BOOK THE SECOND: THE GOLDEN THREAD
Chapter 1: Five Years Later
It was 1780, five years since Dr Manette was removed from the attic room over Defarge’s wineshop. The chapter opens with a description of Tellson’s bank, the institution that had looked after Manette’s affairs and had sent Jarvis Lorry to
. Tellson’s was a very old bank where things did not change much. At Tellson’s “the oldest men carried on the business gravely. When they took a young man into Tellson’s Paris house, they hid him somewhere till he was old.” London
Outside the bank’s door could be found a messenger and a jack-of-all trades, one Jerry Cruncher who, when he was absent from work would be represented by his son, young Jerry Cruncher, twelve years old. The old man was a mysterious fellow who had another occupation which no one knew about. But he always said he was an “honest tradesman.” His son however used to wonder why his father’s fingers were stained with rust “Always rusty!... Where does my father get all that iron rust from? He don’t get no iron rust here!” And probably because Jerry Cruncher kept something to himself about the nature of his work, he was in a bad mood in the house and quarrelled with his wife. He said that he could not understand why she would spend so much time in prayers and said that he was certain that she was praying against his prosperity.
In this chapter, Dickens offers some strong social criticism against British conservatism and adds another element to the social comparison between “the two cities,”
and London . Paris
‘Any one of these partners would have disinherited his son on the question of rebuilding Tellson’s. In this respect the House was very much on a par with the Country; which did very often disinherit its sons for suggesting improvements in laws and customs that had long been highly objectionable, but were the more respectable.’
, nothing seemed to change conditions except Death “which was Nature’s remedy for all things,... Accordingly, the forger was put to Death...the unlawful opener of a letter was put to Death...the holder of a horse at Tellson’s door, who made off with it, was put to Death...Not that it did the least good in the way ofprevention—but it cleared off (from this world) the trouble of each particular case, and left nothing else connected with it to be looked after. Thus Tellson’s in its day, like greater places of business, its contemporaries, had taken so many lives...” Britain
Basically this is social criticism against the conservatism of the British and their refusal to change with the times. Meanwhile, in
the winds of change were blowing. The French aristocrats lived their lives in a delicate, refined world, totally insensitive to the conditions of the common people. In France , the aristocracy did not oppress the people in the same manner but they also opposed social reforms and clung on to objectionable customs and practices. England
In the second paragraph quoted above, Death is seen as the great leveller. But this leveller was often used for the smallest of crimes. This legally sanctioned punishment was a great social abuse because it was often used against the common people who indulged in petty thefts and practices.
The mysterious Mr Cruncher
We know that Jerry Cruncher has another business apart from his messenger duties for Tellson’s bank. He calls himself “a honest tradesman” but his boots are dirty in the mornings when they were clean the evening before. Young Jerry is puzzled and so is the reader. He says that his hands are ‘rusty’ and yet his hands never get rusted in his work for Tellson’s. The elder Cruncher is always quarrelling with his wife who, we suspect, is quietly opposed to whatever Cruncher is doing. But we are not told of his secret occupations because this is Dickens’ way of drawing the reader on with the narrative.
Chapter 2: A Sight
In this chapter, Dickens gives a description of the British administration of justice at the Old Bailey, a well-known criminal court in
. There is a prisoner, Charles Darnay, who is accused of acting as a spy for the French king; if found guilty of high treason, the punishment would be death by “quartering”, or a form of slaughtering. It is this prospect of a hideous sentence that had attracted the attention of the crowd to the handsome young man who was in the docks. London
Dickens also draws attention to a middle-aged man and a young woman who were seated in the courtroom. The prisoner notices the young woman whom he finds very attractive and beautiful. Also seated on the lawyer’s bench is an absent-minded lawyer who appears
to take no interest in the proceedings and is constantly staring at the ceiling. This is Sidney Carton, a man who will move from this courtroom to a position of supreme importance in the novel.
This chapter is a kind of a preparation for the dramatic events that we about to follow. We see Dr Manette, his daughter, Charles Darnay, the accused and prisoner, and above all, Sidney Carton, the briefless lawyer who is to play a central role in the novel.
In this chapter, Dickens also draws attention to the psychology of the crowd who are attracted by the morbidity of the trial and the prospect of the prisoner being sentenced to death. The merits of the case were not of the least interest to the crowd; all they wanted was blood and in this sense was no different from the rabble in the
streets. Dickens has also used his novel as a social comment and this chapter is an illustration of the common mentality of the people. Paris
Chapter 3: A Disappointment
This is the trial of Charles Darnay accused of being a spy for the French.
The Attorney General says that the prisoner may be a young man but he is well-practised in the art of spying and treason. Not having much substance to press his charges, the Attorney General tries to stir the passions of the crowd and influence the jury against the accused through high-sounding phrases. He says that the chief witness, John Barsad, was “a patriot” and “an immaculate and unimpeachable witness for the Crown.” With melodramatic gestures, the Attorney General tells the jury that they “must positively find the prisoner Guilty, and make an end of him, whether they liked it or not.”
