde (Darnay).
9. Carton replies that he is dying for him and his wife and child.
10. It ends with Lorry, Lucie, her daughter, Dr. Manette, and Darnay driving towards England.
Book the Third, Chapters 11 and 12 Questions and Answers 59
Book the Third, Chapters 14 and 15 Questions and Answers
Study Questions
1. What does Madame Defarge decide at the beginning of the chapter?
2. Where does Madame Defarge then go?
3. What do we learn about Madame Defarge as she makes her way to Lucie’s apartment?
4. Whom does Madame Defarge meet at Lucie’s apartment?
5. What happens at the apartment?
6. What is the result of this struggle?
7. What does Jerry Cruncher do in this chapter?
8. What does Sydney Carton think of as he awaits the guillotine?
9. What are his thoughts regarding the future?
10. What are Sydney Carton’s final thoughts regarding his life?
1. She decides that Lucie, her daughter, and Dr. Manette all must die.
2. She proceeds to Lucie’s apartment.
3. We learn that she is a strong woman who has no pity because of the past treatment of her family.
4. Miss Pross is the only person there.
5. Madame Defarge tries to leave but Miss Pross blocks the door.
6. Madame Defarge is shot, she dies, and Miss Pross is rendered deaf.
7. He repents for all of his past sins.
8. He thinks of Lucie’s family as it will be in the future.
9. Carton is comforted by the idea that he will always be remembered by them.
10. They are, “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.”
A Tale of Two Cities: Essential Passages
Book the Third, Chapters 14 and 15 Questions and Answers 60
Essential Passages by Character: Sydney Carton
Essential Passage 1: Book II (Chapter 4)
“Do you particularly like the man?” he muttered, at his own image; “why should you
particularly like a man who resembles you? There is nothing in you to like; you know that.
Ah, confound you! What a change you have made in yourself! A good reason for taking to a
man, that he shows you what you have fallen away from, and what you might have been!
Change places with him, and would you have been looked at by those blue eyes as he was,
and commiserated by that agitated face as he was? Come on, and have it out in plain words!
You hate the fellow.”
Sydney Carton has had dinner with Charles Darnay, the man whom Sydney helped acquit for treason. Sydney,
however, has stated that doing so was just part of his job, that it was in no way a personal favor. Charles is
very grateful but a bit shocked when Sydney states his dislike of him. Charles nevertheless is the perfect
gentleman and does not retaliate and continues on good terms with Sydney. As Charles leaves Sydney to his
alcoholic stupor, the latter reflects on his ambivalent feelings for the Frenchman. He questions why he should
be expected to like Charles simply because they resemble each other physically. In fact, to Sydney this is an
excellent reason to feel the opposite. Charles is a reminder of what Sydney could have been if he had applied
himself. Charles is also a reminder that it is the Frenchman, rather than the Englishman, to whom Lucie
Manette is evidently drawn.
Essential Passage 2: Book II (Chapter 13)
“My last supplication of all, is this; and with it, I will relieve you of a visitor with whom I
well know you have nothing in unison, and between whom and you there is an impassable
space. It is useless to say it, I know, but it rises out of my soul. For you, and for any dear to
you, I would do anything. If my career were of that better kind that there was any opportunity
or capacity of sacrifice in it, I would embrace any sacrifice for at some quiet times, as ardent
and sincere in this one thing. The time will come, the time will not be long in coming, when
new ties will be formed about you—ties that will bind you yet more tenderly and strongly to
the home you so adorn—the dearest ties that will ever grace and gladden you. O Miss Manette,
when the picture of a happy father’s face looks up in yours, when you see your own bright
beauty springing up anew at your feet, think now and then that there is a man who would give
his life, to keep a life you love beside you!”
Charles Darnay and Lucie Manette are to be married, with Dr. Manette’s blessing. Although Sydney Carton
has been in love with Lucie since Darnay’s trial, he has come to accept the inevitable—that she would choose
a stable person such as Darnay rather than a dissolute slacker such as himself. Rather than separate himself
from the new couple, Sydney desires to continue their relationship, even if it is only as a friend. While he does
not desire to change his ways, he does want to offer himself as a sacrifice for Lucie, should the occasion arise.
Sydney, meeting Lucie prior to her wedding, asks her solely to accept him as a friend, with the pledge that he
is at her service for whatever reason. He promises that he will do anything for her or for anyone she loves. He
simply asks that, when she is married with children, she would remember that there is someone who would
gladly give up his life to save her or her loved ones.
Essential Passage 3: Book III (Chapter 15)
Essential Passages by Character: Sydney Carton 61
“I see that child who lay upon her bosom and who bore my name, a man winning his way up
in that path of life which 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. I see him,
foremost of just judges and honoured men, bringing a boy of my name with a forehead that I
know and golden hair, to this place—then fair to look upon, with not a trace of this day’s
disfigurement—and I hear him tell the child my story, with a tender and faltering voice.
“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.”
Sydney Carton has devised a plan by which he can fulfill his promise to Lucie: he will sacrifice his life to save
the life of anyone she loved. Charles Darnay is in prison and sentenced to be executed on the guillotine.
Having procured drugs, Sydney goes into the prison, telling Charles to write a letter that he will dictate (it is
from Sydney to Lucie, reminding her of his pledge). As Charles writes, Sydney uses an inhalant to render him
unconscious, changing clothes with him, and has him carried out in the disguise of Sydney himself.
Sydney takes Charles’s place on the guillotine, sacrificing his life out of his love for Lucie. Moments before
his death, as he approaches the guillotine, he envisions the future, when Lucie will have another child. She
will name him after Sydney. The child will grow to be an honorable man, thereby redeeming the memory of
Sydney. With this, Sydney submits himself to a sacrificial death, knowing that he is bound for a better place
because of the tremendous act of love that he is about to commit.
Analysis of Essential Passages
Sydney Carton is first presented as a foil for Charles Darnay, similar in physical appearance yet opposites in
character. Sydney’s intemperance, aimlessness, and cynicism highlight Charles’s honor, purpose, and hope.
Yet in spite of these differences, they are joined in their love for Lucie Manette and their eventual willingness
to make great sacrifices for the benefit of others. Charles gives up his title and property, refusing to gain
through the toil of others. Sydney gives up his life so that Charles and Lucie may live in happiness.
From the beginning, at the trial in which Sydney and Lucie meet, Sydney presents himself as an alcoholic
slacker, content to let his brilliance shine only accidentally. He is content to drift through life, indifferent to
success, but his life is changed when he encounters Lucie and Charles.
Initially he expresses a hatred of Charles, simply because he is a pointed reminder of what Sydney could have
been. It is only now that he expresses any regret at the life he has chosen, for in that choice he has made
himself unacceptable as an appropriate suitor for Lucie Manette. Too late for him to change, Sydney resents
Charles’s goodness, which eventually wins Lucie’s hand in marriage.
Rather than give up on himself, however, Sydney manages to find some purpose in life. Although he cannot
be Lucie’s husband, he is content to be her friend. This indicates a depth of character that he has not
previously shown. In a situation where he could have been petulant and resentful, he chooses honor by putting
aside his self-centeredness and dedicating himself to the good of others. The eventual sacrifice of his life for
Lucie reveals how much he is in fact Charles’s equal in honor and virtue.
Sydney’s infrequent appearance in the story does not indicate his importance in the daily lives of the Darnay
family, however. Hints dropped by Lucie and Charles's children, who call Sydney “dear Carton,” indicate the
love that he has engendered in the family and reveal that he has truly become part of it. Although he continues
to live in a manner inconsistent with this new position, Sydney has begun a slow process of reformation. It is
in part, at least, a selfish act, one in which he makes himself invaluable to the family simply to be near Lucie.
Yet revealed through the eyes of children, Sydney’s character grows to make his ultimate sacrifice a
believable act, the natural progression of his inner nobility and honor.
Essential Passages by Character: Sydney Carton 62
As an obvious Christ-figure, Sydney Carton lays down his life so that others might live. His sacrifice not only
saves Charles Darnay: it also saves himself. His redemption is commenced by his dedication in friendship to
the Darnay family; it is completed as he gives his life for another.
Essential Passages by Theme: Resurrection
Essential Passage 1: Book I (Chapter 3)
...He was on his way to dig some one out of a grave.
Now, which of the multitude of faces that showed themselves before him was the true face of
the buried person, the shadows of the night did not indicate; but they were all the faces of a
man of five-and-forty years, and they differed principally in the passions they expressed, and
in the ghastliness of their worn and wasted state. Pride, contempt, defiance, stubbornness,
submission, lamentation, succeeded one another; so did varieties of sunken cheek, cadaverous
colour, emaciated hands and figures. But the face was in the main one face, and every head
was prematurely white. A hundred times the dozing passenger inquired of this spectre:
“Buried how long?”
The answer was always the same. “Almost eighteen years.”
“You had abandoned all hope of being dug out?”
“Long ago.”
“You know that you are recalled to life?”
“They tell me so.”
“I hope you care to live?”
“I can’t say.”
“Shall I show her to you? Will you come and see her?”
The answers to this question were various and contradictory. Sometimes the broken reply
was, “Wait! It would kill me if I saw her too soon.” Sometimes, it was given in a tender rain
of tears, and then it was, “Take me to her.” Sometimes it was staring and bewildered, and
then it was, “I don’t know her. I don’t understand.”
Jarvis Lorry, of Tellson’s Bank of London, is on his way to France to retrieve Dr. Alexandre Manette, an old
customer and friend, who has been imprisoned in La Bastille, the notorious Paris prison, for eighteen years.
He is to bring him to England, where he will be reunited with the daughter who thought that he had died long
ago. Mr. Lorry envisions the possible scenarios of his meeting with Dr. Manette, not sure how someone who
has been subjected to such an experience will react to his newfound freedom. In this hypothetical situation,
Mr. Lorry points out to Dr. Manette that he has been “recalled to life.” Dr. Manette is unsure, his confidence
shattered by his isolation in the dungeon. It is the possible multiplicity of responses from Dr. Manette to
meeting his daughter that gives Mr. Lorry pause. Whether he will refuse to see her, beg to be taken to her
Essential Passages by Theme: Resurrection 63
immediately, or be mired in hesitation, Dr. Manette must come to accept the fact of his resurrection from the
death of prison to the life of freedom.
Essential Passage 2: Book II (Chapter 13)
“If it had been possible, Miss Manette, that you could have returned the love of the man you
see before you—self-flung away, wasted, drunken, poor creature of misuse as you know him
to be—he would have been conscious this day and hour, in spite of his happiness, that he
would bring you to misery, bring you to sorrow and repentance, blight you, disgrace you, pull
you down with him. I know very well that you can have no tenderness for me; I ask for none;
I am even thankful that it cannot be.”
“Without it, can I not save you, Mr. Carton? Can I not recall you—forgive me again!—to a
better course? Can I in no way repay your confidence? I know this is a confidence,” she
modestly said, after a little hesitation, and in earnest tears, “I know you would say this to no
one else. Can I turn it to no good account for yourself, Mr. Carton?”
He shook his head.
Sydney Carton, who has long been in love with Lucie Manette, comes to visit her prior to her wedding to
Charles Darnay. Sydney claims to hate Charles, simply because Charles's resemblance to himself is a constant
r eminder of all that he threw away when he chose a dissolute lifestyle. Confessing his love to Lucie, Sydney
nevertheless tells her that he knows a relationship with her would have been impossible. He knows that, due to
the choices that he has made, he would only bring her sorrow. Lucie, acknowledging that she could not love
him in his present circumstance, asks him if there is no way for her to “recall” him (echoing Mr. Lorry’s
message concerning Dr. Manette’s release from prison: “recalled to life”) to a better course. She appreciates
that Sydney has confided in her, and vows to keep his feelings secret. Yet she feels that in some way she
needs to repay Sydney for his having saved Charles during the trial, the best way being to find a way to bring
him back to a life of honor and purpose. Sydney rejects this possibility.
Essential Passage 3: Book III (Chapter 9)
The strong tide, so swift, so deep, and certain, was like a congenial friend, in the morning
stillness. He walked by the stream, far from the houses, and in the light and warmth of the sun
fell asleep on the bank. When he awoke and was afoot again, he lingered there yet a little
longer, watching an eddy that turned and turned purposeless, until the stream absorbed it, and
carried it on to the sea.—“Like me!”
A trading-boat, with a sail of the softened colour of a dead leaf, then glided into his view,
floated by him, and died away. As its silent track in the water disappeared, the prayer that had
broken up out of his heart for a merciful consideration of all his poor blindnesses and errors,
ended in the words, “I am the resurrection and the life.”
Sydney Carton has taken the place of Charles Darnay, sacrificing his life on the guillotine. Long ago, prior to
Lucie’s marriage to Charles, Sydney promised that he would gladly sacrifice his life for her or for anyone she
loved. This is the only gift he can give to the woman he loves. Rejecting the idea that he may himself be
“resurrected” into a meaningful life, Sydney vows to willingly give his life for her, should the occasion arise.
With Charles’s coming execution, Sydney recognizes the time is now. As he wanders the streets of Paris, he
devises a plan by which he can take advantage of his resemblance to Lucie’s husband and thus switch places
Essential Passages by Theme: Resurrection 64
with him—he to the guillotine and Charles to the freedom of England. He stops and observes the river, noticing
the waywardness and aimless direction of the water to the sea. He sees himself in this aimlessness. He realizes
that his life for Charles's is the only way that he can amend his flaws. Although he will die, he can “be the
resurrection” for Charles.
