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

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A TALE OF TWO CITIES BY CHARLES DICKENS: ONLINE STUDY GUIDE

BOOK THREE: The Track of a Storm

CHAPTER THREE: The Shadow

Summary

Mr. Lorry is worried about compromising Tellson's Bank by sheltering the wife of a prisoner; he would gladly risk his own security and possessions for Lucie, but he cannot risk those of the bank. He considers going to Defarge, but decides against it. Instead, he confers with Lucie; she tells him of her father's plans of renting a lodge for a short while. Mr. Lorry thinks it is a good idea and locates a suitable place in a safe area. He then takes Lucie, Miss Pross, and little Lucie to the lodge; Jerry Cruncher is placed at the door as a guard.

Defarge brings a message to Mr. Lorry from Dr. Manette, stating that Darnay is safe. There is another message from Darnay for Lucie. As Lorry sets out for Lucie's lodging with Defarge, he sees two women knitting in the courtyard; one is Madame Defarge and the other is The Vengeance. They accompany Defarge and Mr. Lorry.

Lucie is delighted to receive Darnay's letter, which asks her to have courage and reminds her that her father has influence among the revolutionaries. She is so affected by the letter that she kisses Madame Defarge's hand, in a loving, thankful, and tender way. Madame Defarge makes no response and resumes knitting. Lucie looks at the woman in a terrified manner; Madame Defarge responds with a cold, impassive stare. Mr. Lorry tries to explain to Lucie that Madame Defarge has wished to see them so she will know whom to protect if there is any trouble. Mr. Lorry, however, is having trouble believing her reason after seeing her stony attitude. Madame Defarge asks if little Lucie is Darnay's child. When told that she is, Madame Defarge announces that her work there is done and starts to leave. Lucie pleads with her to use her power to save Darnay. Madame Defarge, looking as cold as ever, turns to The Vengeance and explains that the mothers and wives have not been thought about when their husbands and fathers were rotting in prison. They have suffered all kinds of poverty, hunger, sickness, misery, oppression, and neglect. Turning to Lucie she adds that the troubles of one wife and mother do not mean much to them. She resumes her knitting and walks out. The Vengeance follows, and then Defarge.

Notes

Mr. Lorry's proper attitude towards business is evident, for he always draws a line between personal and bank work. He feels he cannot let Lucie stay in the rooms of the bank since she is the wife of a prisoner; it would put the bank at risk. As a result, he finds proper lodging for her, Dr. Manette, little Lucie, and Miss Pross in a safe area.

The fear that Darnay has already been killed is erased, and there is hope that Dr. Manette will succeed in saving him. In truth, throughout the chapter, emotion swings between hope and fear. At first, Lucie and Lorry hope that the Defarges will help them; after all, he brings the letters from Darnay and Dr. Manette to them, letting them know that Lucie’s husband is still alive. The hope, however, is short-lived. Madame Defarge's cold and impassive stare and her questions about the child reveal that she plans to harm them, not to help them. She has come to Lucie’s in order to learn the names of Darnay’s family that should be knitted into her register.


As they stand staring at one another, the total contrast between Madame Defarge and Lucie is made clear. Madame Defarge has spent her life influencing the people around her to take revenge and fanning the flames of hatred. Her misery is reflected in her icy stare and her stony heart is not moved either by Lucie's gratitude or pleas. There seems to be nothing human left in her. In total contrast, Lucie’s life has been spent in influencing the people around her through love and compassion. He has nurtured her husband, brought her father back to life, and devoted herself to the raising of little Lucie. Because of her kind ways, Lucie has a benevolent effect on all whom she meets.


CHAPTER FOUR: Calm in a Storm

Summary

After four days, Dr. Manette finally returns from La Force. He tells of the horrors committed there by the mob and the thousands of people that have been killed. He has seen the self-appointed tribunal, which summarily tries the prisoners and sentences them to death. In an effort to save Darnay, he presents himself to the tribunal, one of whom is Defarge, and tells them of his past. He uses all his influence to have a quick and fair trial for Darnay, hoping he will be heard and released. He is told, however, that Darnay will remain imprisoned.

While he and Lucie wait for Darnay’s trial and release, Dr. Manette devotes himself to working as a physician. Before long, he is appointed as the inspecting doctor for three prisons, among them La Force. As a result, he can regularly check on his son-in-law. He is delighted to find that Darnay is no longer in solitary confinement, but mixed with a general body of prisoners. He is also happy to be able to bring messages from Darnay to Lucie.

Darnay lies in prison for one and a half years. During this time, a new era begins; France is made a republic -- of Liberty, Freedom, Equality, or Death. The king is tried for treason, condemned, and executed by guillotine. A Law of Suspects is created to allow the government to imprison anyone who is suspected of any crime. A new tribunal is set up and given extraordinary powers to try summarily all those charged with any hostility to the state. A Committee of General Security and a Committee of Public Safety are formed to hunt down and punish political crimes. The Reign of Terror has truly set in. During all these changes, Dr. Manette never stops trying to have Darnay freed.

Notes

In this fourth chapter, Dr. Manette clearly takes over as the central figure and remains so for the remainder of this third and final book of the novel. He begins by averting Darnay's execution for the time being; as a result, there is a period of relative calm for Lucie and the family, despite the fact that the revolution rages on like a wild storm. While they wait for Darnay’s hoped for release, the doctor devotes himself to being a physician, helping patients from all walks of life. In spite of the grave injustice done to him earlier in life, he now has no need for vengeance; Lucie’s love has cured his hatred. His character, therefore, emerges as a sharp contrast to the revolutionaries, like the Defarges, who are filled with hatred and revenge.

Ironically, the years of suffering in prison have made Dr. Manette wise, strong, and patient. His sole purpose in life is to save Darnay. He gets himself appointed to the position of inspecting physician of La Force so that he can regularly check on Darnay’s state and bring messages from him to Lucie.

Dr. Manette's vivid description of mob rule once again underlines the total absence of justice in the new order of France, which Dickens describes in detail. The ushering in of the Reign of Terror is marked by sweeping governmental changes that are depicted through a vigorous and dramatic prose style, filled with sensory images, metaphors, and sarcasm. The comparison of the mob to the sea still persists; but now it is a deluge--not caused by rain from heaven but by the opening of hell. A reference is made to Jason, who went in quest of the golden fleece and had to fight an army of thirty thousand men; the mention of the classical story points out the enormity of the task facing those who wish to restore order and justice to France. The guillotine takes the form of a female figure and jests are made about her power as she cures headaches, prevents hair from turning gray, gives the complexion a delicate tinge, and is the National Razor for a close shave. Once again, the revolution is feminized in a negative way, as has also been done through Madame Defarge and the Vengeance. Dickens also stresses the total absence of Christianity from the Reign of Terror. The guillotine has replaced the Cross and is canonized like a saint; the patriots bow before it and wear miniatures of it around their necks.

Amazingly, because of Lucie’s love and nurturing, none of these things make Dr. Manette slip into his past; he walks among these terrors with a steady heart, head, and hand. He has one driving purpose in life - to save Darnay and insure Lucie’s happiness.


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