The Solicitor General first begins by questioning “the unimpeachable witness”, John Barsad, who had testified against Charles Darnay as a spy. Under close questioning, Barsad is shown up to be a questionable character, and certainly not a selfless patriot- as painted by the prosecution. Barsad was a man of property, living form its income but for the moment forgetful of just where that property was located. He also confessed that he had been to the debtor’s prison on five or six occasions. He also admitted that he had borrowed money from the accused but had failed to repay it; he had been thrown out of a gambling house for having cheated at dice.
After the Solicitor General broke down the first prosecution witness, the second, one Roger Cly, was called to the bar. He too broke down when his antecedents were questioned: he had been accused of theft and above all he had known the last witness for seven or eight years.
Jarvis Lorry was now called as witness, but the prosecution could not persuade him to identify Charles Darnay as having been a passenger with him from
to London . However, Lorry could identify the accused as a passenger during his return jurney from Dover to Calais . Lorry said he had been accompanied by a gentleman and a young lady on that trip, both of whom were seated in the courtroom. Lucie Manette was called upon to identify the prisoner. Yes, she said she had spoken with the “gentleman” (which was immediately corrected to “prisoner”) on the Dover-Calais boat. The prisoner had assisted her in making he father comfortable. Lucie Manette said the prisoner had talked about the American colonies and had even suggested that Dover was acting foolishly. England
A witness was now called by the prosecution who said he had seen the prisoner in the coffee room of a hotel along with a well known French agent. This witness remained firm in his conviction about having seen the prisoner until the defence lawyer asked him to see Sidney Carton (he had slipped a note to the defence lawyer) who was sitting in the courtroom. Now look at the prisoner, the defence lawyer commanded: “How say you? Are they very like each other?” Despite the attractive appearance of Darnay and the dirty condition of Sidney Cation, the resemblance between the two was astounding. When Carton removed his lawyer’s wig, the resemblance was even more striking. The prosecution witness collapsed. Charles Darnay was acquitted.
Dickens has called this chapter A Disappointment because it is a disappointment to the people who had fathered in the courtroom in the hope that the prisoner would be sentenced to death. The intensity of the crowd’s interest is directly proportional to the punishment that will be meted out if the prisoner is convicted. Sadly, for them he is acquitted. So at the end of the trial when Darnay is released, Dickens says of the crowd of spectators that with a “loud buzz (they) swept into the street (like) baffled blue-flies... dispersing in search of another carrion.” The tide of the chapter belongs to the crowd whose sordid hunger for blood was not satisfied.
The courtroom scene is arranged by Dickens in much the same manner as that used in the broken wine cask episode in Chapter 5 of Book 1. There is “a touch of drama in this chapter, particularly when Sidney Carton casually tosses a note to the defence lawyer, suggesting the resemblance between himself and Darnay. This changes the whole trend of the case and Darnay is acquitted.
The prosecution witness is discredited by the marked resemblance between Carton and the accused. Just as Carton has used this device to help free Darnay, he will make use of it years later in
when this man’s life is imperilled once again. France
Chapter 4: Congratulatory
When the drama finally ended, the participants all went home. In the five years since Dr Manette had returned from
, he had changed considerably. He no longer looked haggard and weak; his expression was alert and intelligent. But Sidney Carton noticed that during the trial, Dr Manette had his eyes fixed on Charles Darnay, with a look of fear and distrust on his face. Paris
After all the participants had left, Sidney Carton led Darnay to a drinking house. Darnay had something to eat but Carton only ordered a bottle of port wine. Strangely, Carton was bitter and started to taunt Darnay. “That’s a fair young lady to be pitied by and wept for by! How does it feel? Is it worth being tried for one’s life, to be the object of such sympathy and compassion, Mr Darnay?” Carton continues like this throughout but Charles Darnay does not become annoyed. He remembered that Carton had helped to get his acquittal and thanked him for it. “I neither want any thanks, nor merit any,” was the reply. Later as they were getting up from the table, Carton said: “I am a disappointed drudge, sir. I care for no man on earth, and no man on earth cares for me.” Darnay replied that it was a great pity and that Carton should have employed his abilities far better than he had, to which Carton replied: “May be so, may be not. Don’t let your sobre face elate you, however; you don’t know what it may come to Good-night!”
When he was at last alone, Sidney Carton, with a candle in his hand, looks at his image in a mirror against the wall:
‘Why should you particularly like a man who resembles you? There is nothing in you to like; you know that. Ah, confound you...A good reason for taking to a man, that he shows you what you have fallen away from, and what you 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.’
In this chapter we become acquainted with Sidney Carton and the miserable, wasted life that he leads. He is a drunkard and dressed in a very careless manner. Like all drunkards, he has a deep sense of bitterness that often lapses into Along with Sidney Carton, a reader would immediately compare him with the sobre Charles Darnay: the wholesomeness of Darnay and the debauchery of Carton. One of the reasons why Carton taunts Darnay is because he sees in him all the potential that he himself failed to fulfill. This confrontation between Carton and Darnay should be remembered by the reader especially when the relationship between the two is terminated at last. It will also be important to recall Carton’s remark about not caring for any man and no man caring for him and his depressed and self-pitying condition.
