Free Study Guide: A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens - Free BookNotes|
Downloadable / Printable Version
A TALE OF TWO CITIES: PLOT SYNOPSIS
The French Revolution breaks out in all its fury with the storming of the Bastille. In London, Darnay has been happily married to Lucie for eleven years, and they have a beautiful daughter. On hearing that Gabelle, his steward in France, has been erroneously arrested, Darnay secretly returns to Paris to save his faithful servant. He is caught and imprisoned. On hearing of her husband's capture, Lucie, her daughter, Dr. Manette, and Mr. Lorry rush to Paris to save him. Dr. Manette, himself a victim of oppression, convinces the people of his son-in-law's innocence, and Darnay is discharged. Madame Defarge, however, seeks personal revenge against the Evremonde family, for the cruel Marquis had molested her sister and killed her brother. Largely because of her, Darnay is re-arrested, tried, and sentenced to death. There is no hope of saving him. Even the lives of Lucie and her daughter are in danger as the hard-core revolutionaries, like the Defarges, would like to eliminate anyone who has a connection with aristocracy.
The story ends dramatically when Sydney Carton decides to save Darnay's life
by taking his place. He gains entry into the prison, drugs Darnay, and
with the help of Mr. Lorry gets him out of danger. The Darnay family flees
back to England while Carton sacrifices his life for Darnay, his look-alike.
The sacrifice is made to fulfill a promise to Lucie whom he loves. Carton
feels noble about his action and knows that he will live in the hearts
of the Darnays forever.
The major theme centers on resurrection, bringing people back to life from
the seemingly inevitable clutches of death. Dr. Manette is rescued from
long imprisonment and certain death and nursed back to health by the loving
attention of his daughter Lucie. Darnay is twice saved from certain death
by the compassion of Carton. Others, like Foulon, are brought back from
an apparent death, only to meet real death at the hands of the revolutionaries.
These resurrected lives weave through the entire plot and hold the story
The minor theme is the cruelty of war as seen in the French Revolution. Dickens
spares no details in painting the grim, and often senseless, violence
of the patriot mob as they seek revenge and retribution against the patriots.
Men are decapitated and their heads displayed to incite further violence.
The mood of the novel is grim and somber. Dickens presents the stark reality
of the revolution in an intense, dramatic form, and there are very few
incidents that help lighten the grimness. Right from the start, the tragedy
of Dr. Manette seated at his shoemaker's bench drives home the horror
of his experience. The oppression and misery of common people are highlighted
through a series of grim scenes. The bloodthirsty mob, too, presents a
dismal and frightening spectacle. This gloomy atmosphere touches all characters
and relationships. Jerry Cruncher alone presents some comic relief to
an otherwise dark and serious, historic novel.
All Content Copyright©TheBestNotes. All Rights Reserved.
No further distribution without written consent.
298 Users Online | This page has been viewed 6471 times
This page was last updated on 6/4/2008 10:43:29 PM
Cite this page:
TheBestNotes.com Staff. "TheBestNotes on A Tale of Two Cities".
. 04 June 2008