Analysis of Essential Passages
The theme of resurrection runs through the novel in many forms and through several characters: Jerry the
“Resurrection Man,” who digs up graves for bodies to sell to doctors and medical students; Dr. Manette
released from prison, both literally and mentally; Charles Darnay returned to life through the sacrifice of
Sydney Carton; Sydney himself rising from his alcoholic stupor to a life of self-sacrifice; the people of France
from their toil and torment to a dubious life of doubtful “liberty” in the revolution. The title of the first book,
“Recalled to Life," may be said to be the theme of the entire novel. Rising from the pit, each character enters
anew into a life that had previously been either denied them or in some way out of his or her reach.
Dr. Alexandre Manette is the first person who is “resurrected.” Having been imprisoned for knowing too
much about the evil committed by the Evrémonde brothers, Dr. Manette has been “buried” for eighteen
years. An innocent victim, he is permanently changed by his experience. In fact, Dr. Manette is evidence that
no person remains the same once he is recalled to life. Resurrection irrevocably changes a person from what
he was before. Nor is he completely free from death. Resurrection is not freedom from death, but only a
temporary reprieve. Dr. Manette frequently returns to “death,” a mental retreat back into prison where he
filled his time making shoes. The stench of death remains on him, affecting not only his own life but the lives
of those around him. Yet it is through that death that he is able to present himself to the French revolutionaries
as a hero. His imprisonment, his “death,” was the means by which he was able to “recall to life” Charles
from his initial imprisonment in France.
Resurrection can also be resisted, as in the case of Sydney Carton. In his conversation with Lucie on the eve
of her marriage, Sydney presents himself to her as an individual unworthy for any consideration due to his
worthless life. In terms of honor, he is “dead.” Lucie offers him a means of resurrection by attempting to
recall him to a life of a “better course.” Yet Sydney rejects the idea that he can return to the life that could
have been his, a life that he is painfully reminded of by his similarity physically to Lucie’s husband. Despite
his offer to lay down his life for Lucie and her family, Sydney chooses to remain “dead.”
However, it is in his final sacrificial death that Sydney reveals the truth of his existence. He cannot be
resurrected, because he himself is resurrection. He is the resurrection, not of himself, but of Charles Darnay.
His death recalls to life Lucie’s beloved husband, but not himself. In a way, however, Sydney Carton does
indeed experience a type of resurrection through his death. His virtue and value as an honorable person rises
to life even as he lays aside that life. His vision of a child of Lucie’s that bears his name reveals a resurrection
of his character, to be lived out in a new form. While Charles is a painful reminder of what he failed to
become, Charles’s son will be the man Sydney chose to become through his death.
A Tale of Two Cities: Characters
John Barsad
See Solomon Pross
Sydney Carton
Sydney Carton is a dissipated English lawyer who spends a great deal of his life drunk. Although he has a
brilliant legal mind, his alcoholism keeps him from becoming a success. He first enters A Tale of Two Cities
in 1780, during Charles Darnay's trial for espionage. Darnay is acquitted because of his uncanny resemblance
to Carton, thus casting doubts on the testimony of his accusers. Carton works in an unofficial partnership with
A Tale of Two Cities: Characters 65
another lawyer, C. J. Stryver. Although Carton's legal mind was mostly responsible for Darnay's acquittal, his
coarse manners and habitual drunkenness contrast with his double's refinement and politeness. Carton falls in
love with Lucie Manette and, when she marries Darnay, asks to be considered a friend of the family with the
privilege of visiting them from time to time. His devotion to Lucie is the major factor in his decision to take
Darnay's place in prison and be guillotined in 1793.
Understanding the character of Carton is difficult for the reader. We know nothing of his past life or of the
reasons that have kept him single into his forties (the age at which he enters the novel). His only major
weakness is his alcoholism, which in Victorian times was regarded as a character flaw rather than a disease;
his redeeming grace is his love for Lucie, which persuades him to sacrifice himself so that she and her family
can escape. Ironically, Carton does this by passing himself off as Darnay and taking his place on the scaffold.
Carton is Darnay's alter-ego in several senses of the phrase. He is English, while Darnay is French;
coarse-mannered, while Darnay is polite; and alcoholic, while Darnay is temperate. They are united only in
their mutual love for Lucie Manette. But it is Carton in the end who succeeds in rescuing the Darnays—Lucie,
her husband, and their littie daughter—from the fate planned for them by the Revolutionary authorities. On the
scaffold Carton has a vision in which he sees that through his execution he creates a memory that Lucie and
Darnay will preserve for generations to come. Carton foresees that his namesake, Sydney Darnay, will
become a famous judge, fulfilling the career that Carton wanted for himself but could not get. At the end of A
Tale of Two Cities, Carton becomes a Christ-figure, a godlike being who redeems the blood shed in the name
of freedom and brotherhood. Through his heroic self-sacrifice, Carton redeems the sins of the St. Evremondes
in a way that the purer Darnay could not do.
Jerry Cruncher
Jerry Cruncher is the literal symbol of Dickens's theme of resurrection in A Tale of Two Cities. Cruncher is a
"resurrection man"—he steals fresh corpses from graveyards and delivers them to medical schools so that
students can study human anatomy. His values are upside-down; he regards body-snatching as honest work
and prayer as weakness. He also works as a porter for Mr. Jarvis Lorry's bank, Tellson's, and helps make
Sydney Carton's rescue of the Darnays successful. In the end, Cruncher is impressed by Carton's sacrifice and
by the Darnays and resolves to reform.
Charles Darnay
Charles Darnay, or St. Evremonde, is the nephew and heir of the Marquis St. Evremonde, the wicked
aristocrat who is responsible for the imprisonment of Dr. Manette. However, Charles has renounced his
wicked uncle's fortune, has adopted his mother's maiden name, and has taken a position as a tutor in the
French language in England. Darnay is caught up in the events of the French Revolution. In 1781, while
trying to help a woman that his family had injured, he is arrested as a spy and placed on trial in England.
There he meets Lucie Manette and marries her; they have several children. Darnay is caught in France in 1792
while trying to help a former family servant; he is arrested and sentenced to be executed on the basis of a
letter written by Dr. Manette during his years of imprisonment (1757-1775). He is rescued by his English
double, Sydney Carton, who takes his place and is executed in his stead.
Like his wife Lucie Manette, Charles Darnay is a largely passive character. Although his manners and
behavior are impeccable and his intentions are well-meant, he is incapable of performing the important tasks
to which he commits himself. Both his arrests take place while he is in the process of trying to extract friends
or former servants from difficulties. Darnay is also like Dr. Manette because of the time he spends unjustly
confined in prison. It takes Carton's sacrifice to release Darnay from the cycle of arrests.
Some critics believe that Dickens viewed Darnay as a version of himself. The character shares the author's
initials (C. D.) and his relationship with Carton may reflect a split in Dickens's own psyche between his
heroic, honorable side and his baser nature.
A Tale of Two Cities: Characters 66
Lucie Darnay
Lucie Manette, Dr. Manette's daughter, at the age of seventeen discovers her father's existence in a French jail.
As an infant she was carried off to England by Mr. James Lorry and is raised there in the belief that her father
is dead. She travels with Mr. Lorry once again in 1775 to rescue Dr. Manette. Later she marries protagonist
Charles Darnay and gives birth to young Lucie, their daughter. Like many other Victorian literary heroines,
Lucie tends to give the impression that she is frail and delicate; she faints easily and is earnestly committed to
the salvation of her husband and to the future of her children. Lucie is primarily a passive character whose
purpose is to be the object of devotion of Sydney Carton, Charles Darnay, and Dr. Manette.
Some critics have suggested that Dickens's portrayal of Lucie is based in part on his own feelings for the
actress Ellen Ternan and that Lucie is an idealized version of Ellen. Others see her as an expression of his
memories of his childhood friend Lucy Stroughill, or a version of the heroine Lucy of Dickens's 1856 play
The Wreck of the Golden Mary. "Golden-haired" Lucie Manette, according to these interpretations, is an
expression of the light (the name Lucie is derived from a word meaning "light") that opposes the darkness and
hatred of the Revolutionary figures, especially Therese Defarge. Like the light, Lucie is largely passive; she
does not transform herself, but those who are illuminated by her love are transformed themselves. It is Lucie's
affection that makes Sydney Carton resolve to sacrifice himself for her family's safety. Lucie is a catalyst; she
does not change anything herself, but she is the cause of change in others.
Ernest Defarge
Dickens presents the husband of the vengeful Madame Defarge, Ernest Defarge, as another force in the
Revolution; a less driven, but still flawed, example of the French common people. Ernest Defarge had served
Dr. Manette as a servant before the doctor was imprisoned by the Marquis St. Evremonde and has some
affectionate feelings for him when he is released. Defarge later becomes an important Revolutionary leader.
However, Defarge exploits Dr. Manette's insanity, opening his prison to curious gapers who want to gawk at
the unfortunate madman. Unlike his wife, Ernest Defarge is not interested in pursuing Lucie Darnay and her
daughter to their deaths. At the end of the book, Carton foresees Defarge's own death on the guillotine at the
hands of his revolutionary companions.
Madame Therese Defarge
Madame Defarge is the symbol of the evils brought forth by the French Revolution. Her entire family was
destroyed by the St. Evremonde clan; her sister was raped by the Marquis St. Evremonde—Charles Darnay's
uncle—and her brother died at the aristocrat's hands. Because of this tragedy, Defarge has conceived an intense
hatred for the St. Evremondes, including Charles Darnay himself, as well as the rest of the aristocratic class.
Madame Defarge plots the downfall of the St. Evremondes and other aristocrats with almost infinite patience,
working the names of those whom she hates into her knitting. She plots Darnay's arrest in 1792 and the
eventual deaths of his entire family, demonstrating the depths of her hatred. Madame Defarge represents the
uncontrollable forces of the French Revolution. She is killed in a struggle with Miss Pross, Lucie's nurse,
when her pistol goes off accidentally.
Charles St. Evremonde
See Charles Darnay
Marquis St. Evremonde
The Marquis St. Evremonde parallels the animalistic evil of Madame Therese Defarge. He is the image of the
uncaring aristocrat of the ancien regime. He was responsible for both the imprisonment of Dr. Manette and for
the rape of Therese Defarge's sister and the death of the rest of her family. He is also responsible for the death
of Gaspard's young son, whom he runs down in his coach. Dickens stresses the Marquis's lack of humanity
and predatory nature by comparing him to a tiger.
A Tale of Two Cities: Characters 67
Jarvis Lorry
Jarvis Lorry is the representative of Tellson's Bank, an old, established English institution. He serves partly as
a means of progressing the plot and partly as a symbol of English middle-class virtue. It was Mr. Lorry who
rescued the infant Lucie Manette and took her to safety in England when her father was arrested and her
mother died. It is Mr. Lorry who goes to retrieve Dr. Manette after his eighteen years in prison. Finally, it is
Mr. Lorry who aids Carton in his deception of the French authorities in order to rescue the Darnays from
Revolutionary France. Mr. Lorry serves as well as a way of introducing one of the novel's major themes: the
idea of imprisonment and redemption. He dreams of literally "resurrecting" Dr. Manette, who has been buried
alive for nearly twenty years; yet Mr. Jarvis confines himself in the jail-like recesses of Tellson's.
Dr. Alexandre Manette
Dr. Manette is one of the central characters in A Tale of Two Cities. He was imprisoned at the start of the story
because he had tried to bring the crimes of two of the St. Evremondes, members of a noble family, to public
trial. The St. Evremondes have conspired to keep Manette in prison for eighteen years and this confinement is
one of the major plot points of the novel. The doctor's incarceration has cost him his sanity. He can only
remember his cell number. When he is first rescued from his prison he believes he is a cobbler, and when he
comes under stress his insanity reasserts itself. He first begins to revive when the sight of his daughter Lucie
recalls memories of his dead wife. He collapses into insanity again when he discovers his son-in-law is a
member of the hated Evremonde clan, and still again when Darnay is imprisoned in Paris and threatened with
Dr. Manette's major function is to set the plot of A Tale of Two Cities in motion, but some critics consider his
sane and insane personalities to represent the Victorian literary fascination with duality. His dual personas
also illustrate the social split taking place in France during the "Terror," and the differences between Paris and
London, the two cities of the title. Some critics also suggest that Manette's character reflects the author's own
personality. They trace parallels between Manette's career as a physician and his selflessness in reporting the
abuses of the nobility with Dickens's career as a journalist and advocate for social improvement. They also see
similarities between Manette's creation, in his madness, of a world in which he is only a cobbler and Dickens's
creation of secondary worlds in his novels.
Lucie Manette
See Lucie Darnay
Miss Pross
Miss Pross is Lucie Manette Darnay's nurse, then her companion and nurse to her daughter Little Lucie during
the traumatic months spent in Revolutionary Paris. She is also the sister of the English spy Solomon Pross
(John Barsad). In some ways Miss Pross is a stereotypical Englishwoman; she is blunt-spoken, nationalistic,
and short-tempered, but she is also good-hearted and devoted to Lucie. She opposes the darkness of the
revolutionary Madame Therese Defarge. In a climactic struggle, Miss Pross kills Madame Defarge while
trying to keep her from discovering that the Darnays have fled from Paris.
Solomon Pross
Solomon Pross is the brother of Miss Pross, Lucie Manettte's nurse. He works as a spy under the name John
Barsad, first for the English and then for the French government. Carton foresees in his final vision that
Barsad will be caught and executed during the "Terror."
C. J. Stryver
C. J. Stryver is the quasi-law partner of Sydney Carton. He makes his living by exploiting Carton's legal mind.
Unlike Carton, Stryver is motivated and active, but he is also unprincipled and in the end unredeemed. He
courts Lucie Manette briefly and, after she chooses Darnay, pretends that he had rejected her.
A Tale of Two Cities: Characters 68
The Vengeance
The Vengeance is Madame Therese Defarge's chosen companion. As her title suggests, her entire identity is
swallowed by her desire for revenge on the aristocratic class.