Chapter 5: The Jackal
Drinking was a popular pastime in eighteenth century
. Sidney Carton had taken to the bottle and perhaps under his influence so had the defence counsel in Darney’s case, Mr Stryver. But unlike Carton who had wasted his talents, Stryver was a rising lawyer and a great favourite at the court of Old Bailey. “He was like a great sunflower pushing its way at the sun from among a rank garden full of flaring companions.” However it had been noted among lawyers that Stryver lacked the ability to extract what was essential from statements and evidence and that this weakness was made up by his friend, Sidney Carton, who always accompanied Stryver on his cases. England
On the evening that Carton had spent with Darnay and was totally drunk when he got home at , a messenger came from Stryver’s house with an urgent summons. There were some important legal briefs for which Stryver needed clarifications. Carton went over immediately and plunged himself into the files, “aided with a liberal supply of towels and a basin of cold water” to keep himself sobre. Carton worked away, while Stryver lounged around on the sofa, glancing at a few papers. Seeing Carton continuously at work, Stryver remarked that Sidney was the same old Sidney he knew at school, “the old Seesaw Sydney”, spirited one moment and sad the very next, doing other boys’ lessons for them, and rarely attending to his own. Stryver told Carton that he was ruining his life through drink and drift but Carton would not get dragged into the discussion saying one should not discuss one’s past in the early hours of the morning when the dawn was breaking.
Stryver and Carton make an odd couple. Stryver makes his way through the world through sheer brashness and aggressiveness without any real talent at all; Sydney Carton has all the talent in the world but
gets nowhere because he does not care a damn either for himself or for the world around him. But the two make an excellent team in the courtroom—one feeding the other’s deficiencies.
Chapter 6: Hundreds of People
The scene that opens in this chapter is four months after the trial of Charles Darnay in the house of Dr Manette which was situated in central
. It was a quiet corner of London , away from all the noise and Lucie Manette had done up the house very well. Jarvis Lorry had gone there on some urgent business and was shown inside by Lucie Manette’s secretary, Miss Prom. As usual, Miss Pross was complaining about the number of people who came to the house as suitors to Lucie and most of them she did not approve of because no one was worthy of her Ladybird’s love! From Miss Pross, Jarvis Lorry learned that Dr Manette never talked about his past although he knew that this silence on his part did not indicate that he had completely forgotten what had happened and his mental disorder could not recur. Just as Lorry was talking to Miss Press, Lucie arrived and they had dinner together along with Dr Manette. Charles Darnay joined them later in the garden and he related a story about the London where he had been imprisoned for a while. He said there was a curious story going around the Tower of London where it is said a prisoner had buried a small leather bag with little bits of paper that put together made a story. On hearing this, Dr Manette suddenly felt uneasy and had to be taken inside the house. As they went in, Sidney Carton also joined them. The storm that was raging outside became worse and Lucie became pensive. She said that sometimes she would sit by the window listening to all the echoes and imagining they were sounds of “all the footsteps that are coming by and by into our lives.” When the storm abated, the guests left one by one, but all of them were strangely very quiet as if some great event was about to happen. Tower of London
Dickens has written this chapter to foreshadow the French Revolution and the effect it would have on everyone in the room. Dickens has also introduced Miss Pross’ brother, Solomon, a total waster who had been accused of stealing her money, but to whom she was totally devoted. Later in the novel, Solomon Pross, Jerry Cruncher, and the two prosecution witnesses, Barsad and Cly, have to play a crucial role. Dickens introduces many minor characters in his novels whom we tend to dismiss but all of them together tie up many loose ends of the novel towards its end. So, it will be here too.
Chapter 7: Monseigneur in Town
The scene now shifts to
. In English, monseigneur means “My Lord”, the title of address for any of the great noble lords of the French court. These lords lived a superficial life, totally unaware of what was going on around them and indifferent to the conditions of the people. And because they lived a life of their own creation, the courtiers who surrounded them were incompetent and ignorant too; they were hangers-on whose only job was to keep the Lord happy and free from all tensions. Dickens has described the life of these Lords and in the courts in great detail to underline the basic reasons why the French Revolution took place. France
Dickens describes the scene in the court where one of the hangers-on was unhappy with the Lord because he had not been given what he deserved. Irritated, he entered his carriage and ordered the coachman to drive off with the greatest speed. As the carriage was driven recklessly, a small child came under the wheels and died instantly. Its father weeping pitifully, huddled his child and a crowd gathered immediately. The Marquis was annoyed at the delay and flung a gold coin at the crowd and ordered his coachman to drive on.
Another man appeared on the scene and comforted the weeping father, Gaspard, with the observation that the child had died quickly and without pain. “Could it have lived an hour as happily?” he added. The Marquis who was standing nearby overheard the remark and asked the name of the man who had passed the comment. The man replied his name was Defarge, the wine-vendor. At this, the Marquis flung another gold coin to Defarge and then drove off. Suddenly a gold coin was flung into the moving carriage and the Marquis, enraged at this arrogance, halted the carriage. The man named Defarge had disappeared. Meanwhile, Madame Defarge who was watching the whole scene from inside the wineshop did not stop knitting for a moment.
It is the picture of the decayed aristocracy that Dickens presents in this chapter. The whole tone of the description is bitterly sarcastic. The entire French aristocracy was totally insensitive to the sufferings of the people and “this leprosy of unreality disfigured every human creature in attendance upon Monseigneur.”
