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A TALE OF TWO CITIES: ONLINE NOTES / SUMMARY
After half an hour, Darnay is taken inside to another officer, who confirms that the prisoner is an Evremonde, and is told that he will be assigned to La Force prison. Darnay tries to explain himself, but the officer tells him that he has no rights. Darnay is instructed to follow Defarge, who inquires if he is the Evremonde married to Dr. Manette's daughter. When Darnay replies in the affirmative, Defarge reveals who he is and asks him his reason for coming to France. Darnay states that he has already explained himself; Defarge looks darkly at him.
Darnay is taken to La Force. Through the dismal prison light, the jailer accompanies
him through various locked doors until they come to a large, low, vaulted
chamber. The room is crowded with prisoners of both genders. The women
are seated at a long table, reading, writing, knitting, sewing and embroidering.
The men stand behind chairs or walk to and fro. Darnay recoils at the
sight, but the prisoners greet him with refinement. He then recognizes
the elegance, pride, and high breeding of aristocracy. As he passes through
their chamber, they wish Darnay well and hope that his calamity will end
soon. He turns at the grated door to thank them, and then finds himself
in a lonely cell, where he is tormented by ghostly voices.
Darnay's return to his riot-torn homeland of France is meant to be a spiritual journey for him. He is not prepared for the terror that reigns supreme throughout the land; he is shocked by the violence that he sees on every stage of his journey towards Paris. Before he makes his destination, he is awakened during the night and arrested. In Paris, he is imprisoned -- at the hands of Defarge, who will show him no mercy. The irony of the entire situation is obvious. Darnay, an innocent man who has never been part of any atrocity, is thrown into prison, while the cruel, murderous mobs roam the streets inflicting violence. As a result of the Revolution, there has been a total inversion of social hierarchy and logic. Ironically, the Bastille, a symbol of injustice in the social order of the aristocracy, is replaced by La Force, which now is the symbol for injustice of the new order.
There are many echoes of Dr. Manette's life in this chapter. The mob tries to attack Darnay in Beauvais, the very village from where Dr. Manette hailed. Defarge, his interrogator, is the old servant of Dr. Manette; it is ironic he helped the doctor escape, but imprisons his son-in-law. Darnay’s solitary cell is a flashback to Dr. Manette’s solitary confinement. Echoes of the past haunt Darnay, and he hears voices reminding him of how Dr. Manette made shoes while he was confined to his cell.
Dickens builds the plot with great care so that the reader cannot miss the fact that Darnay is going to suffer the same fate as Dr. Manette. He is going to be prejudged, without any means of presenting his case, and "buried alive." There is no hope for his communication with his family. He will be lost to the world, just like his father-in-law had been lost.
It is important to note how Dickens describes the aristocrats in this chapter.
Throughout the book he has presented their callousness and cruelty. When
Dickens shows a group of them in La Force, he points out their refinement
and kindness for the first time. It is almost like he has been made to
re-evaluate his opinion of the aristocracy after viewing the mob's violent
behavior. Dickens is obviously saying that there are two sides to every
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. 09 May 2017