A Tale of Two Cities: Themes
Order and Disorder
The story of A Tale of Two Cities takes place during the turbulent years of the French Revolution. Dickens
stresses the chaos of Revolutionary France by using images of the ocean. He calls the Paris mob a "living
sea," and compares Ernest Defarge to a man caught in a whirlpool. Defarge and his wife are both at the center
of revolutionary activity in Paris, just as their lives are at the center of the whirlpool. Order breaks down once
again in the second chapter of the third book, "The Grindstone." "Dickens deliberately set Darnay's return to
Paris and arrest at the time of the September Massacres," writes Ruth Glancy in A Tale of Two Cities:
Dickens's Revolutionary Novel, "a four-day execution of 1,089 prisoners from four Paris prisons, condemned
in minutes each by … 'sudden Courts of Wild Justice.'" Contrasted to the chaos of Paris is the order of
England: Dr. Manette's peaceful home in Soho is a place of refuge for Darnay, Carton, and Mr. Lorry, while
even Tellson's Bank serves as a center of calmness in the whirlpool of Revolutionary Paris.
Death and Resurrection
Death, burial, and resurrection are themes that Dickens returns to again and again in A Tale of Two Cities. The
first book of the novel, "Recalled to Life," traces the resurrection of Dr. Manette, who has been held in prison
for almost twenty years. Prisons, for Dickens, are symbolic of the grave—a comparison that he makes
throughout his works, and which may be related to his father's imprisonment in the debtors' prison at
Marshalsea. Mr. Lorry, who travels to Paris in 1775 to secure the doctor's release, views himself as literally
digging up Dr. Manette's body. He fancies that the doctor has been buried for so long that he will fall to pieces
upon being liberated: "Got out at last, with earth hanging around his face and hair, he would suddenly fall
away to dust." Even the doctor's daughter Lucie, whom he has never seen, believes that the person who will
emerge from the prison will be a ghost rather than a living man. Like a man brought back to life, Manette
cannot quite shake the hold his burial and rebirth has on his mind. He reverts to his cobbling—a sign of his
madness contracted in prison—during periods of stress, but he is finally redeemed by his daughter's love and
his own forgiveness of Darnay for the crimes of the St. Evremondes.
Other characters are also absorbed in Dickens's death imagery. Jerry Cruncher, the Tellson's Bank messenger,
is also a "resurrection man"—a person who steals fresh corpses from graveyards and sells them to medical
schools for use as anatomy specimens. Charles Darnay is imprisoned and released twice in the course of the
novel; the second time, it takes another death, Sydney Carton's, to secure Darnay's freedom. Madame Defarge,
consumed by a desire for vengeance, finds her death in a tussle with Miss Pross. In addition, in his final
moments Carton foresees the deaths of a large number of minor characters, including the spies Barsad and
Cly, the revolutionary leaders Defarge and the woman known as The Vengeance, and the judge and jury who
condemned Darnay to death. Revolutionary anarchy and hatred consume these people, but the Darnays, Dr.
Manette, Mr. Lorry, and especially Carton, are redeemed through their love and self-sacrifice.
Memory and Reminiscence
A Tale of Two Cities is a historical novel, about events approximately seventy years past when Dickens wrote
the work. For the author in A Tale of Two Cities, memory is often a trap, pulling people into an abyss of
despair. Madame Defarge's hatred of aristocrats in general and St. Evremonde in particular is based on her
memory of the rape and deaths of her siblings at his hands. However, it can also be a force for redemption. It
is Dr. Manette's memory of his dead wife, seen in his daughter's face, that begins his process of resurrection
from the grave of his prison and madness. "Darnay … listens to the voices from his past," states Ruth Glancy
in A Tale of Two Cities: Dickens's Revolutionary Novel; "his desire to right the wrongs of his family is
A Tale of Two Cities: Themes 69
primarily due to his mother's reliance on him to do so." Perhaps most interesting, however, is Sydney Carton
and his relationship to memory. His colleague C. J. Stryver calls him "Memory Carton" for his brilliant legal
mind. Dickens's portrayal of Carton, however, shows him inspired by the memory of his love for Lucie to
renounce his passive life. "When Carton dies with the words 'It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have
ever done,' he is renouncing the mental prison that has prevented him from making something of his life,"
writes Glancy; "he is living dynamically, as Doctor Manette does, and even if for him the action will soon be
over, its repercussions will be felt for as long as the Darnay family survives."
A Tale of Two Cities: Style
The chief characteristic of A Tale of Two Cities that sets it apart from Dickens's other novels is its historical
setting. Most of the author's works comment on contemporary English society; A Tale of Two Cities does this,
too, but not as directly as, say, David Copperfield or Great Expectations. Dickens contrasts late
eighteenth-century Paris and London both to advance the plot and to draw conclusions about the nature of
freedom and the redeeming power of love. The novel begins in England, and most of the first book takes place
in that country. In the second book, chapters alternate between the English and the French settings, and the
third is set almost entirely in France. "At the beginning of the novel," writes Ruth Glancy in A Tale of Two
Cities: Dickens's Revolutionary Novel, "Dickens paints a grim picture of both countries. They both had kings
who believed in their divine right to rule. English spirituality had deteriorated into communing with spirits
and other superstitious practices.… France he says, was less given over to such spiritual revelations, but had
instead a clergy that inflicted cruel punishments for minor offenses." In England minor legal offenses were
often punished with hanging. At the end of the novel, Dickens contrasts the two countries in the persons of
Frenchwoman Madame Defarge and Englishwoman Miss Pross; in the struggle, however, he portrays not the
triumph of one country over another, but the triumph of love over hatred.
One of the most notable devices that Dickens uses in A Tale of Two Cities is the contrast of thesis and
antithesis. The opening words of the novel introduce this conflict. Most of the major themes of the novel are
summed up in these lines: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was
the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it
was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair." Characters mirror and
oppose each other. For example, Madame Defarge's experiences mirror those of Dr. Manette. Defarge's sister
is raped and her brother is murdered by the Marquis St. Evremonde; Manette witnesses the crime and is
imprisoned by the aristocratic criminal. Ernest Defarge and Mr. Lorry mirror each other; they both regard
themselves as businessmen and they both care for Dr. Manette. However, while Defarge becomes consumed
by hate and will eventually die under the guillotine, Mr. Lorry is redeemed by his love for the Darnays and
escapes France in their company. These conflicts, which Dickens pursues throughout the novel, are resolved
by Sydney Carton's sacrifice for love of Lucie. He concludes with a positive statement of goodness: "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
The device of the doppelganger, or identical double, is central to A Tale of Two Cities. Charles Darnay and
Sydney Carton are physically nearly identical, and some critics suggest that they are psychologically two sides
of the same psyche. When Darnay is accused of spying and placed on trial in England, his lawyer, C. J.
Stryver, secures his release. Stryver discredits the prosecution witness, who upon seeing Carton can no longer
swear that Darnay was the man he saw spying. The climax of the novel, in which Carton takes Darnay's place
on the execution grounds, is dependent on their close physical resemblance. The fact that both Carton and
Darnay are in love with the same woman—Lucie Manett—echoes the physical resemblance between the two. In
A Tale of Two Cities: Style 70
other ways, however, the two are opposed. Darnay, for instance, is consumed with the need to undo the evils
that his uncle, the Marquis St. Evremonde, has inflicted on people. He makes his nearly-fatal trip to Paris in
order to try to rescue Gabelle, a former family servant, but he is unsuccessful; he is caught, imprisoned, and
sentenced to be executed. On the other hand Carton, who reveals to Lucie that he has previously lived a life of
idleness, is successful in his bid to release Darnay from prison. Ironically Darnay, who has lived an upright,
moral life, is successful only as a passive figure in his marriage. Carton, who has lived an immoral life of
drunkenness and idleness, is successful in his activity, although the price of his success is his life.
A Tale of Two Cities: Historical Context
Although A Tale of Two Cities takes place in a time some seventy years before Dickens was writing the novel,
it does indirectly address contemporary issues with which the author was concerned. During the 1780s—the
period in which the novel was set—England was a relatively peaceful and prosperous nation. Its national
identity was caught up in a long war with France which the French Revolution first interrupted, then
continued. The ideals of the French Revolution were imported to England by political and literary radicals
such as William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Many people, especially the English aristocracy
and middle classes, feared these revolutionary values, seeing in them a threat to their prosperous and stable
way of life. However, although there were social inequities in England as well as in France, England also had
a long tradition of peaceful social change. In addition, the country's political leaders were ven successful at
uniting all classes of society in the struggle against Revolutionary France and its successor, the Empire under
Napoleon Bonaparte.
Despite these successes, fears of revolutionary rhetoric and struggle persisted in England down to Dickens's
own day. Other changes also embraced the country: the Industrial Revolution created a new wealthy class and
brought a previously unknown prosperity to England. That same industrialization, however, also created an
underclass of laborers who relied on regular wages to survive. "Overcrowding, disease, hunger, long hours of
work, and mindless, repetitive labor," explains Ruth Glancy in A Tale of Two Cities: Dickens's Revolutionary
Novel, "characterized the new life for this new class of urban poor." This underclass was largely scorned or
ignored by society. It had no rights, it could not vote in elections, and it could not legally form unions for its
own protection. In addition, Glancy states, "many members of the upper classes feared even educating the
poor, in case they would then become politically aware and eager to better themselves when it suited many
people to have them as cheap labor." The English tradition of peaceful protest, expressed by public marches
and meetings, continued throughout the early nineteenth century, but it was interrupted as the century
progressed by riots and the destruction of property. "People feared that a revolution as horrifying as the
French one could after all happen in England," Glancy declares. "A few political thinkers believed that such a
revolution was actually the answer to Britain's problems, but most people, like Dickens, feared the actions of
the mob, having seen the bloody outcome of the 1789 revolution."
The revolution that Dickens and many others feared in 1850s England did not arrive, in part because of the
efforts of various reform parties. Although groups such as the Chartist movement had struggled for better
conditions for English workers as early as the 1830s, by the 1850s many of the reforms they had sought were
still not in place. The 1832 Reform Bill, introduced by Lord John Russell, had smoothed out some of the
inequities in the parliamentary system, but it still left thousands of working poor disenfranchised and
discontented. It was not until 1867 that Benjamin Disraeli introduced a Reform Bill that nearly doubled the
number of voters throughout England, Wales, and Scotland. This reform, passed late in Dickens's life, helped
smother the fears of bloody revolution that dogged the English upper and middle classes. "There was no
bloody revolution," explains Glancy, "but Dickens and others deplored the snail's pace that the government
took to achieve peaceful reform through the parliamentary process. If the time of the Revolution in France
was 'the epoch of belief … the epoch of incredulity,'" she concludes, "so too were the 1850s in Britain."
A Tale of Two Cities: Historical Context 71
A Tale of Two Cities: Critical Overview
A Tale of Two Cities is perhaps the least characteristic of Charles Dickens's works. Unlike both his earlier and
his later novels, which are largely concerned with events within the Victorian society in which he lived, A
Tale of Two Cities is set during a period some seventy years earlier. It shows both France and England in an
unflattering light. Perhaps because the novel is so uncharacteristic of the author, it remains among the author's
most popular works with readers who do not generally enjoy Dickens. On the other hand, it is often rated the
least popular Dickens novel among Dickens fans.
While A Tale of Two Cities was immensely popular with the reading public on its original serialization in
1859, its critical reception was mixed. "One feature that appears from the outset," explains Norman Page in
his essay "Dickens and His Critics," "is a polarisation of responses, the novel being found either superlatively
good or superlatively bad." According to Ruth Glancy in A Tale of Two Cities: Dickens's Revolutionary
Novel, most contemporary critics routinely dismissed the type of popular literature that Dickens wrote as
being unworthy of ranking as art. The most famous and the most caustic of the early critics of A Tale of Two
Cities was Sir James Fitzjames Stephen, who wrote a very harsh review of the book in the December 17,
1859, issue of Saturday Review. "After condemning the plot—'it would perhaps be hard to imagine a clumsier
or more disjointed framework for the display of the tawdry wares which form Mr. Dickens's stock in
trade'—Stephen dismissed A Tale of Two Cities as a purely mechanical effort, producing grotesqueness and
pathos through formula writing and trickery," explains Glancy. "He objected particularly to the 'grotesqueness'
of the speech of the French characters, whose French-sounding English he considered 'misbegotten jargon'
that 'shows a great want of sensibility to the real requirements of art.'" "It has been suggested," continues
Page, "that … Stephen was motivated more by political than by literary considerations, and it is true that one
line of his attack is directed at Dickens's disparagement of eighteenth-century England in relation to the
present, and his hostile portrayal of the French aristocracy of the same period."
Stephen's attack, politically motivated or not, sums up most of the criticisms that later scholars have levelled
at the novel: (1) as history, it is flawed; (2) it is mechanical and unrealistic in its construction; and (3) it is
very uncharacteristic of Dickens. Many late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century critics, including the
important Dickens scholar George Gissing and Dickens's fellow-journalist and novelist G. K. Chesterton,
followed Stephen's lead in criticizing the novel. According to Page's essay, Chesterton objects to Dickens's
portrayal of the Revolution as an elemental act of emotion rather than recognizing the importance of
intellectual ideas. Page also reveals that in Gissing's review of the novel, construction has "ceased to be a
virtue and has become a constraining and excluding factor." After Dickens's death in 1871, writes Page, "the
novelist Margaret Oliphant dismissed it as unworthy of Dickens and suggested that it 'might have been written
by any new author, so little of Dickens there is in it.'" Other critics considered its characters and its staging
unrealistic and objected to its lack of humor.