In this chapter we meet Monseigneur, the Marquis as well as Monsieur and Madame Defarge. All four represent social types in Dickens’ novels, but three continue in the novel as individual characters.
Monseigneur is a great lord, pampered and adored by his courtiers; the Marquis, in his desire for attention from the Monseigneur, is the epitome of the aristocracy on the eve of the Revolution; the Defarges represent the common people of
, embittered by the excesses of the ruling class and ready to risk their lives for a violent revolution. In many ways, Madame Defarge particularly stands for the symbol of “the inexorable fate itself, silent and expressionless, an almost timeless figure as she knits without pause.” France
Chapter 8: Monseigneur In the Country
The Marquis, after running down the poor boy in
drove straight out to his castle in the city. Dickens describes the impoverished condition of the country and the poverty of the people—the result of the unbearable taxes that were levied on everyone and everything. The Marquis’ carriage had a short halt at a checkpost, located near a mountain in a village. The Marquis came out to stretch his legs and noticed that a man was staring at the carriage in a strange way. Why? The Marquis demanded to know. The peasant said that he had seen a man riding beneath the carriage, hanging on to a chain there. He said he did not know who the man was because he was covered by the dust of the road but he did know that he did not belong to the village. The Marquis instructed a minor official of the village to look out for a strange-looking man, and drove off. On the way to his castle, a peasant woman submitted a petition for a piece of stone or wood as a grave marker on the spot where her late husband was buried. Impatiently, the Marquis heard her petition and even as he spoke, his valet thrust the poor woman aside and the carriage drove off. Paris
When the Marquis reached his castle, he asked his servant whether ‘Monsieur Charles’ from
had arrived as yet. The answer was that he had not. England
This chapter reveals two things: first, there is wretchedness everywhere in
–in the cities and the countryside—but the nobility is never satisfied; second, the poor, although they are oppressed, are not prepared to give in easily. The rider underneath the carriage was Gaspard, whose tiny child had been crushed beneath the carriage only a short time earlier. France–
Chapter 9: The Gorgon’s Head
The Marquis’ castle was “a stony business altogether’ which meant that it was very well protected, as well as very artificially decorated. There were stone flowers, stone urns, stone lion heads and stone faces of men. A dinner for two had been set out in one of the large dining rooms. Monseigneur was ready to dine but his nephew, Charles Darnay had not yet arrived from
. After a little while he did and the two men got into a furious argument. It was obvious that the relationship between the two was not at all pleasant. Charles Darnay said that their family name. Evrémonde, was in disgrace throughout London . The Marquis was not moved at all. Charles Darnay continued to press that many wrongs were being done in his late father’s name and that he was being compelled to support a system that he deeply hated. Charles Darnay said he would rather give him all his titles and privileges—in France itself—rather than support such a cruel system. He added that he intended to live in France and begin a new life under the name of Darnay. The Marquis enquired whether he knew another Frenchman and his daughter, who now lived in England . Darnay could not question his uncle on this because tempers were high and both went to bed. England
During the night, a strange face was seen in the moonlight but no one took much notice of it. In the morning, the Marquis was found with a knife through his heart with a note pinned on the body: “Drive him fast to his tomb. This from Jacques.”
This is an important chapter because it shows that Charles Darnay belongs to the noble family of Saint Evrémonde, the most hated in all
. This relationship has an important bearing on the development of the novel because it has been established that Charles Darnay belongs to the French aristocracy and particularly’ to the hated Evrémonde family. The Marquis’ innocent enquiry whether he knew another Frenchman and his daughter—by which he meant Dr Marlette and his daughter, Lucie...indicates that he could have made treason charges against his nephew and passed these on to the revolutionaries. France
The Marquis had been murdered by Gaspard, the father of the child who had been run over by the Marquis in
. It was he who was travelling under the Marquis’ carriage and was covered with dust in the journey from Pans. Paris
The conversation between Charles Darnay and the Marquis is also important. The Marquis’ observation that “the detestation of the high is the involuntary homage of the low...The dark deference of fear and slavery...will keep the dogs obedient to the whip...I will die, perpetuating the system under which I have lived.” This goes to show how deep was the contempt of the French aristocracy for the poor. Dickens is preparing us for the outbreak of the Revolution and all its honors.
Chapter 10: Two Promises
During the year that passed since the murder of the Marquis, Charles Darnay established himself as a tutor in the French language and literature in
. He also undertook some translations to supplement his income and divided his time between England and London . His love for Lucie Manette steadily grew stronger and stronger, until one day he told her of his feelings. Lucie responded positively but asked Darnay to speak to her father. Dr Manette took the news in a most curious manner. He appeared to be deeply disturbed when Charles told him of his love for Lucie. Seeing that Dr Manette still did not respond, Darnay said: “You have loved yourself; let your old love speak for you.” The doctor lapsed into even greater silence but on Darnay’s insistence to say something he said that if Lucie confessed her love with the same intensity as he had, he would not come in the way. But Darnay could see he was not happy and even cried out to him to stop. Cambridge University
Darkness had fallen when Darnay left. Lucie returned after seeing Darnay off but when she came into the house she found that her father was not in his reading chair. Instead she heard a loud hammering sound coming from her father’s room. Peering into the room, she found him working with his shoemaking tools. Lucie Manette calls out to her father and together they retire from the room.
