Introduction: A TALE OF TWO CITIES is a preponderantly serious and tragic novel. But it is not lacking in humor. According to some critics, this novel is notoriously deficient in humor. But to expect too much humor in a novel which is designed as a tragedy would evidently be absurd. Too much humor would have weakened and diluted the emotional effect. Despite it tragic scenes and awesome symbolic images, the novel does have comic scenes. Two or three chapters which deal with Mr. Stryver and his plans to marry Lucie are highly comic. The two or three chapters dealing with Jerry Cruncher and his family life are also humorous. Then there are some scenes and a number of casual observations which amuse us by their irony or their satirical quality.
Miss Pross – a source of comedy: Miss Pross is obviously intended to be a comic character, but she has a serious side to her personality. She is deeply attached to her mistress. She amuses us by her eccentric behavior and talk on the very first occasion when we meet her in the novel. The very manner in which she is described is comic: “A wild-looking woman, all of a red color, having red hair, dressed in an extraordinary tight-fitting fashion. She lays “a brawny hand upon Mr. Lorry’s chest” and sends him flying back against the wall. The powerful push makes Mr. Lorry think that the attacker must be a man. Then she amuses us by her fussy manner. She orders servants to go and bring smelling salts, cold water, vinegar, etc. Turning to the unconscious Lucie’s eh begins to tend her with great gentleness, calling her “My precious and my bird” and spreading Lucie’s golden hair aside over her shoulders with great pride and care. She asks Mr. Lorry what kind of a banker he is to have frightened a young girl to death. It is a brief episode but a very amusing one. On one of his visits to the house, Mr. Lorry is told by her that “Dozens of people” have started visiting the house. On being asked by Mr. Lorry if really dozens of people have started visiting the house. She replies “Hundreds”. The author thereupon makes the humorous comment that it was characteristic of this lady that, “Whenever her original proposition was questioned, she exaggerated it.” She goes on to tell Mr. Lorry that “Crowds and multitudes” of people have started paying visits to the house and have begun to take Lucie’s affections away from her. The real fact is that Mr. Lorry, Sydney Carton and Charles Darnay are the only visitors who come to see Lucie and her father. But she feels irritated with those comers with whom she has to spend much time and she feels jealous of such visitors, so she says hundreds of people are visiting the house. Another moment of her comic presentation is when she confronts Madame Defarge. It the most important scene in which Defarge is killed in conflict with Miss Pross. This is no doubt is serious scene, but Miss Pross’ participation in the scene makes it comic. She never hits any one in all her life, but she braces herself for a physical contest. Madame Defarge advances and Miss Pross says, “I am a Briton and I am desperate, don’t care an English two pence for myself. I know the longer I keep you here, the greater hope there is for my Lady bird.”
Jerry Cruncher and his expedition: Jerry Cruncher too is meant to be a comic character. When he passes the message to Mr. Lorry, “Recalled to Life” he is puzzled and bewildered by the wording of the message and thinks that Mr. Lorry must have been drunk when the spoke those words. Jerry tells himself that he would be in a, “blazing bad way if recalling to life were to come into fashion”. We realize the significance of this remark when later we find Jerry digging dead bodies to sell them to a surgeon. If recalling to life will come into fashion, Jerry will lose his business. This is a comic touch of Jerry, but the most interesting and comic scene is presented in his family life. Jerry has a feeling that his wife is always praying against his prosperity. Whenever he finds her praying, he says “What do you mean by flopping yourself down and praying against me?” She replies she is not against but for him. He says, “You weren’t”. He then instigates his son against her mother. He snubs and beats his wife. He constantly calls himself “an honest tradesman”. All these peculiarities of Jerry Cruncher like the eccentricities of Miss Pross are humorous. The whole account of Jerry Cruncher’s fishing expedition is comic. He told his wife and son that he would be going fishing that night with some friends. Actually having seen the funeral of Roger Cly he had decided to go to the graveyard with his friends to dig out his body to sell to the surgeons. Jerry’s son feeling inquisitive about his father’s mysterious activities went after them. Eventually, he sees his father and some mend digging out coffin from the grave. He feels so frightened that he runs back home feeling all the time being chased by the coffin. The next morning, Jerry gives his wife a nice beating because he found no success in his fishing expedition on account of her prayers against him. The coffin was found to contain stones and dust and no dead body. Later, Young Jerry asks his father what a Resurrection Man is. At first, Jerry evades the question but later replies that a Resurrection Man is an honest tradesman who deals in scientific goods. Young Jerry says that he would also like to be one and Jerry inwardly congratulates himself for his son’s ambition. Later in the final part of the novel, he seems to be repentant of his sins and makes two promises to Miss Pross. That he will never take those poor things out and that he will never interfere with his wife’s flopping. Pross is not able to understand, but these promises give a slight comic touch to the situation.
Mr. Stryver – a source of comedy: Mr. Stryver is another comic character about whom the writer says that he had a way of “shouldering himself morally and physically into companies and conversations.” He is proud of his success and wealth and pompously exhibits them before Carton, but is too foolish to understand that a girl doesn’t want only those things. He proposes to Lucie but is rejected and later gets married to a rich widow with three sons. He often boasts that a girl called Lucie has always tried to cA Tale of Two Citiesh him as a husband but he was never caught by her.
Amusing touches in Mr. Lorry’s Portrayal: Although Lorry is a serious man, but there are some humorous touches to his personality. He repeatedly calls himself “a man of business” when he refers to any work he says “a matter of business”. In other words, Lorry has humorous mannerism. On one occasion, Lorry says to Miss Pross, “I am a mere dull man of business, and you are a woman of business”.
Ironic Remarks and Comments: There are a number of ironic remarks in the novel which provide humor of the reader. The writer says that “Madame Defarge saw nothing” actually she every thing and nothing could escape his vigilant eyes. There is also irony in the description of Tellison’s Bank. We are told that the partners who ran this back, “were proud of its smallness, proud of its incommodious, proud of its darkness, proud of its ugliness.” These ironic remarks also provoke a smile if not a laughter.