Stephen's opinion, although influential, was not universally accepted. Favorable reviews of A Tale of Two
Cities appeared in London newspapers, including the Daily News, the Daily Telegraph, the Morning Post and
the Morning Star, throughout the month of December, 1859. Many of Dickens's own literary friends,
acquaintances, and contemporaries, including John Forster, Thomas Carlyle, Wilkie Collins, and Mark Twain
(Samuel Clemens) also praised the novel. Modern critics also largely praise the novel, concentrating on its
psychological portraits and its status as historical fiction. Glancy reports that the work "has achieved new
status and new serious study," and concludes that "its continuing presence on school reading lists and in films
and plays … attests to its lasting popularity … with the many readers who find in A Tale of Two Cities the full
range of Dickens's dramatic and narrative power."
A Tale of Two Cities: Critical Overview 72
A Tale of Two Cities: Essays and Criticism
Critical Analysis of A Tale of Two Cites
With its famous opening line "it was the best of times, it was the worst of times," A Tale of Two Cities was
plainly intended by Dickens as a study in dramatic contrasts. Clear-cut polarities furnish this story of
individuals caught in the maelstrom of the French Revolution with its central dynamic. Portraying events that
take place over nearly two decades, the novel's setting shifts from the repression of autocratic rule and the
impassioned violence it unleashes in Paris to the rule of law and the humane concern in London as a
(temporarily) safe haven. The author's over-arching message arises in the context of sharp contrasts between
chaos and order, light and dark, hope and despair, heaven and hell. This is a work that is essentially devoid of
all ambiguity, one in which the good characters are without moral blemish, while the evil ones are without
redeeming qualities. But A Tale of Two Cities is also open-ended. Its uplifting outcome pivots upon miracles
of personal resurrection and self-sacrifice, as the author insists that nothing short of spiritual renewal can
prevent his own society from suffering the type of upheaval that erupted across the English Channel at the end
of the eighteenth century.
The theme of duality is manifest in Dickens's recourse to the device of twinned characters. Charles Darnay's
father and his uncle are, of course, biological twins, and the elder St. Evermondes are indistinguishable in
their haughty cruelty. It is, however, the close physical resemblance between Darnay and the world-weary
lawyer Sidney Carton that the author exploits to the utmost. Unjustly accused of treason, Darnay's case in
London appears to be lost until his attorney, Mr. Stryker, discredits the testimony of an eyewitness by
challenging him to discriminate between the defendant and Carton. The uncanny physical likeness between
the two men surfaces again in the novel's concluding chapters, when Carton substitutes himself for Darnay as
a victim of revolutionary justice in France. As personalities, Carton is plainly the more complicated of the two
and he is far more competent than his well-intentioned but consistently ineffective counterpart. Yet both men
are in love with the exceedingly pure Lucy Manette, a saintly figure whose goodness matches that of Darnay
and, at the same time, has the power to transmute Carton from a cynic into a self-sacrificing idealist.
In the first of the novel's three sections, we learn that Darnay's father and uncle were responsible for the
imprisonment of Dr. Manette, and we see the fruits of despotism in his wasted, spectral figure. But it is not
until Book Two that Dickens gives us a first-hand example of the callous indifference that the French
aristocracy has adopted toward the common people. When the gilded carriage of the Marquis St. Evermonde
tramples Gaspard's child, leaving behind a tossed gold coin in its wake, it is apparent that the rule of the great
lords is directly responsible for misery that the peasants and workmen of France have suffered for so long. We
later learn that Madame DeFarge's entire family has been raped or murdered by the Evermondes, and that
these crimes are characteristic of the entire class of aristocrats.
Despite the evident injustices, Dickens depicts the French Revolution of Book Three in elemental terms, as a
storm driven by a passion for revenge. It is not social injustice of the ancient regime, but individual barbarity,
which Dickens assaults. Indeed, an intemperate urge for revenge is presented by the author as being as evil as
the indifference of the aristocrats to the miseries that they have inflicted. Arguably, the work's central villain
is not Darnay's uncle, but his chief accuser, Madame DeFarge. The French mob hangs the aristocrat Foulon
without trial and they hold captive Monsieur Gabelle, a St. Evermonde family retainer whose only offense is
that he has served in an aristocrat's household. Moreover, in the second French trial of Charles Darnay, there
is no charge leveled against him other than being the scion of a proud aristocratic family. Throughout the text,
Dickens directs the reader's sympathies toward the innocent victims but he does not allow us to share the fury
of the vindictive. On the scaffold, Sidney Carton foresees the deaths of the judge and jury that have imposed
execution on Darnay (and hence himself), but he does not express any personal animosity toward them,
leaving their punishment in God's hands.
A Tale of Two Cities: Essays and Criticism 73
By the end of the novel, Darnay is one of three characters who have experienced a spiritual rebirth, and it is
resurrection with decidedly Christian overtones that comprises the salient theme of the novel. At the outset of
the story, Jarvis Lorry conveys a message to Lucy Manette in bold script: "RECALLED TO LIFE." Indeed,
the first of the A Tale of Two Cities bears that same subtitle and Dickens initially considered calling the entire
work Recalled to Life.
It is Dr. Manette to which this initially arcane message refers. Representative of the old Humanist spirit that
once animated French society, at the novel's start he has been figuratively "buried alive" for eighteen years.
Encountering the good doctor in the flesh, his daughter finds a man whom she can barely recognize, aged
beyond his years, completely distracted from the world, and engaged in a mechanical craft. But transported to
England and placed under Lucy's benevolent care, Dr. Manette is restored to his old spirit. By the time that
Charles Darnay begins his courtship of Lucy, Dickens shows us a reborn Manette, observing that, "the energy
which had once supported him in his old sufferings and aggravated their sharpness had been gradually
restored to him. He was now a very energetic man indeed, with great firmness of purpose, strength of
resolution, and vigor of action" (pp.117-118). Following his resurrection, the good doctor becomes an active
force in the novel, saving Darnay during his first trial in France.
Jerry Cruncher transports the message that Lorry writes to Lucy at the beginning of the novel to her. Sharing
the initials "J. C." with Jesus Christ, Jerry is a vulgar character who supplements his living by working as a
"resurrection man," digging up recently planted graves and selling the corpses to medical schools. This is, of
course, an illegal version of moonlighting, and Cruncher is also acutely aware of its sacrilegious nature,
side-stepping his son's inquiry about his vocation by saying that he is engaged in "agricultural pursuits."
Ultimately, however, he is compelled by circumstances to disclose the true nature of his nocturnal past-time.
As significant, he repents his past misdeeds, saying to Miss Pross, "never no more will I do it, never no
more!" (p.333). On his own, lower-case level, then, Cruncher undergoes a spiritual transformation, a
Dickens reserves the most important example of resurrection for Sidney Carton. When he first encounters his
rival for Lucy's affections, Carton tells Charles Darnay that "I am a disappointed drudge, sir. I care for no man
on earth, and no man on earth cares for me" (p.75). Despite his prodigious talents at the law, Carton is entirely
alienated from those around him. While Dickens does not furnish any explicit reasons for the barrister's
self-characterized identity as a "disappointed drudge," he makes it plain that this is a valid judgment. Carton
too undergoes a resurrection. As he resolves to sacrifice himself for Lucy's sake, his mind turns to the words
of Jesus, "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 believeth in me, shall never die" (p.287). In the end it is a "far, far better thing"
(p.345), that Carton does by giving up his life than he had ever done before.
All of the good characters in the novel are self-sacrificing, and in sharp relief to the French revolutionaries,
they risk their lives or exert positive influence for other individuals rather than some broad social cause. Lucy
Manette, of course, is the golden thread that allows her father to undergo restoration, and it is her benevolent
influence that supplies the spark that begins Sidney Carton's transformation. Following his resurrection, Dr.
Manette returns to France, where he becomes a Christ-like healer, braving the terrors of the Revolution and
ministering to assassins and victims alike as "a man apart" (p.250). At one juncture, Carton discloses to Lucy
that "you kindled me, heap of ashes that I am, into fire" (p.136). He ultimately himself sacrifices himself on
behalf of Lucy's happiness. In the final chapter of the book, Carton comforts a young girl who is slated for the
guillotine by saying, "'Keep your eyes upon me, dear child, and mind no other object'" (p.343), thereby a
function that approximates that of Jesus Christ. Even the semi-comical Jerry Cruncher sacrifices his own
interests by revealing first to Carton and then to his employer Lorry, that he is a "resurrection" man to
demonstrate his knowledge of the falsity of Basard's lies about Darnay.
Critical Analysis of A Tale of Two Cites 74
Ultimately the themes of social revolution and personal resurrection/self-sacrifice converge to form a unified
thematic whole. In A Tale of Two Cities, Dickens issues a warning to his fellow Englishmen, asserting that if
they "sow the same seed of rapacious license and oppression over again" (p.340), they too may find
themselves in the shadow of La Guillotine. But he does not put forth any blueprint for social reform to avoid
this eventuality. Instead, through his story, Dickens implores his readers to undertake their own spiritual
renewal, to shun the desire for revenge and to act in a spirit of Christian compassion and self-sacrifice towards
those in their midst.
Obsession with Duality
In a preface to A Tale of Two Cities Dickens described how the idea for the novel came to him when he was
playing a role in 1857 in a theatrical production of The Frozen Deep, a play written by his friend Wilkie
Collins. In the play a man involved in a love triangle sacrifices his life to save the rival suitor of the woman he
loves. Dickens's account of the origins of the novel points to Sydney Carton as the central character of A Tale
of Two Cities, although other evidence suggests that other ideas might have played as large a role in the birth
of the book. In notebooks as early as 1855 there appear references to the fate of people released after long
imprisonment and to the phrase "Buried Alive," which was for a time Dickens's working title for A Tale of
Two Cities. "Recalled to Life" became his title for Part I of the novel. This evidence places Dr. Manette's
imprisonment center stage. An argument for either character as focal misses Dickens's craft in bringing those
two characters—and others—together in the theme of resurrection and renewal, life, death and rebirth in this
story of the French Revolution.
The secrecy shadowing the opening chapter, best expressed in the cryptic message "Recalled to Life," attends
the effort to retrieve Dr. Manette from the French prison where he has been "buried" for eighteen years. Three
times Dickens repeats the following exchange:
"Buried how long?"
"Almost eighteen years."
"I hope you care to live."
"I can't say."
Dr. Manette, a man figuratively returned from the grave and given life again, is the first of many characters in
the novel whose life story is the story of death and rebirth. Charles Darnay, on trial for his life at the book's
opening, is acquitted; then in France not once but twice, he is retried, each time to be rescued from a near
certain death by guillotine. He is rescued first by Carton, then by Dr. Manette, then again by Carton, who
speaks the words of the Anglican funeral service, "I am the Resurrection and the Life." Carton himself is
figuratively brought to life by his heroic role in the novel. In his first appearance, at Darnay's trial, Carton is
the Jackal to Stryver's Lion, a man whose promise has ended in a dissolute alcoholism and idleness. When he
describes himself to Lucie as a "self-flung away, wasted, drunken, poor creature of misuse," she asks: "Can I
not recall you … to a better course?" Indeed she does. In his self-sacrificing devotion to Lucie he finds
redemption, giving his life that Darnay might live, the savior saved.
Dickens extends the "Recalled to Life" theme to the secondary characters, sometimes in comic ways. Jerry
Cruncher, for example, is a "Resurrection Man," the term given to those who robbed the graves of the freshly
buried to keep the anatomy schools supplied with corpses. Cruncher's efforts to retrieve the body of Roger Cly
following his burial are stymied when he discovers an empty casket. Cly's death and burial as an Old Bailey
spy, complete with an enraged London mob, is a fraud, a means of his escaping England with John Barsad.
Obsession with Duality 75
Cly, too, then, is "buried" and resurrected. The aristocrat Foulon tries the same trick in Paris, but the enraged
French mob will not be fooled. "Resurrected" from a staged death, he is then killed, his mouth stuffed with
grass in fitting vengeance for his once having told the hungry peasantry to eat grass.
The larger canvas on which Dickens works is the story of the two cities of the title, the historical account of
the French Revolution about which Dickens also thinks in terms of death and renewal, for the Revolution is
the death of the ancien regime and the birth of the Republic, the bloody and fiery renewal of France. In the
same preface in which he spoke of the genesis of the novel in his participation in Collins's play, Dickens also
expressed his gratitude to Victorian historian Thomas Carlyle, whose The French Revolution (1837) Dickens
once claimed in a letter to have read "for the 500th time." From Carlyle, Dickens took both numerous specific
details about the Revolution and a more general view of history. Carlyle viewed history as a grand succession
of eras, often in cycles of destruction and reconstitution. In history there was always a revelation of a divine
moral order at work in the world. The French Revolution, the single most significant recent event in the lives
of those like Carlyle and Dickens who were born in the Napoleonic aftermath, offered abundant lessons
regarding the presence of the past. Horrified by the Terror of 1793, the English read the lesson that corruption
breeds corruption, that extremes are followed by extremes. The earlier generation of English writers, typified
by the Romantic poet William Wordsworth were stirred by the ambitious idealism of the Revolution. To
Dickens, by contrast, although he evoked sentimental ideals in Carton's sacrifice to save the life of a rival
lover, there was nothing romantic or idealizing about what death was necessary to recall to life a nation.
The avenging revolutionaries are as dreadful as those whom they overthrow. Dickens allots a single chapter to
recounting the rape of the young peasant girl, Madame Defarge's sister, at Darnay's second trial when Defarge
reads from the account of the affair which Dr. Manette had written in 1857. Only three chapters sketch the
proud indifference to the suffering of the peasantry of Monseigneur St. Evremonde, Damay's uncle, leading to
his murder. The remaining French chapters unroll in all their gruesome predictability the equally barbarous
French mobs of the Revolution. In other words, Dickens is more horrified by the sins of the Revolutionaries
than by the sins of the aristocrats which give birth to revolution. Except for the Defarges, who are given
names and more singular identities, the Revolutionaries are seen collectively, all of them named "Jacques." St.