Why was Dr Manette so upset on hearing of the news of Darnay’s love for his daughter? Because Darnay is an Evrémonde, the very family that was the source of Dr Manette’s long suffering in prison. It is a moment of acute agony for Lucie’s father. The shock is obviously too much for the old man whose memories of the long years in prison come back to hint and he goes back to his shoemaking. It is of course a temporary lapse and Lucie is able to soothe him but the past has begun to cast its shadows on what is in store.
Chapter 11: A Companion Picture
Sidney Carton had been working overtime in Stryver’s office for many days. On the very day that Charles Darnay had confessed his love for Lucie Manette, Carton had been clearing a lot of papers in Stryver’s office and, as usual, was quite drunk. Stryver announced that he intended to get married to Lucie Manette and settle down to a happy married life, and advised Carton that he should change his ways and settle down too. He also said that Carton should choose as his wife a rich landlady with money who would take care of him and his future. Carton listened to Stryver and took another round of drink.
Chapter 12: The Fellow of Delicacy
Stryver made up his mind that before the closing of the courts, he would propose to Lucie Manette and clinch the matter. On his way to the Manettes’, he dropped in at Tellson’s Bank to see Mr Jarvis Lorry and let him know of his plans. When he told the older man of what he intended to do, Lorry told him to be careful of what he set out to do, or at least be sure that there was a reasonable chance of success. Rather offended and not sure what Lorry meant, Stryver asked whether he was not legible, and prosperous and promising. Lorry controlled a situation that was rapidly getting difficult and embarrassing—he was after all a close friend of the Manettes—and undertook to find out the chances from Dr Manette and Lucie directly. Lorry did so, and told Stryver that it would not be wise to pursue the matter further.
Chapter 13: A Fellow of No Delicacy
Sidney Carton had been a regular visitor to the Manettes’ house and usually he came in quite drunk and depressed. He was a “moody and morose lounger”. On this particular day in August, Carton was in his usual depressed self and broke down when he saw Lucie alone. He told her that he had tried to reform his ways of living many times but it all came to nothing. But he wanted her to know that it was she who inspired him to change his ways for the better, to give up drinking and he wanted her to keep this secret and not even tell “the dearest one ever to be known to her.” She said she would do so. Just as he was about to leave, he said that if ever in his life there was “any opportunity or capacity of sacrifice in it, I would embrace any sacrifice for you and for those dear to you... think now and then that there is a man who would give his life, to keep a life you love beside you.” Lucie Manette was crying when Sidney Carton left the house.
This chapter should b cad along with the previous One in which Dickens has sketched he personality of Stryver. Stryver, despite his outward appearances of a gentleman, is really a brash, stupid human
being. Sidney Carton, who was always very poorly dressed and invariably drunk was considered bad company by the high society of
. But we see that he is really a man of great delicacy and sensitivity who can understand the problems of other human beings in trouble. London
Chapter 14: The Honest Tradesman
Just what did Jerry Cruncher do, apart from being a messenger for Tellson’s bank is made clear in this chapter. One day when Jerry Cruncher and his son sat outside the bank, a hearse passed with a single mourner. Jerry learned the dead person was Roger Cly who had been a spy at the Old Bailey, and a witness at the trial of Charles Darnay. A crowd accompanied the hearse into the graveyard and so did Jerry Cruncher following behind them. Cruncher saw the burial from a distance and on his way back dropped in to see his “medical adviser”, a most reputable surgeon.
On reaching home, Cruncher told his son to retire to bed early and said he too would go to bed soon as he was tired. He pretended to undress but the son knew he had other things in mind. So he too pretended to drop off to sleep but saw that his father, along with a crowbar, rope and chain and a sack, set out of the house at in the morning. After leaving the house, the father (the son was following at some distance behind) was joined by two other men and they proceeded to the graveyard. From a spot near the gate, the young Jerry, saw his father and two companions begin their ‘fishing’ by digging up the grave and raising the coffin from where it lay. Terrified the boy ran all the way home and did not stop till he was safely in bed.
Jerry Cruncher had a fight with his wife next morning for no apparent reason. On the way to the bank, the young Jerry asked his father was a Resurrection-Man was”. He was a tradesman of scientific goods, he said. The son said he hoped to become a resurrection-man when he grew up.
In this chapter, we come to learn what the real occupation of Jerry Cruncher was: he was a body snatcher, digging up graves and selling the corpses for scientific experiments. Roger Cly who had appeared as a prosecution, witness in the trial of Charles Darnay now makes a reappearance as the corpse, with the lone mourner to see him to the graveyard. Who was the lone person? We will come to hear of him again but what is important to bear in mind from this chapter is that Dickens introduces minor characters who come to play significant roles in the novel later on. The tendency to dismiss minor characters and minor happenings by readers is a mistake because it is these that tie up the loose threads of a Dickens novel.
Chapter 15: Knitting
In the wine shop of the Defarges, it is in the morning but already some figures are hunched over their cups of thin, lifeless wine. This was the third day of early drinking in the shop and there was an air of deep conspiracy in the air. Monsieur Defarge was not about and it was Madame who was dispensing the wine in her husband’s place. At , Monsieur Defarge enters the shop accompanied by the mender of roads, the man called Jacques, who had told the Marquis at the village that he had seen a man clinging to the underside of his carriage. Defarge took the road mender to his room upstairs and there met three men: Jacques One, Jacques Two and Jacques Three. Defarge was Jacques Four and the road mender, Jacques Five.
