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Free Study Guide: A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens - Free BookNotes

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BOOK TWO: The Golden Thread

CHAPTER FOURTEEN: The Honest Tradesman


Jerry Cruncher sits on a stool outside Tellson's Bank watching the heavy traffic go by. He can make out some kind of funeral coming down the street. There is a great uproar, for a mob seems to object to the funeral. He tries to discover whose funeral it is and learns that it is for the police spy, Roger Cly, who had testified against Charles Darnay. There is only one mourner, who is scared by the mob and runs away. The mob wants to remove the coffin from the hearse, but decide, instead, to accompany it to the churchyard, celebrating all the way. Jerry Cruncher, along with a number of other people, crowd into the hearse and take the body to the churchyard. Now, since the mob has nothing better to do, they start rioting. Jerry Cruncher stays in the cemetery to confer with the undertakers. After work, Jerry Cruncher and his son go home, where he accuses his wife of praying against him again. Later that night he gathers a spade, crowbar, sack, and rope and heads to the churchyard. He is joined by two companions. Young Jerry has only made a pretense of going to bed and follows the trio. Through the gates of the churchyard, he sees his father and the two men dig up a grave, bring the coffin up, and begin to pry it open. Afraid of this sight, young Jerry runs back home imagining that he is being chased by a giant coffin.

In the cemetery, the men find that the coffin is empty. This upsets Jerry Cruncher a great deal. When he returns home, he again accuses his wife of praying against him. The next day Jerry's son informs his father that he would like to be a body snatcher just like him.


Jeremy Cruncher's nocturnal forays are revealed in this chapter. He is a body snatcher, a man who digs up graves, steals the corpses, and sells them to doctors who need them to study human anatomy. He calls himself an honest tradesman, trying to make a shady business appear very respectable. It is no wonder that this despicable man denounces the prayers of his wife.

The mob scene is important; it is a chance for Dickens to point out the senseless and irresponsible behavior of the incited crowd. In this case, they interrupt a funeral and think about preventing the burial of the coffin. The police spy, Roger Cly, will later be “resurrected”, seemingly brought back to life from the dead in a manner similar to Dr. Manette and Charles Darnay.



Two men enter the wine shop in St. Antoine. One is Monsieur Defarge; the other is the road-mender who had been questioned by the Marquis about the tall, thin man hanging from under his carriage. As they enter, one man drinks up his wine and departs; a second man does the same and is followed by a third. The road mender eats the coarse bread and wine offered to him by Defarge. They then make their way to the garret where Dr. Manette had once lived. The three men who had earlier left the wine shop are present. Defarge introduces the three men as Jacques One, Two, and Three. He introduces himself as Jacques Four and the road-mender as Jacques Five.

The road-mender relates how he had seen Gaspard hanging from under the carriage of the Marquis; he tells how Gaspard remained hidden for a year but is finally caught. The soldiers took him to a prison on top of a hill near the village. There were rumors circulating that Gaspard would be pardoned; other rumors suggested that he would be held prisoner and tortured for a long time. In truth, Gaspard was hanged, forty feet high, near the fountain in the center of the peasant village.

The road-mender departs, leaving the others in gloomy silence; their faces show their desire to seek revenge. They decide to exterminate the entire Evremonde family; their names will go into the “register.” Defarge assures the three Jacques that there will be no mistake in deciphering the register, for Madame Defarge has knitted, using her own symbols, the names of every aristocrat that is to perish. No one would be able to erase even one letter from her knitting.

The road-mender is later taken to Versailles to cheer the lords and their ladies. Defarge feels that the cheering will make the aristocrats more arrogant, which in turn would result in their bringing about their own downfall in a rapid manner. Defarge also trusts that when the road-mender sees the opulence of Versailles, he will thirst for the blood of the aristocracy.


This chapter returns to the Defarges' wine-shop in Paris. The revolution is gaining momentum, as the “Jacques” begin to make definite plans. The road-mender's account of the hanging of Gaspard is important, for it serves to incite the revolutionaries to action. This incident also indicates the fate of Darnay. Since he is an Evremonde, he is destined to die at the hands of the revolutionaries. His name will be knitted into Madame Defarge’s register. It is obvious that this calm and resolute woman is a key figure in the revolutionary movement. She controls everyone around her and binds them with hatred.

It is important to notice how tightly Dickens is weaving the plot of the novel through flashback, repetition, and foreshadowing. This chapter returns to St. Antoine and the wine shop of the Defarges. Not much has changed since it was viewed the first time. The garret is no longer used to house Dr. Manette, but it is still a place to fan the flames of revolutionary spirit. Mrs. Defarge remains her old, implacable self, always somber and knitting, as she observes everyone and directs all the activities. Her husband still serves as the revolutionary leader of the area. In this chapter he is seen trying to make a convert out of the road-mender, who has been seen before; he is the man who told Evremonde that he had spied someone hanging underneath his carriage. He has been brought to St. Antoine to give news about Gaspard, who has been seen in the novel several times before. Now the road-mender clarifies that Gaspard was the man hanging under the carriage and has killed the Marquis Evremonde in revenge for his child’s death. He has now been caught and hanged for the crime. Defarge uses Gaspard’s death to incite the Jacquerie. The revolutionaries want their revenge. They promise to wipe out the entire Evremonde clan, Charles Darnay included.

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