Antoine, a place name for a Paris suburb, is personified, given a collective identity. In the Carmagnole, the
frenzied dance in the Paris streets which follows Darnay's acquittal in his first French trial, all identities merge
into one destructive force. Finally, characters have identities not as persons but as awful functions in the
Revolution, as in the case of Vengeance, who accompanies the Defarges.
With death and life so closely linked in the renewal theme, Dickens found a strategy for his presentation. He
presents, beginning with the title, complementary and contradictory pairs of places, characters, events, and
ideas. London and Paris, the former apparently a safe haven, the latter a hell, are more similar than they seem.
Darnay is tried in both cities. The mob at Cly's "burial" is as frenzied as the ones in Paris. At the Manettes'
apartment in Soho, a thunderstorm disrupts an outdoor Sunday dinner, driving the Manettes inside for safety
while people hurry in the streets, their footsteps "the footsteps destined to come to all of us."
Characters are doubles of each other. Carton resembles Darnay, in the beginning physically but not morally,
in the end reversed. Darnay himself, having renounced his birthright, is a ghost of the Evremondes. Darnay's
father and uncle are twins, indistinguishable in their awful pride. Dr. Manette has two selves, the imprisoned
man who flees the horror of his imprisonment by reducing his life to work on a shoe bench, and the rescued
man who several times regresses to his former self.
Even Dickens's style reflects his obsession with duality. The famous opening passage almost traps Dickens,
like a repeated melody which he cannot stop:
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of
foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of
Obsession with Duality 76
Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair,
we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven,
we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period,
that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the
superlative degree of comparison only.
The key note struck is contradiction, but the passage also points to the similarity between the age of the
French Revolution and Dickens's own. His story insists that all ages are one in the call of duty and the threat
to civility and virtue. His most virtuous characters in the book—Lucie, Darnay, Carton, Manette, Lorry—are
self-sacrificing, but, unlike the Revolutionaries, who insist on self-sacrifice for the sake of Revolution,
Dickens's virtuous ones give of themselves for another individual. For Dickens the grand sweep of historical
events is still dwarfed by the power of personal relationships in which life, death, and renewal are less
ambiguous, as the Revolution disappears before Carton's final words: "It is a far, far better thing I do than any
I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest I go to than any I have ever known." Dickens's apparent solution to
the problem of a world so troubled that it spawns vengeful revolution is a call to a moral renewal in our
personal relationships which would make such revolutions unnecessary.
Source: George V. Griffith, in an essay for Novels for Students, Gale, 1999. Griffith is a professor of English
and philosophy at Chadron State College in Chadron, Nebraska.
A Tale of Two Characters: A Study in Multiple Projection
Lucie is basically only one more in the line of Dickensian virgin-heroines whom the critic Edwin Pugh [in
The Charles Dickens Originals, 1925] felicitously called "feminanities." Yet, as Professor Edgar Johnson
clearly saw [in his book Charles Dickens: His Tragedy and Triumph, Vol. II, 1952], there was a subtle
Lucie … is given hardly any individual traits at all, although her appearance, as Dickens
describes it, is like that of Ellen, "a short, slight, pretty figure, a quantity of golden hair, a pair
of blue eyes," and it may be that her one unique physical characteristic was drawn from Ellen
too: "a forehead with a singular capacity (remembering how young and smooth it was), of
lifting and knitting itself into an expression that was not quite one of perplexity, or wonder, or
alarm, though it included all the four expressions." … The fact that Lucie and Dr. Manette at
the time of his release from the Bastille are of almost the same age as Ellen and Dickens does
not mean that the Doctor's feeling for his daughter is the emotion Dickens felt for the pretty,
blue-eyed actress, although the two merge perhaps in his fervent declaration [in his letter
protesting the scandal, a letter which he "never meant to be published"] that he knows Ellen to
be as "innocent and pure, and as good as my own dear daughter."
But Lucie fails to fit into the pattern of the unattainable dream-virgin of the earlier novels in at least one other
respect. Most of Dickens' earlier heroine-ideals do not marry until the last-chapter summation of the
"lived-happily-ever-after" pattern. Lucie is married, happily married, through much of the book. She
maintains a household for her husband and her father, and she finds room for compassion, if not love, for the
erring Carton. What is more, she has children, two of them. Yet she seems never to grow older. She was
seventeen in 1775; she is, to all intents and purposes, seventeen in 1792. In the interim she has allegedly given
birth to two Dickens-ideal infants, two of the most sickening little poppets we could possibly expect from one
who, despite his experience as the father of ten children, still sought desperately to re-create infancy and
childhood in an image which would affirm his own concept of unworldly innocence. Let the reader take a firm
grip on himself and read the dying words of the little son of Charles and Lucie Darnay, who died in early
childhood for no other reason, it must seem, than to give the author another opportunity to wallow in bathos.
A Tale of Two Characters: A Study in Multiple Projection 77
"Dear papa and mamma, I am very sorry to leave you both, and to leave my pretty sister; but I
am called, and I must go!" …
"Poor Carton! Kiss him for me!"
Poor Carton, indeed! Poor Dickens! Little Lucie is not much better, for in Paris, after her father's
condemnation, when her mother is mercifully unconscious and unaware of Carton's presence, she cries out in
sweet childish innocence to friend Sydney:
"Oh, Carton, Carton, dear Carton! … Now that you have come, I think you will do something
to help mamma, something to save papa! Oh, look at her, dear Carton! Can you, of all the
people who love her bear to see her so?"
Out of the mouths of babes! At this point there is obviously nothing for Sydney to do but head straight for the
nearest guillotine.
But Sydney is not to be left wholly without his own dream girl. Just as the purified Darnay is permitted to live
out his life with the "attained" (and untainted) Lucie, so the dying Carton is accompanied to his execution by
the virgin-victim, the innocent seamstress whom he solaces and strengthens until the final moments of their
love-death, although her first glance had revealed that he was not the man Darnay whom she had previously
Since the pattern of attainability is characteristic of the primary "virgin" in this novel, the figure of the
decayed virgin, the older freak and enemy, is markedly absent from it. A few novels back, Dickens had had
such characters in the immortal Sairey Gamp (Martin Chuzzlewit) and Mrs. Pipchin (Dombey and Son); he
was to have the most horrifying of them all in his very next novel (Great Expectations) in the person of Miss
Havisham. Here Miss Pross, although she has many of the elements of the "freak" in the best Dickensian
tradition, is all benevolence, with her red-headed queerness overshadowed by her devoted love and
affectionate care of the virgin-queen to whom she is a substitute mother, with no flaw except her
unconquerable belief in the virtue and nobility of her erring brother Solomon. Just as she, the benevolent
mother-protectress, is herself merely an aged virgin, so her counterpart and rival is the childless wife (also a
devoted, albeit vindictive, sister), Thérèse Defarge. The word rival is used advisedly, for while there is no sign
of overt rivalry between the two during nine-tenths of the novel, Dickens goes out of his way to bring them
face to face at the end. He strains all of his plot structure to bring Mme. Defarge to the Manette dwelling on
the day of the execution to have Miss Pross left there alone to face her. Then a melodramatic physical
encounter ensues between the two women, neither of whom can, in any sense of the words, speak the other's
language. Lucie's bad angel falls dead (accidentally, of course, by her own hand), but the good angel is not
unscathed, and if, in her later life, her "queerness" is augmented by the ear-trumpet which she will no doubt
use, yet all will know that she came by this crowning, though no doubt humorous, affliction in a good cause.
Although the category of mother-figure is limited, there is no lack of father-counterparts, for the law-as-father
has become blended with the fear of condemnation by society, which thereby also becomes a symbolic
father-figure. Society and its moral sanctions constitute the only fly in the ointment of adolescent happiness in
a sinful love. We have noted that, as a propitiatory gesture, Charles's wicked father-enemy is not his father (as
he well might have been) but his thoroughly aristocratic twin-uncle, who, being French, is more villainous
than any British father-enemy might have been. Mr. Stryver, in his vampirish relationship with Carton, is
another figure of the worthless "father" who sucks the blood of his talented "son." And since Dickens almost
always maintains a balance between evil and virtuous figures in all categories, we have, on the benevolent
side, Mr. Lorry, another unmarried "father," the only living figure in the gallery of scarecrows who inhabit
Tellson's Bank. Midway between the two classes is the hagridden Ernest Defarge, whose every attempt at
benevolence is thwarted by his vengeful wife and her abettors, the allegorically named Vengeance and the
A Tale of Two Characters: A Study in Multiple Projection 78
members of the society of Jacques. This last-named group produces one brilliantly sketched psychopath, the
sadistic, finger-chewing Jacques Three.
The one remaining father-figure is the most interesting, complex, and well-developed character in the whole
novel, Dr. Manette. Since he could not have been much more than twenty-five years old when he was torn
from his newly-wedded English wife to be imprisoned in the Bastille for nearly eighteen years, he must have
been less than forty-five when we first met him in Defarge's garret. And Dickens, let it be remembered, was
forty-five when he wrote of him. Here is his portrait:
A broad ray of light fell into the garret, and showed the workman, with an unfinished shoe
upon his lap, pausing in his labour. His few common tools and various scraps of leather were
at his feet and on his bench. He had a white beard, raggedly cut, but not very long, a hollow
face, and exceedingly bright eyes. The hollowness and thinness of his face would have caused
them to look large, under his yet dark eyebrows and his confused white hair, though they had
been really otherwise, but they were naturally large, and looked unnaturally so. His yellow
rags of shirt lay open at the throat, and showed his body to be withered and worn.
Of course the appearance of great age in a middle-age man is rationally explained by the suffering entailed by
his long, unjust imprisonment. Yet, nearly eighteen years later (the repetition of the number is meaningful),
when he has become the unwitting agent of his son-in-law's destruction and has been unable to use his special
influence to procure Charles' release, he is pictured as a decayed mass of senility.
"Who goes here? Whom have we within? Papers!"
The papers are handed out and read.
"Alexandra Manette. Physician. French. Which is he?"
"This is he,"
this helpless, inarticulately murmuring, wandering old man pointed out.
"Apparently the Citizen-Doctor is not in his right mind? The Revolution-fever will have been
too much for him?"
Greatly too much for him. Carton envisions his complete recovery, but we have some difficulty in believing
In the interim, however, he is pictured as a stalwart, middle-aged medical practitioner. His sufferings have
caused a period of amnesia, with occasional flashes of painful recollection, as in the scene in which he hears
of the discovery of a stone marked D I G in a cell in the Tower of London. We never know, by the way,
whether his recollection at this moment is complete and whether he has, even furtively, any recall of the
existence of the document of denunciation found by M. Defarge. The aspects of conscious and repressed
memory are here handled with great skill by Dickens. Generally, his amnesia is reciprocal; he cannot recall
his normal life during the period of relapse, or vice versa, especially when his relapses are triggered by events
and disclosures which bring up memories of his old wrongs. His reversion to shoemaking for a short time
after Charles proposes marriage to Lucie and again for a longer time following Lucie's marriage and Charles's
final revelation of his long-suspected identity foreshadow the great disclosure which is to make him the
unwitting aggressor against the happiness of his loving and beloved daughter.
A Tale of Two Characters: A Study in Multiple Projection 79
When we consider Dr. Manette's conduct, however, we find that, whether Dickens consciously intended it to
be or not, the doctor of Beauvais is a good psychiatrist, at least in the handling of his own illness. His
shoemaking is superficially pictured as a symptom of mental regression and decay, but in its inception it must
have been a sign of rebellion against madness rather than a symptom thereof. He relates that he begged for
permission to make shoes as a means of diverting his mind from its unendurable suffering. Shoemaking, truly
an example of vocational therapy, was the only contact with reality that his distracted mind, otherwise cut off
from reality, possessed. It was, therefore, a means of bringing about his recovery. Lucie fears the shoemaking,
but she realizes that her loving presence, coupled with the availability, if needed, of the vocational contact
with reality, will serve to draw him back to normal adjustment. It would seem, then, that the act of Mr. Lorry
and Miss Pross, carried on furtively and guiltily, of destroying his shoemaker's bench and tools after his
spontaneous recovery from the attack following Lucie' s wedding, was a great error, an error against which the
doctor, giving an opinion in the anonymous presentation of his own case by Mr. Lorry, strongly advises. For
when he once again falls into a state of amnesia and confusion, after the realization of the damage he has done
to Charles and his impotence to remedy that damage, he calls for his bench and tools, but they are no longer to
be had, and he huddles in a corner of the coach leaving Paris, a pitiful picture of mental decay from which we
can see no hope of recovery despite the optimistic vision of Carton's last moments.
The basic aim of this paper has been, of course, psychological interpretation; but the psychological critic has
sometimes been accused of neglecting the critical function of evaluation, and possibly a few concluding words
might be added on that score.
In a lecture on criticism given at Harvard in 1947, E. M. Forster [as recorded by V. S. Pritchett in an article on
E. M. Forster, published in the New York Times Book Review, December 29, 1968] distinguished beautifully
between the function and method of creation and the function and method of criticism.
What about the creative state? In it a man is taken out of himself. He lets down, as it were, a
bucket into the unconscious and draws up something which is normally beyond his reach. He
mixes this thing with his normal experience and out of the mixture he makes a work of art.…
After this glance at the creative state, let us look at the critical. The critical state has many
merits, and employs some of the highest and subtlest faculties of man. But it is grotesquely
remote from the state responsible for the works it affects to expound. It does not let buckets
down into the unconscious. It does not conceive in sleep or know what it has said after it has
said it. Think before you speak, is criticism's motto; speak before you think is creation's. Nor
is criticism disconcerted by people arriving from Porlock; in fact it sometimes comes from
Porlock itself.