Jacques Five started telling the story of the Marquis coach and the man who hung underneath it. It took the police a ful year to catch him and charge him with the murder of the Marquis. Gaspard, who had murdered the Marquis, was sentenced to death and after the petitions of pardon to the King and Queen failed, he was hung in the public square and his body was left hanging for a long time to warn the people of the fate of those who disobeyed the law. After the story was completed, Jacques Five was asked to wait outside while Defarge and the others conferred. Jacques One asked what was to be done, and the latter replied: ‘To be registered as doomed to destruction.” The King’s castle and his family were to be destroyed. Defarge then announced that he would take Jacques Five to
(the place outside Versailles where the King and Queen lived) on Sunday to see the King and Queen. The others were astonished and asked if it was a good thing that he wished to see the royalty. Defarge replied that you must show a cat milk if you expect that cat to hunger after it, and likewise a dog must know its natural prey if it is to bring it down eventually. Paris
On Sunday, Monsieur and Madame Defarge and the road mender went to
by public transport. All through the trip, Madame Defarge continued to knit and when she was asked what it was that she knitted, she replied calmly, “Shrouds”, which means a piece of cloth to wrap a dead body. When the King and Queen appeared the road mender shouted with great enthusiasm, “Long live the King,” but then regretted it. Madame Defarge said it was good because the royalty would not suspect anything. Madame Defarge commented that if the road mender saw a heap of richly dressed dolls and gaily feathered birds, would he not destroy them. The road mender, who was somewhat afraid of Madame, agreed. Then, added Madame, you had seen these dolls today! Versailles
“To be registered as doomed to destruction.” It is in Madame Defarge’s knitting that this register of doom is contained. In her seemingly endless knitting, Madame Defarge is recording the names of those who are to be executed in the coming revolution. So, when Madame Defarge says that she is knitting a shroud, she is actually telling the truth to Jacques Five: all the names of people who are to be done to death are being knitted and what she is knitting is a piece of cloth to wrap many dead bodies!
Dickens in this chapter is building up an atmosphere of conspiracy and preparing us for the coming revolution which will destroy the old aristocracy of
Chapter 16: Still Knitting
On their way back from
, Monsieur and Madame Defarge stopped for a while at a checkpost outside Versailles . Defarge had a friend there who told them that a new spy had been assigned to their district and his name was Barsad. The guard described the spy to Defarge and Madame made a mental note of the details and promised to record his name in her register of knitting. The Madame checked some accounts and added that the revolution was on its way. When it comes, it will grind everything in its path. Monsieur Defarge just stood in front of his wife in admiration, or as Dickens puts it, “like a docile attentive pupil before his catechist.” (A catechist is a religious teacher in Christianity who gives oral instructions to his pupils.) Paris
On the following day, a stranger entered the wineshop in the morning. Almost as soon as he did, Madame Defarge put a rose in her name which was an indication to the others in the shop to leave at once. The stranger, who was the English spy, John Barsad, asked a number of questions but Madame Defarge just ignored them saying that she knew nothing about the execution of Gaspard in the public square or about the mood of the people. After a while, Monsieur Defarge entered and Barsad addressed him in familiar tones of Jacques.
Defarge replied that his name was Ernest and not Jacques and remained cold and aloof. When Barsad got no responses from the Defarges, he himself started giving information the Manettes were happily settled in
and that Lucie Manette was getting married to Charles Darnay. This shocked Monsieur Defarge and after Barsad left, he remarked to his wife how strange it was that after all their efforts and sympathies for Dr Manette and his daughter that the girl’s husband should be a member of the hated French aristocracy. Madame Defarge said that destiny will take a person where it will and Charles Darnay’s destiny will take it to his. And she knitted his name as well as Barsad’s into her knitting register! England
This chapter once again brings out the strong will and determination of Madame Defarge and in contrast the weaknesses of her husband. The Madame can wait for the right time to come—the husband is impatient and a much weaker personality. It will take an equally strong personality to get the better of Madame Defarge and we have met her already in Miss Pross.
Chapter 17: One Night
Lucie Manette had set aside the final evening before her marriage to pass with her father. Although Lucie was delighted with the prospects of her marriage to the man she loved, she still could not understand her father’s curious attitude towards Charles Darnay. But Dr Manette assured her that there was no hesitation on his part to bless the marriage and told her that the marriage would strengthen the bonds between them. Dr Manette also spoke for the first time of his long imprisonment in
and how he had thought of her as a grown up girl and her marriage. After his long period of suffering, these reflections were a great source of strength to him. France
But Lucie was not entirely satisfied with her father’s response. Something she felt was being kept back and at night she came into her father’s room and kissed his hand.
Chapter 18: Nine Days
The wedding passed off peacefully. After the marriage the party returned home and Lucie and Charles Darnay left for their honeymoon. Jarvis Lorry who had attended the marriage noticed that Dr Manette had a strange expression on his face and did not look quite well. After attending to some work in his bank, Lorry came back to Dr Manette’s home and heard a strange noise like that of a knocking from the doctor’s room. Dr Manette was at his bench making shoes and did
not even recognise Miss Pross. He could not recognise Jarvis Lorry either and carried on with his shoe-making. As days passed there was no change in Dr Manette; in fact all that happened in nine days was that his shoe-making became better and better and the hands that had not practised the art for a long time now found their old touch.
Why was Dr Manette so upset and looked pale and disturbed at the wedding? This is because Charles Darnay had told Dr Manette that he is an Evrémonde and a French aristocrat—a member of the very family that was responsible for his imprisonment. Buried terrors have been revived and the doctor is now drawn in two separate directions by two conflicting emotions. On the one hand, he desires only Lucie’s happiness; on the other, he cannot deny his hate and fear of that aristocratic family that had been responsible for so many dark years of his life. Dr Manette goes back to his shoe-making in which he found his solace during his years in prison.
Chapter 19: An Opinion
On the morning of the tenth day following Dr Manette’s relapse, Jarvis Lorry woke up—he had been sleeping in the doctor’s house—to find him sitting at the breakfast table reading a book. Dr Manette had no memory of what had happened and Jarvis Lorry decided to find out in a tactful manner what had happened. Dr Manette understood what Lorry was trying to do, and said that the relapse was prompted by a recollection that was itself the first cause of the affliction. The man was not unaware of the possibility of such a relapse; but the shock of the association that was brought to his mind was too much for the mind to take. In taking to making shoes, or in getting back to the workbench, the doctor substituted the “perplexity of the fingers for the perplexity of the brain.” Dr Manette added that the most serious part was over and it would require a truly heavy emotional blow to awaken the mental illness.
After this episode, Lucie and Charles Darnay, along with Jarvis Lorry and Miss Pross decided to cut the workbench into pieces and burn it completely. The tools, shoes and the leather were also buried in the garden.
From what had seemed a condition of almost total psychological breakdown, Dr Manette had mustered enough strength to understand his condition and to be able to fight it. Dr Manette finally agrees to get rid of the props of his life—the workbench, tools, shoes, etc.—but only on condition that it is done in his absence. In a sense, Dickens is fortifying Dr Manette psychologically for the great trials that he will have to face in the near future. This chapter also shows Dr Manette’s great psychological weakness as well as the great strength and potential of his mind and will.
Chapter 20: A Plea
Sidney Carton came to see Charles Darnay and Lucie Manette on their return from the honeymoon. Carton drew Darnay aside and spoke to him in a tone of great sincerity and purpose. He wished that Darnay and he might be friends and he could come and visit them once in a while. He also hoped that Charles Darnay would forget his wretched behaviour on the evening after Darnay’s trial when they sat together in the tavern. Charles Darnay told Carton to forget all about it and that he was free to come and go whenever he liked.
Later that evening, Darnay spoke to Lucie about the curious conversation he had with Sidney Carton and said what a pity it was that he was a drunk and dissipated. Lucie said she believed that Sidney Carton was “capable of good things, gentle things, even magnanimous things.”
Dickens is gradually building up Sidney Carton form the human wretch he is to something much greater. His love for Lucie Manette, one which he had always known could not be realised, has gradually elevated him, if not in his own eyes, at least in those of his friends. Lucie Manette’s remark that Carton is capable of “magnanimous things” is a prophetic remark, for Carton is to prove capable of the most magnanimous gesture.
Chapter 21: Echoing Footsteps
A daughter had been born to Charles and Lucie Darnay and the child changed the whole complexion of the house. Sidney Carton came, and as promised totally sabre, and the child grew very fond of him. Meanwhile, Stryver had married a very rich widow and continued to give moral instructions to Carton on how to get on in life.
Across the Channel, the long-awaited Revolution finally broke out. The Bastille, the prison where the wretched of
had been kept, was stormed and taken. The Defarges led the way, followed by a huge crowd aimed with pickaxes, pikes, bayonets, muskets, powder and ball––in fact anything that would bring the old order crashing down. When the walls of the Bastille broke down, Monsieur Defarge forced one of the prison officers to lead him to One Hundred and Five North Tower, to the place where Alexander Manette had been imprisoned for so many years Accompanied by Jacques Three, he pushed his way through the crowd to the cell. On the wall was written, “A M. a poor physician”. Defarge and Jacques ransacked the cell, as did the crowds who had surged inside the prison walls. Below, the Governor of the Bastille was seized by the surging sea and dragged along. Beaten and stabbed by a multitude of hands, he fell dead. The heads of prison guards were cut off and raised upon pikes. The Revolution had finally broken out in all its fury. France
Dickens has called this chapter Echoing Footsteps because what happens in France finds its echoes in England, particularly on the Darnays and Dr Manette, The peace and quiet of Soho and the Darnay household will be shattered soon and Dickens brings out the contrast between the two cities, which although separated by the English Channel, will merge with one another as surely as “the tongues of two cities were blended in little Lucie Manette.”