What Mr. Forster has set forth can best be understood in the light of the road which has been taken by
psychological, particularly psychoanalytic, criticism in the more than twenty years which have elapsed since
the delivery of that lecture in 1947. The psychoanalytic critic of today would like to think that he comes from
Xanadu rather than Porlock. He cannot claim that he consistently writes before he thinks, but his thinking is to
some extent based on material which the bucket lowered into the depths has brought up for him.
What can he say about the permanent literary value of the work which he is discussing? He cannot of course
undertake to give any absolute final judgment; it will hardly be suitable for him to do what so many academic
critics do, that is, to report the state of critical opinion in the "in-group" that usually passes critical judgment
in academic circles. I have suggested elsewhere that the function of the psychoanalytic critic in evaluation is
to prognosticate rather than to judge. I can do no better than to quote here my preferred authority, Norman
Holland [as quoted from The Dynamics of Literary Response, 1968]:
Saying a literary work is "good," then, from the point of view of our model, is predicting that
it will pass the test of time; that it "can please many and please long"; that it is a widely
A Tale of Two Characters: A Study in Multiple Projection 80
satisfying form of play; or, more formally, that it embodies a fantasy with a power to disturb
many readers over a long period of time and, built in, a defensive maneuver that will enable
those readers to master the poem's disturbance.
A Tale of Two Cities does, it seems to me, give every indication, even apart from its past history, that it "can
please many and please long." Its use of the dynamic scapegoat pattern with the employment of the pattern of
multiple projection, which it has been my aim to point out in this essay, does indeed embody a fantasy, a
fantasy which was disturbing to Dickens and is still undoubtedly disturbing to many readers, and has used that
device of multiple projection as the defensive maneuver that enables readers to master that disturbance. In that
sense, there seems to be little doubt about the continuance of the perennial popularity of this often maligned
but still frequently read novel of Dickens' later period.
But all of that is really by the way. Criticism of the kind which I have attempted is designed to furnish
information rather than critical judgment, even of a prognostic nature; it is the kind of criticism which was
described by Arthur Symons in his introduction to the Biographia Literaria of Coleridge:
The aim of criticism is to distinguish what is essential in the work of a writer. It is the delight
of the critic to praise; but praise is scarcely part of his duty.… What we ask of him is that he
should find out for us more than we can find out for ourselves.
Source: Leonard Manheim, "A Tale of Two Characters: A Study in Multiple Projection," in Dickens Studies
Annual, 1970, pp. 225-37.
A Tale of Two Cities
Charles Dickens was in a driven demoniac state of mind when the idea for A Tale of Two Cities came to him.
The bracelet he sent to Ellen Lawless Ternan had fallen into the hands of his wife Kate; and he was
determined to end his marriage and to seduce Ellen. But he was in the midst of the rehearsals which had
finally brought himself and Ellen together; and he could not pause to think. Amid Kate's tears, Forster's
disapproval and a generally unnerving situation, he carried on in his furious possessed fashion, determined to
have his own way and yet to keep his hold on the public; and in the midst of this spiritually and physically
racked condition, as he was holding back his agony of mind by acting and producing The Frozen Deep, the
central idea of the novel burst upon him.
So much we know from his own statement. It is clear then that we should be able to find the imprint of his
ordeal, his tormented choice, in the novel. One would expect writers on his work to concentrate on this
problem; but so abysmally low is the standard of Dickens criticism that no one has even seriously raised the
question at all.
Where then is the imprint of the situation to be traced? By solving this point we can begin to understand what
the novel itself is about, and the part it plays in Dickens' development. One general aspect of the selection of
theme is at once obvious. The deep nature of the breach he is making with all customary acceptances is
driving him to make a comprehensive effort to grasp history in a new way. So far (except for Barnaby Rudge)
he has been content to use certain symbols to define his sense of basic historical conflict and movement. Yet
all the while the influence of Carlyle, both in his French Revolution and his prophetic works like Past and
Present, has been stirring him with the need for a direct statement of the historical issue as well as a symbolic
one; and now, as he is coming close to a full confrontation of his opposition to all ruling Victorian values, he
feels the need to set his story of conflicting wills in a manifestly revolutionary situation: that on which he had
so long pondered as holding the clue to the crisis of his own world.
A Tale of Two Cities 81
He had read and re-read Carlyle's history, till its theme and material were richly present in his mind; and now
he wrote to the master asking for a loan of the cited authorities. The story goes that Carlyle jokingly sent him
all his reference-books, 'about two cartloads.' And in the novel's preface Dickens wrote:
It has been one of my hopes to add something to the popular and picturesque means of
understanding that terrible time, though no one can hope to add anything to the philosophy of
Mr. Carlyle's wonderful book.
But though this need to make a general reconsideration of the nature of historical movement and change was
certainly central in the impulse that Dickens felt, he had to fuse the overt theme with a more immediately
personal nexus of emotion and imagery before it could take full grip of him. In the midst of his domestic
misery and frenzied play-acting he did not feel simply an intellectual need to revalue history. The desire to
break through obstructions and to mate with Ellen could turn into the desire to write about the French
Revolution only if some image or symbol made him feel a basic coincidence between his own experience and
the Revolution. What then was this image?
It was that of the Imprisoned Man in the Bastille. The Lost Man who has been jailed so long that he has
become an automaton of oppressed misery; who has forgotten even the source of his wrong, the cause of his
dehumanizing misery; who needs to break out of the deadly darkness of stone in order to become human
again, to learn the truth and regain love.
Here then is the core of the novel. The originally-intended title was Recalled to Life. Though Dickens dropped
this for the whole novel, he kept it for the first part, and it expressed the originating emotion of the story. A
Tale of Two Cities is built up from the episode of Dr. Manette's unjust imprisonment; and its whole
working-out is concerned with the effects of that unjust deprivation of light and joy: effects which entangle
everyone round the Doctor and recoil back on his own head in unpredictable ways. The Doctor's fate is thus
for Dickens both a symbol of the Revolution, its deeds, causes, and consequences, and of himself, immured in
a maddening cell of lies and cruelties, and seeking to break through into the truth, into a full and happy
relationship with his fellows. It was the demented sense of environing pressures, of an unjust inescapable
mechanism, which caught Dickens up in the midst of his wild mummery and gave him a sense of release
when he determined to write the novel.
It has been pointed out (by T. A. Jackson) that there is a close underlying similarity between the plot of A Tale
and that of Little Dorrit (the preceding novel in which Dickens had at last fully marshalled his condemnation
of Victorian society). Both Dorrit and Manette are imprisoned for a score of years; both are released by forces
outside their control and then continue tormented by their jail-experience. Dorrit is haunted by fear of social
exposure, which comes finally in the collapse of Merdle (the exposure of the theft basic in the economic
system). Dorrit thus from one angle embodies Dickens's deep fears of the past, fears of being exposed, fears of
being driven back on the terrible moment of loss which therefore threatens to return in exacerbated form. He
also embodies the bad conscience of a whole society which dares not contemplate truly its origins. But in
Manette the symbolism goes much deeper. The experience of oppressive misery has not merely twisted him,
as it twisted Dorrit; it has broken down the whole system of memory in his psyche. The problem then is: What
can restore consciousness? What can connect the upper and the hidden levels of the mind again? Manette is
kept going by a blind exercise of the craft learned in the cell of oppression, and only the intrusion of events
from the Revolution can bring him back to an active consciousness and release him from his obsession. But
the drama of objectifying in action the pattern of memory, the repetition-compulsion which must be broken,
inevitably brings its shocks, its apparent evocation of forces as destructive as those working from the
traumatic level. The test lies in the way that evocation is faced, the way it works out. So Manette finds that the
bitterness engendered by his sufferings as an innocent wronged man has tangled him up in a net (inside a
larger reference of social action and reaction, guilt and innocence) from which escape is possible only after a
great sacrifice has been made. The old must die for the new to be born; man cannot attain regeneration
A Tale of Two Cities 82
without accepting its sacrificial aspect. In the story this appears in the struggle between Darnay and Carton for
Manette's daughter, and the solution that mates Darnay and the girl, yet sends Carton to a regeneration in
In this dire tangle of moral consequences we see Dickens confronting his own confused situation and trying to
equate his own moment of painful compelled choice with the revolutionary moment in which a definite break
is made with the old, amid violent birthpangs, and makes possible the rebirth of life, the renewal of love and
The lacerated and divided state of Dickens's emotions at this moment of choice is revealed by the device of
having two heroes who are practically twins in appearance and who love the same girl. Both Carton and
Darnay are generous fellows, but one is morally well-organized, the other is fecklessly a misfit. The latter,
however, by his devoted death reaches the same level of heroic generosity as his rival; indeed goes higher. His
gesture of renunciation completes the ravages of the Revolution with its ruthless justice, and transforms them
into acts of purification and redemption, without which the life of renewed love would not he possible.
Thus, in the story, Dickens gets the satisfaction of nobly giving up the girl and yet mating with her. He splits
himself in the moment of choice, dies, and yet lives to marry the beloved, from whom the curse born out of a
tainted and divided society is at last removed. And at the same time he is Manette, the man breaking out of a
long prison-misery, who seeks only truth and justice, and whose submerged memory-drama projects itself as
both the Carton-Darnay conflict and the socially-impinging dilemma that disrupts and yet solves that conflict.
There are thus a number of ambivalences in the story; and Dickens shows himself divided in his attitude to the
Revolution itself. His petty-bourgeois fear of mass-movements is still alive; but the fascination of such
movements, which stirred so strongly in Barnaby, is even keener than the fear. On the one hand he clings to
the moral thesis to defend the Revolution: the Old Regime was vilely cruel and bestialized people, it could not
but provoke excesses in return as the bonds slipped. But this thesis, to which Carlyle had sought to give a
grandiose religious tang, now merges for Dickens with a deeper acceptance:
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.
Six tumbrils roll along the streets. Change these back again to what they were, thou powerful
enchanter Time, and they shall be seen to be the carriages of absolute monarchs, the
equipages of feudal nobles, the toilets of flaring Jezebels, the churches that are not my
Father's house but dens of thieves, the huts of millions of starving peasants.
This passage begins with the simple moral statement; but the tumbrils, conjured up as mere counterpoises to
the feudal carriages, become emblems of a great purification sweeping away the reign of the old iniquity.
They express a ruthless transformation of society and are far more than an allegory of cruel tit-for-tat. Rather,
they appear as forces of triumphant righteousness.
Throughout the book there runs this ambivalent attitude to the Revolution, shuddering, yet inclining to a deep
and thorough acceptance. Not a blank-cheque acceptance, but one based on the subtle dialectics of conflict
revealed by the story of Manette. For that story, symbolizing the whole crisis and defining its tensions in the
depths of the spirit, makes a serious effort to work out the process of change, the rhythms of give-and-take,
the involved struggles with their many inversions and opposed refractions, the ultimate resolution in death and
love, in the renewal of life.
A Tale of Two Cities 83
The working-out of the clash of forces is in fact more thoroughly done than in any previous work of Dickens.
The weakness lies in the comparative thinness of characterization. The strain of grasping and holding intact
the complex skein of the story is too much for Dickens at this difficult moment of growth. But his instinct is,
as always, right. He needed this strenuous effort to get outside himself: no other way could he master the
difficult moment and rebuild his foundations. After it he could return to the attack on the contemporary world
with a new sureness, with new thews of drama, with new breadths of comprehension. The great works, Great
Expectations and Our Mutual Friend, were made possible. (I am not here dealing with those works; but it is
interesting to note that the imprisonment-theme finds its completion in the contrasted and entangled themes of
Miss Havisham and the old convict, the self-imposed prison of the traumatic moment and the
socially-imposed prison of the criminal impulse, both merging to express the compulsions of an acquisitive
A Tale is not a successful work like the two novels that followed it, but they would never have been written
without it. An inner strain appears in the rigidity of tension between the thematic structure and the release of
character-fantasy. Such persons as Manette, however, show a new persistence of psychological analysis, and
the Defarges show what untapped sources of dramatic force Dickens could yet draw on. The final falsification
of the book's meaning came about through the melodrama based on its material, in which the emphasis put on
Carton sentimentalized away all the profundities.
Lucie is meant to represent Ellen Ternan; but at this stage Dickens knows very little about the real Ellen, and
Lucie is therefore a stock-heroine. Charles Darnay, the winning lover, has the revealing initials Charles D.
Dickens with his love of name-meanings can seldom resist leaving at least one or two such
daydream-admissions among the names of a novel. Ellen was acting as Lucy in The Frozen Deep at the time
when the novel's idea came.
Source: Jack Lindsay, "A Tale of Two Cities," in Life and Letters, September, 1949, pp. 191-204.
A Tale of Two Cities: Suggested Essay Topics
Book the First: Recalled to Life
Chapter 1: The Period
Chapter 2: The Mail
Chapter 3: The Night Shadows
1. Discuss the theme of the likeness of people despite differences of place or time. Is this relationship useful
only within the context of A Tale of Two Cities, or can it be applied to other situations?
2. How does the fear of the messenger illustrate the narrator’s idea that it is impossible to know another
person? Does anything else in these opening chapters support this thought? Does anything contradict it?
Chapter 4: The Preparation
1. Write an essay reflecting on Mr. Lorry’s insistence that all of his relations are of the business type. Why
could this be important as to what his character represents? How is this related to his lifelong bachelorhood?
How does this reflect the Victorian Age?