The Cell in the North Tower: You will recall that on one occasion, when Charles Darnay was recounting a story about a prison diary left in the
, Dr Manette felt very disturbed. Defarge and Jacques when they break into the cell which had been occupied by Dr Manette were actually looking for some evidence that would implicate Charles Darnay, the French aristocrat related to the detested Evrémondes. Tower of London
Chapter 22: The Sea Still Rises
There was no let-up in the Revolution. People wanted blood and more blood of the aristocrats, and the wineshop of the Defarges became in many ways, the storm centre of the Revolution. A woman who came to be called The Vengeance because of the savagery of her recent butchery became Madame Defarge’s lieutenant in the wineshop. As The Vengeance sat next to Madame Defarge she knitted on, adding more and more names of aristocrats who had to be executed. Monsieur Defarge suddenly burst into the shop with the information that a French Aristocrat named Foulon who was thought to be dead—he had faked his own funeral––was just discovered in toe countryside. At this news, the crowd howled for his blood.
Dickens describes the crowd scenes in great detail. The crowd empties out of the wineshop and led by The Vengeance muses down from street to street, rousing the people to come out and arrest
who had been brought from the countryside and kept in a hotel. The old man was pulled out and hung at the nearest lamppost. The rope breaks. A new rope is produced and the aristocrat is strung up again. Again it breaks. The head is cut off and raised on a pike. News comes that Foulon’s nephew has come to Emden . The crowd surges to meet him. He is surrounded by a guard of live hundred soldiers but there is nettling they can do to protect him. His head and heart are cut off awl hoisted on a pike. Paris
Gradually the fury of the crowd subsides. When the wineshop is closed, it is nearly morning and Monsieur Defarge continents to his wife that it has come at last, “Almost,” was the Madame’s reply.
The sea is still rising. What the wild mobs have demonstrated so far is only the beginning of the terrible bloodbath in which
would be plunged. So, when Monsieur Defarge tells his wife that it has finally arrived, she says “almost” because the climax has yet to come. France
Chapter 23: Fire Rises
In this chapter Dickens describes how a revolution spreads into the countryside, far from its centre. Here the work was done by the Jacquerie, the group of committed revolutionaries who were simply called Jacques. They went from town to village and told them what was going on. In the village when Gaspard was hanged for the murder of the Marquis, things were not as they had been. The prison that looked down on the town did not seem as ominous as before. The soldiers were not as numerous as they once were, and there was always the doubt in the officers’ minds that their orders would not be obeyed. Instead, throughout the countryside, strange and unfamiliar faces were to be seen, members of the Jacquerie whose task it was to move throughout
sparking the violence and terror of the Revolution. Like elsewhere, the first casualty is the aristocrat’s villas and castles. A fire, whose origins no one knows or cares to know, is seen rising from the chateau. Calls for firemen, come but no one responds. The officers who had observed their soldiers just gazing at the rising fires, responded simply: “It must burn.” France
You will recall that in chapter 15, Jacques One (i.e. Monsieur Defarge) when informed of Gaspard’s hanging had said, “to be registered and doomed to destruction” by which he meant that the chateau and all the race had to be exterminated. The first part of this declaration has now been satisfied, for the chateau of Saint Evrémondes has been razed. Now the question is how Charles Darnay and his family can be lured across to
and executed. This would be done by Monsieur Gabelle, a tax collector of the village, whose life is spared by the revolutionaries only to get him to write a letter to Dr Manette and the Darnays which would bring them across the Channel. France
Chapter 24: Drawn to the Lodestone Rock
During the three years since the fall of the Bastille, Tellson’s bank in
had become a focal point for news on the French Revolution because many French aristocrats had opened their accounts in the bank. Some, who could not see the revolution coining in London , were in need of money which they borrowed from the bank. Therefore there were a lot of French aristocrats who came to the bank with news of what was happened across the Channel in France and how the revolution was getting along. France
On a certain misty morning, Jarvis Lorry and Charles Darnay talked of a forthcoming trip to
by Mr Lorry. Darnay wanted to go but Lorry said that it was necessary that he go himself to attend to affairs in Tellson’s France office and to recover the records and important documents of customers. As they were discussing this matter, a letter arrived at Mr Lorry’s desk, addressed to Marquis Saint Evrémonde. Mr Lorry did not know that Charles Darnay and Saint Evrémonde were the one and same person for Darnay had disclosed this information only to Dr Manette, on condition that it was a secret between them. After telling Mr Lorry that he knew the whereabouts of the Marquis, Charles Darnay read the letter. Paris
It was written by Monsieur Gabelle, the tax collector who said he had been imprisoned by the revolutionary council on the grounds that he had been a loyal servant of the hated Marquis and his family and could now be saved only if he would come and plead his case. After some hesitation, Darnay decided to make a short trip to
but he did not tell his wife of Dr Manette. Instead he wrote two letters, one to his wife and another to Dr Manette, explaining why he had to go to Paris on short notice. These letters were delivered to them after he left for Paris . Paris
Charles Darnay had fallen neatly in the trap of the French revolutionaries. An aristocrat was simply an aristocrat and there was nothing that could be done to save him, even though Charles Darnay had renounced his title, his estate and all aristocratic rights. Madame Defarge’s prophecy (chapter 16) upon hearing of Lucie Manette’s marriage to Charles Darnay, that “her husband’s destiny will take him where he is to go, and will lead him to the end that is to end him.” is about to come to true.