2. Write an essay discussing the way Lucie Manette is portrayed as a woman in this chapter. What problems
arise from this depiction? Is this a mere reflection of Victorian ideals, or is it relevant to today’s times?
Chapter 5: The Wine-Shop
1. How does this chapter foreshadow the coming revolution? Look beyond the obvious answer that equates
the wine with blood. What does the single-mindedness of the crowd mean in this context? What of the
A Tale of Two Cities: Suggested Essay Topics 84
desolate conditions that they live in?
2. Discuss the significance of the name “Jacques.” What do the peasants gain by addressing each other in this
way? How did they come to use this term? Discuss any contemporary manifestations of this idea.
Chapter 6: The Shoemaker
1. Write an essay exploring the ways in which Dr. Manette has lost his identity. Use specific examples to
show how much of his past he has forgotten.
2. Discuss the role of Lucie’s affections in helping her father remember his past. Does this present any
problems in a contemporary context? How does this help to define Lucie as a character? What does this say
about the role of women in Victorian society?
Book the Second: The Golden Thread
Chapter 1: Five Years Later
Chapter 2: A Sight
1. Write an essay describing how Dickens portrays the English court system of the 1780s. Pay attention to the
discussion of the death penalty, the conversation between Jerry Cruncher and the man who wishes to see
Darnay drawn and quartered, and the nature of the crowd in the courtroom.
2. Write an essay comparing the behavior of Lucie Manette and Mrs. Cruncher in these chapters. What do
these two women have in common? Is their class difference more important than their similarities, as
portrayed by Dickens?
Chapter 3: A Disappointment
1. Write an essay exploring the use of comedy in this chapter. Contrast the ways in which the prosecution and
the defense portray the witnesses. Discuss the use of hyperbole in relation to the use of outright lies. Are they
the same? Different? Which one can be viewed in a comic light?
2. Discuss the crowd as they leave the courtroom. What are they in search of? Does this have anything to do
with a desire for justice? In what ways can this be seen as a warning against the danger of crowds?
Chapter 4: Congratulatory
Chapter 5: The Jackal
1. Write an essay about Sydney Carton. Can his lack of ambition be explained from the evidence given? Do
you, as a reader, feel any sympathy for him? Why or why not?
2. Discuss the idea that one character can shed light on our view of another character. What does the
conversation between Carton and Lorry reveal about each man? Besides the physical resemblance, how does
Darnay function as a mirror for Carton?
Chapter 6: Hundreds of People
1. Write about foreshadowing in this chapter. Take into account the idea of “hundreds of people,” the
approaching storm, the echoing footsteps, and the final paragraphs. What do all of these things anticipate?
2. Discuss the symbolism of the shoemaker’s bench. Why has Dr. Manette kept the bench? What does this
say about him?
Chapter 7: Monseigneur in Town
Chapter 8: Monseigneur in the Country
1. This chapter portrays the French nobility for the first time in the book. How are they portrayed? What is the
A Tale of Two Cities: Suggested Essay Topics 85
effect of placing this directly after the ominous warning of the previous chapter?
2. Write an essay describing how the nobility have no awareness of what the peasants are capable of. Pay
close attention to the accident and to what Defarge says and does, as well as to the man riding along with the
Chapter 9: The Gorgon’s Head
1. Write an essay that provides an overview of the argument that Darnay and the Marquis have about class
structure. Whose argument is more convincing? Why?
2. Describe the symbolism of stone in this chapter. How does the myth of the Gorgon relate to the scene?
Keep in mind the description of the murdered Marquis as a “stone face” with a “stone figure” attached.
Chapter 10: Two Promises
Chapter 11: A Companion Picture
1. Write an essay comparing Darnay’s revelation that he wants to marry Lucie to Stryver’s revelation of the
same intentions. Whom do the two men respectively tell? How do they speak of their desire? Who seems
more likely to marry Lucie? Why?
2. Discuss Stryver’s opinion of Carton. How is this ironic? Keep in mind what Carton does for Stryver. What
can be made of Stryver’s opinion that Carton should marry a woman who will protect him “against a rainy
Chapter 12: The Fellow of Delicacy
Chapter 13: The Fellow of No Delicacy
1. Discuss the character of Mr. Stryver in relation to his plan to marry Lucie. What do we learn about him as
this plan falls apart? What do his comments about Lucie reveal about his personality?
2. Explore just what is meant by Lucie’s “compassion.” How does she relate to Sydney Carton? Why does
he love her? What else do we know about Lucie, besides her capacity for compassion? Is her character meant
to be a personification of just this one trait, or does this seem unintentional? Explain.
Chapter 14: The Honest Tradesman
1. Write an essay about Jerry Cruncher’s “business.” How does this compare with what Mr. Lorry has said
about needing an occupation? What does it say about the class structure in England?
2. How does Jerry Cruncher relate to his family in this chapter? Compare this to events at the Manette
household. What does this say about class structure in England?
Chapter 15: Knitting
1. Explain how the Defarges are slowly building support for the revolution in this chapter. What thoughts do
they plant in the head of the mender of roads? How do they do this in a subtle way? Pay attention to Madame
Defarge’s use of metaphor.
2. Write an essay about the mender of roads. Is there a difference between him and the Defarges? Does he
seem aware that a revolution is brewing? Are the Defarges manipulating him for their own designs in the
same way that the nobility has been? Why or why not?
Chapter 16: Still Knitting
1. Write an essay about Madame Defarge. Is she portrayed as lacking compassion? Pay close attention to her
interaction with John Barsard and to her reaction to the news about the Manettes. Contrast this with the
A Tale of Two Cities: Suggested Essay Topics 86
compassionate character of Lucie Manette.
2. What does Ernest Defarge’s reaction to the news about the Manettes reveal about him? How is he different
from his wife in this respect? Between what are his loyalties split? How does this complicate matters for him?
Chapter 17: One Night
Chapter 18: Nine Days
1. How does Dr. Manette react to the marriage of his daughter? What does he say to Darnay? Does it seem
that it is something other than his daughter’s marriage that has led him back to his shoemaker’s bench?
2. Explore what we know about Charles Darnay’s secret. Think of his past as well as Dr. Manette’s past.
Keep in mind Dr. Manette’s reaction upon learning the secret. Why do we still not know the whole secret?
Examine how the clues to the nature of the secret are revealed.
Chapter 19: An Opinion
Chapter 20: A Plea
1. Write an essay about Lorry’s non-confrontational way of talking to Dr. Manette. Why does he employ this
method? Has he used this method before? When? Why? How does this relate to his business sense?
2. How is the past put to rest in this chapter? Think of both Dr. Manette and Sydney Carton. What do they
respectively do to come to terms with past events? Do they both seem to meet with success? Why or why not?
Chapter 21: Echoing Footsteps
1. How is Lucie’s life described? Think of her two children and the mention of the echoing footsteps, as well
as the hope in the final paragraph that events in France will not affect her. Even though Lucie is the focus of
part of this chapter, is she described as doing anything? What is the significance of this?
2. Compare Madame Defarge to Lucie. Does Madame Defarge have compassion? What does she say about
women and killing? What does she do to the governor’s body? What do these things reveal about her? What
emotions do Madame Defarge represent? Is she the opposite of the docile, passive Lucie?
Chapter 22: The Sea Still Rises
Chapter 23: Fire Rises
1. Write an essay about how women are depicted in this
chapter. Why are they described as mad? What does The Vengeance’s name reveal? What about Madame
Defarge’s treatment of Foulon? Contrast these portrayals with Lucie’s inactivity.
2. Is Dickens siding with the peasants or the nobility? Or is he treating both sides equally? Refer to what the
peasants do, keeping in mind what the nobility has said and done.
Chapter 24: Drawn to the Loadstone Rock
1. Reflect on Darnay’s decision to go to France. Does it seem believable? Why is he going? Would he be
aware of the danger he was placing himself in? Where do his loyalties lie?
2. Write an essay explaining how the action seems to be shifting towards France. Who goes to France? Can
the rest of the plot be inferred from the information given so far? Are there any unresolved mysteries to hold
reader interest?
Book the Third: The Track of a Storm
Chapter 1: In Secret
1. Write an essay about how the Revolution is gaining momentum. What has happened since Darnay left
A Tale of Two Cities: Suggested Essay Topics 87
England? What does Defarge’s refusal to help Darnay say about the strength of the Revolution?
2. Compare the behavior of the empowered peasants to the behavior of the previous ruling class. How do they
deal with personal appeals? Remember the Marquis and think of the treatment of Darnay’s arguments.
Chapter 2: The Grindstone
Chapter 3: The Shadow
1. Describe Mr. Lorry’s allegiances in this chapter. Does he put Lucie in danger by placing her in a less
secure apartment? Does he seem to care more for the bank than for Lucie? Why or why not?
2. Explore the parallels between Lorry’s allegiance to the bank and Ernest Defarge’s allegiance to the
republic. What are Defarge’s allegiances? Can we be sure of them yet? How do personal considerations fit
into both situations?
Chapter 4: Calm in Storm
Chapter 5: The Wood-Sawyer
1. Write an essay about the change that takes place in Dr. Manette in this chapter. How is he using his
imprisonment to his advantage? What change does this present in him? Why does his new position allow him
to gain strength? How is this related to Darnay’s suffering?
2. Discuss Lucie’s behavior in this chapter. What activity does she undertake? How is her character
development consistent with what has been said about her and with what she has said and done in earlier
Chapter 6: Triumph
Chapter 7: A Knock at the Door
1. Write an essay comparing this trial with Darnay’s earlier trial in England. Are the results the same? Pay
attention to how these results were achieved. Notice any similarities in the way Darnay was prosecuted in
England and the way he defends himself here. What does this say about systems of justice?
2. Describe the use of surprise and suspense in this chapter. Why is Darnay arrested again right after he is
freed? How does this play on reader expectations? How does this relate to the Defarges’ strategy of keeping
the nobility unaware of the danger they are in?
Chapter 8: A Hand at Cards
1. Explain how the various subplots are becoming important to the action of the central story. Pay attention to
Jerry Cruncher’s “honest trade” as well as Sydney Carton’s earlier behavior and keep in mind Barsad’s
previous actions.
2. Discuss the significance of Sydney Carton’s comment about “dangerous times” and the nature of crowds.
What does his comment about playing a “losing hand” foreshadow?
Chapter 9: The Game Made
1. Write an essay on Sydney Carton’s behavior in this chapter. Why does it seem that he is preparing for his
own death? What can be inferred about his plan from his behavior?
2. Examine Mr. Lorry’s interactions in this chapter. Consider his discussion with both Jerry Cruncher and
Sydney Carton. How do these conversations resolve previous thematic concerns? How do they help to move
the plot forward?
A Tale of Two Cities: Suggested Essay Topics 88
Chapter 10: The Substance of the Shadow
1. Write an essay describing how the information learned in this chapter changes our perception of Dr.
Manette. Does he seem like a stronger character now? Why or why not?
2. Examine what is revealed in this chapter about Charles Darnay’s family. How does this help to explain his
renunciation of his family? What role does his mother play in all of this?
Chapter 11: Dusk
Chapter 12: Darkness
1. How does Madame Defarge’s revelation change our perception of her character? Can she be viewed with
more sympathy now that her motivation has been revealed? Do her motives justify her behavior? Why or why
2. Write an essay about Sydney Carton’s plan. Can it be inferred at this point of the novel? Could it have
been inferred earlier? If so, does this point to a dramatic failing of the plot? Why or why not?
Chapter 13: Fifty-two
1. Write an essay about Sydney Carton’s behavior in this chapter. What is his motivation for what he is
doing? Think not only of his promise to Lucie but also of his reflections on the worthlessness of his own life.
2. What does the fact that Darnay does not once think about Carton reveal about the relationship between the
two men? Does this affect our perception of what Carton does? In what way?
Chapter 14: The Knitting Done
Chapter 15: The Footsteps Die Out For Ever
1. Write an essay about Madame Defarge. Can we feel any sympathy for her? What effect does her death have
on any sympathetic feelings that we may have for her? How would her character seem different if she lived?
2. Examine Sydney Carton’s final words. What do they say about his perception of his life? What do they
reveal about his feelings concerning his act of sacrifice?
A Tale of Two Cities: Sample Essay Outlines
The following paper topics are based on the entire book. Following each topic is a thesis and sample outline.
Use these as a starting point for your paper.
Topic #1
Write an analytical essay that examines how A Tale of Two Cities views different forms of
government. Compare the English system with the pre- and post-Revolutionary systems in France.
How are these systems alike? How are they different? What do these similarities and differences
reveal about Dickens’ opinions regarding governments?
I. Thesis Statement: Throughout the novel, Dickens draws comparisons between the governments of
England and France which reveal his opinions regarding governments.
II. England
A. Charles Darnay’s trial for treason
1. The prosecution’s argument
A Tale of Two Cities: Sample Essay Outlines 89
2. The defense’s argument
B. The verdict
1. Darnay is acquitted
2. The crowd is unhappy
C. Roger Cly’s “funeral”
1. His conviction as a spy
2. The mob’s idea of justice
III. Pre-Revolutionary France
A. Monsieur the Marquis
1. His mistreatment of the peasants
2. His argument with Charles Darnay about class
a. Darnay’s opinion
b. The Marquis’ opinion
B. Dr. Manette’s imprisonment
1. Reason he was imprisoned
2. Length of his incarceration
IV. Post-Revolutionary France
A. Charles Darnay’s arrest and imprisonment
1. Reason for arrest
2. Conditions in prison
B. Darnay’s first trial
1. Argument of prosecution
2. Argument in Darnay’s defense
3. Result of trial
C. Darnay’s second trial
1. Reason for arrest
2. Argument of prosecution
3. Argument in defense
4. Result of trial
D. Punishment in Post-Revolutionary France
1. Prison sentences
2. Beheadings
Topic #2
Write an essay that examines the roles that women play in the novel. Compare and contrast Lucie
Manette and Therese Defarge. What do their respective behaviors reveal about Victorian ideals?
I. Thesis Statement: The two significant women characters in the novel, Lucie Manette and Therese
Defarge, represent contrasting ideas about the role of women in Victorian society.
II. Lucie Manette
A. Relations to men
1. Her father
2. Jarvis Lorry
3. Charles Darnay
B. Moral behavior
1. Displays of compassion
2. Examples of selfless behavior
A Tale of Two Cities: Sample Essay Outlines 90
C. Role in the Revolution
1. Concern for the individual
2. Ability to think of the Revolution in an impersonal manner
III. Therese Defarge
A. Relations to men
1. Ernest Defarge
2. Charles Darnay
3. The “Jacques”
B. Immoral behavior
1. Denunciation of Darnay
2. Murder of Foulon
3. Leader of Revolution
C. Role in Revolution
1. Knitting death register
2. Leading women in riots
3. Organizing resistance to government
IV. Manner of presentation of women
A. Defined through men
1. Lucie defined through Darnay
2. Lucie defined through her father
3. Therese Defarge in opposition to her husband
B. Victorian ideals as displayed by Lucie
1. Passivity
2. Reliance on men
C. The antithesis of Victorian ideals as manifested in Therese Defarge
1. Violence
2. Independence
3. Madness/passion
Topic #3
Write an analytical essay that explores the role of crowds in A Tale of Two Cities. Why are mobs
violent by definition? Do crowds serve any “good” purpose in the novel? Examine both the actions
of mobs and the narrator’s comments about mob mentality.
I. Thesis Statement: The nature of crowds and mobs is a significant theme throughout A Tale of Two
II. Mobs at trials
A. Darnay’s trial in England
1. Comments crowd makes
2. Narrator’s comment regarding crowd
B. Darnay’s trials in France
1. Fickleness of crowd at Darnay’s first trial
a. Hope that Darnay will be hanged
b. Cheers at his acquittal
2. Ruthlessness of crowd at second trial
a. Elation at Darnay’s death-sentence
b. Paradox of letting Darnay hug his wife
A Tale of Two Cities: Sample Essay Outlines 91
III. Mobs in the Revolution
A. The storming of the Bastille
1. Peasants gain power through sheer numbers
2. Manipulation of mobs by the Defarges
B. The crowd gathered at the grindstone
1. Description of crowd
2. Lorry’s refusal to let the Manettes look out the window
C. Vastness of crowds at public executions
1. Entertainment value of the guillotine
2. Blood-lust satisfied
A Tale of Two Cities: Compare and Contrast
1780s: At the end of the period known as the Enlightenment, most educated people believed that the
universe was essentially knowable and operated by fixed laws capable of being understood by human
1850s: With the publication of Charles Darwin's The Origin of Species (1859), conservative
Victorians launched a backlash of religious fervor that spoke against scientific progress.
Today: With technological advances such as space travel and cloning, modern science appears to be
able to correct almost any problem. As specialization within science increases, however, few people
can know very much about a variety of sciences.
1780s: French thinkers and philosophes such as the Marquis de Montesquieu recommended an
enlightened system of government with powers balanced and divided among different bodies.
1850s: After decades of political stagnation, England began to liberalize its franchise by extending the
right to vote to all male citizens regardless of how little property they might own.
Today: With the collapse of Communist governments worldwide, the democratic model established
by the United States—on which the French Revolution was based—has become the model for most
national governments.
1780s: The science of anatomy was in such a primitive state that new bones were still being
discovered in the human body. The German Romantic poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe discovered
one, later known as the intermaxillary bone, in 1784.
1850s: By this time in England, Jerry Cruncher's trade of body-snatching had been extinct for over
twenty years, thanks to Parliament's Anatomy Act (1832).
Today: Modern medical science can replace portions of human anatomy with artificially-made bones,
or through transplant surgery substitute animal organs for human ones that fail. Because of the
success of transplants, a need for human organs has resurrected the trade of body-snatcher.
1780s: English sailors on board H.M.S. Bounty mutinied in the South Pacific when their captain Bligh
cut their water ration in order to water his cargo of breadfruit trees. The sailors concealed themselves
on Pitcairn Island and remained undiscovered for years.
1850s: Seafaring European explorers had identified most land masses and other Europeans were
beginning to press into the continental interiors of Australia, North America, and Africa.
A Tale of Two Cities: Compare and Contrast 92
Today: Modern satellite technology can map the entire world within the space of a few days. Very
few corners of the earth are still unknown to Europeans or their cultural descendants, the North
1780s: During the French Revolution, drinking was commonplace among all classes of society.
1850s: A "temperance movement" centered in Protestant countries (mostly English commonwealth
and the United States) vilified alcohol consumption and tried to eliminate drinking on moral grounds.
A Tale of Two Cities: Topics for Further Study
Investigate contemporary accounts of the French Revolution concentrating on the "Terror"—the
months between the summers of 1793 and 1794—and compare them to Dickens's own version of the
Compare the character of Maximilian Robespierre, the most powerful man in France during the
"Terror," to that of the fictional Madame Defarge.
Many critics consider Sidney Carton and Charles Darnay as two sides of a single character. Some of
them have suggested that this split in the novel reflects the split in Dickens's own life: at the time he
was writing, his marriage was breaking up and he was consorting with a younger woman. What
evidence is there for this in the novel?
The title of the book A Tale of Two Cities refers to the two cities of Paris and London. Compare and
contrast Dickens's presentation of the two. Why did the author consider them central to his story?
Dr. Manette is often said by other characters in A Tale of Two Cities to be "resurrected"—to have been
rescued from the grave and brought back to life. Trace the way this theme of "resurrection" occurs
throughout the novel.
Research the history of the Chartist Movement and other reform movements in Victorian Britain.
What parallels does Dickens draw between the abuses of the French Revolution and the kind of
society that opposed reform in England during his own life?
A Tale of Two Cities: Media Adaptations
Dickens made a lot of money by reading selections from his works aloud before an audience. His own
version of A Tale of Two Cities, which he prepared but never actually performed, was entitled The
Bastille Prisoner. A Reading. From "A Tale of Two Cities." In Three Chapters. It was published by
William Clowes of London, probably in the early 1860s. The text of The Bastille Prisoner can also be
found in Charles Dickens: The Public Readings, published in Oxford by the Clarendon Press, 1975.
The 1935 MGM film A Tale of Two Cities, featuring Ronald Colman as Sydney Carton, Basil
Rathbone as the Marquis St. Evremonde, and Elizabeth Allan as Lucie, received Academy Award
nominations for Best Picture and Best Editing. It is still regarded as the best film version of Dickens's
Burbank Films animated A Tale of Two Cities and released it in 1984. The film is available on
PBS television's Masterpiece Theatre produced A Tale of Two Cities in 1991. It featured James
Wilby, Serena Gordon, and John Mills in leading roles, and it is available on videocassette.
A Tale of Two Cities was recorded as a radio play by BBC Radio 4, featuring Charles Dance as
Carton, John Duttine as Darnay, Maurice Denham as Dr. Manette, and Charlotte Attenborough as
Lucie. It was released in the United States in 1989 by Bantam Doubleday Dell Audio, 1989.
A Tale of Two Cities: Topics for Further Study 93
Still from the 1935 movie A Tale of Two Cities, starring Ronald Colman (right) as Sydney Carton.
A Tale of Two Cities: What Do I Read Next?
Simon Schama's Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution (1989) is a modern account of the
people and events of the French Revolution that show how the rational goals of the Revolution mix
with irrational elements of the same period.
The Pickwick Papers (first serialized 1836-1837), Charles Dickens's tremendously popular first novel,
concentrates on the relationship between middle-class Mr. Pickwick and his lively Cockney servant
Sam Weller.
A Christmas Carol, in Prose: Being a Ghost Story of Christmas (1843) is Dickens's perennially
popular story about how the spirits of Christmas turn an old miser's outlook back to humanity.
Dickens's Great Expectations (1861) is the story of a young man's slow advancement in society
against the backdrop of mid-Victorian England.
War and Peace (1866) is Leo Tolstoy's study of Russian society during the period of the Napoleonic
Wars and the French invasion of Russia.
A Tale of Two Cities: Bibliography and Further Reading
Quotations from the text are based on the following edition:
Dickens, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities. New York: Signet Classic/Penguin Books USA, 1980.
Ackroyd, Peter. Introduction to Dickens. London: Sinclair Stevenson, 1991.
Dickens, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities. New York: Amsco School Publications, 1971.
Frank, Lawrence. Charles Dickens and the Romantic Self. University of Nebraska Press, 1974.
Glancy, Ruth F. "A Tale of Two Cities": Dickens's Revolutionary Novel. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1991.
Herst, Beth F. The Dickens Hero: Selfhood and Alienation in the Dickens World. New York: St. Martin's,
Hobsbaum, Philip. A Reader's Guide to Charles Dickens. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1973.
A Tale of Two Cities: Media Adaptations 94
Houston, Gail Turley. Consuming Fictions: Gender, Class and Hunger in Dickens's Novels. Carbondale:
Southern Illinois University Press, 1994.
Jordan, John O., ed. The Cambridge Companion to "A Tale of Two Cities." Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 2001.
Marlow, James E. Charles Dickens: The Uses of Time. Selinsgrove: Susquehanna University Press, 1994.
Newlin, George. Understanding "A Tale of Two Cities": A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources and
Historical Documents. Westport: Greenwood Press, 1998.
Newsom, Robert. Charles Dickens Revisited. New York: Twayne, 2000.
Page, Norman. "Introduction." In A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens edited by Norman Page. Rutland:
Charles E. Turtle Co., Inc., 1994, pp. xxiii-xxxii.
Rem, Tore. Dickens, Melodrama and the Parodic Imagination. New York: AMS Press, 2002.
Sanders, Andrew. The Companion to "A Tale of Two Cities." London: Unwin Hyman, 1988.
———. Dickens and the Spirit of the Age. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1999.
———. Charles Dickens. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.
Schlicke, Paul, ed. Oxford Companion to Charles Dickens. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.
Stephen, Sir James Fitzjames. A Tale of Two Cities. In Saturday Review, December 17, 1859, pp. 741-43;
reprinted in The Dickens Critics, edited by George H. Ford and Lauriat Lane, Jr. Ithaca: Cornell University
Press, 1961, pp. 38-46.
Further Reading
Baldridge, Cates. "Alternatives to Bourgeois Individualism in A Tale of Two Cities." In Studies in English
Literature, 1500-1900. Vol. 30, Autumn, 1990, pp. 633-54. A Marxist reading which sees the book as
sympathetic to the collectivist ideology of the Revolution.
Carlyle, Thomas. The French Revolution: A History, 2 volumes. Boston: Little, Brown, 1838. This work by
the famous Victorian author and critic is traditionally credited with providing the inspiration for Dickens's
scenes of Revolutionary life in France during the period covered in A Tale of Two Cities.
Dickens Studies Annual, Vol. 12. Southern Illinois University Press, 1983. A collection of essays ranging
across an array of topics about the novel.
Drinkwater, John. "The Grand Manner: Thoughts upon A Tale of Two Cities." In Essays of the Year. London:
Argonaut, 1929-1930, pp 3-14. In this essay, Drinkwater examines the manner in whichA Tale of Two Cities
reveals Dickens's creative talent.
Fielding, K. J. "Separation—and A Tale of Two Cities." In Charles Dickens: A Critical Introduction. London:
Longmans, Green, 1958, pp. 154-68. A biographical essay that examines the similarities between Dickens's
own failing marriage and the separation and loneliness of Dr. Manette.
A Tale of Two Cities: Bibliography and Further Reading 95
Frank, Lawrence. Charles Dickens and the Romantic Self. University of Nebraska Press, 1974. Sees Darnay,
not Carton, as the novel's focus and relates the character to Dickens's life.
———. "Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities: The Poetics of Impasse." In American Imago, Volume 36 (1979), pp.
215-44; reprinted under title "The Poetics of Impasse," in Charles Dickens and the Romantic Self by
Lawrence Frank. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1984, pp 124-50. Frank looks at the characters of
Sidney Carton and Charles Darnay in A Tale of Two Cities psychoanalytically, seeing Carton as Darnay's
doppelganger trying to bring the Frenchman to be aware of his guilty feelings toward Dr. Manette.
Friedman, Barton R. "Antihistory: Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities." In Fabricating History: English Writers
on the French Revolution. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988, pp. 145-71. Friedman provides a
useful guide to further criticism of Dickens's novel and draws parallels between the work and the genre of the
Gothic Romance.
Goldberg, Michael. Carlyle and Dickens. University of Georgia Press, 1973. Analyzes the influence of
Carlyle and his The French Revolution on Dickens.
Hutter, Albert D. "Nation and Generation in A Tale of Two Cities." PMLA,Vol. 93, May, 1978, pp. 448-62. A
psychological reading in which the clash of aristocrats of the ancien regime and the revolutionaries is also a
clash of parents and children.
Manheim, Leonard. "A Tale of Two Characters: A Study in Multiple Projection." In Dickens Studies Annual,
Vol. I, edited by Robert B. Partlow, Jr. Southern Illinois University Press, pp. 225-27. Relates Darnay and
Carton biographically to Dickens, viewing them as projections of Dickens's idealized self.
Sanders, Andrew. The Companion to "A Tale of Two Cities." Unwin Hyman, Ltd., 1988. Chronologically
arranged annotations to allusions in the novel likely not to be known by modern readers.

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