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

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BOOK THREE: The Track of a Storm

CHAPTER TEN: The Substance of the Shadow


One day in 1757, Dr. Manette walks down a street when he is stopped by a carriage. Inside are two men, apparently twins, who need his service. They do not disclose who they are and merely reveal that they are of high birth. The Doctor is taken by them to a solitary house in the countryside. Upstairs he finds a delirious woman in her twenties; she is rambling on about her family who has been killed. Her arms are bound to her sides with sashes. The doctor notices a fringed scarf with the crest of nobility and the initial "E." After Dr. Manette sedates her, he is led to another patient. He is a young, handsome, peasant boy dying from a fatal would. The Doctor finds out that he has been stabbed by one of the brothers. The boy tells the Doctor that the woman is his sister, and they are tenants of one of the brothers. He informs the Doctor about his sister's abduction by the other brother and how he was stabbed when he tried to rescue her. He discloses that the youngest sister managed to sneak away safely. Both the boy and his sister die shortly afterward. The doctor is commanded not to reveal what he has seen. The noblemen offer him money, which he refuses to take. The next morning another attempt is made to bribe him. He, however, decides to notify the Minister of this ghastly incident.

Later he is visited by the Marquis St. Evremonde's wife and comes to know the identity of the brothers. She has found out the facts about the two deaths and wishes to help the surviving sister, if the Doctor will reveal her name and whereabouts. She wishes to make amends for the sake of her three-year-old son, Charles, who has accompanied her. The Doctor then adds the Evremonde name to the letter. However, the wicked brothers capture him, burn the letter, and imprison him in the Bastille.

After the manuscript about this incident has been read, a terrible sound erupts from the crowd. They want vengeance. The jury then unanimously votes that Darnay is to be executed within twenty-four hours.


The story of the manuscript and the cruel imprisonment of the Doctor have all the sensational elements of a Gothic novel. Dickens, however, tells Dr. Manette's story in clear and vigorous prose style that holds the reader spellbound. The final pieces of the puzzle finally fall into place when the connection of Dr. Manette to the Evremondes is revealed. It is no wonder he was shocked and upset when he learned that his son-in-law was an Evremonde.

Dickens is a master storyteller and builds up his plot in a methodical, interesting, and captivating manner. No incident in the novel is irrelevant to his complex plot, and as the novel rushes to a conclusion, Dickens tries to tie up all the loose ends. The reader now understands that part of the reason for Darnays trips to France were to search for the surviving sister, as his mother obviously commanded him to do.

Dickens' use of coincidence and fate becomes very important in this chapter. It is ironic that Dr. Manette’s hatred of the Evremondes has turned in to a love for one of them, his son-in law Darnay. It is also ironic that Dr. Manette’s manuscript is to be the evidence that pronounces the death knell for that same Evremonde. It appears that the innocent Darnay will have to pay with his life for the sins of his fathers; there is no escape from his family history. Dickens seems to be saying that divine providence rules over all, and evil action must be punished.



Lucie is completely shocked by the guilty verdict; but she nobly lifts herself out of her stupor because she knows she has to stand by Darnay in his misery rather than augment it. She pleads with his jailer to let her embrace her husband for the last time. Barsad allows her to do so. Darnay blesses his wife and assures her that they will meet again one day. He also sends a parting blessing to little Lucie. As the couple tear themselves apart, Lucie tearfully informs her husband that they will not be parted for long as she is sure to die of a broken heart. Darnay prevents the Doctor from kneeling before him and comforts him. He realizes now the full extent of the struggle the Doctor has endured. He is also grateful for his efforts to release him. The Doctor's only response is to run his hands through his hair and utter an anguished cry. After Darnay is led out, Lucie collapses at her father's feet.

Carton, who has unobtrusively observed this scene, comes forward and carries the senseless woman to the coach. On reaching the house, Carton carries her again and lays her on the couch. Little Lucie and Miss Pross weep over her. Carton does not want Lucie to be revived. It would be better for her to sleep through her misery. Little Lucie is overjoyed to see Carton and knows that he will do something to help her mother and save her father. He promises her that she will again see her father. He kisses Lucie and whispers in her ear, "A life you love." This is overheard by little Lucie. He urges Dr. Manette to use his influence, once again, to save Darnay's life, even though he knows that it is hopeless. He explains to Mr. Lorry that he encouraged Dr. Manette only because it might console Lucie one day. Carton then leaves.


The plot moves rapidly to the grand finale. It is dominated by the actions of Sydney Carton who from a dissipated and irresolute lawyer has emerged as a clear-headed and meticulous planner. This is not really a metamorphosis, for the sharpness of his mind has been observed in his work for Mr. Stryver. After the tearful and heartbreaking separation from Darnay, Lucie faints. It is significant that Carton comes to her rescue and carries her to home and safety. As Lucie lies unconscious, he assures little Lucie that she will soon see her father. His parting kiss and whispering in his beloved Lucie's ear is very touching, for he alone knows that he will never see her again. He plans for the family to escape and gets ready to visit Darnay in the prison; he will switch places with him there. It is an act of pure love for Lucie. He is to become the Christ figure who is willing to die for the sins of Darnay's ancestors.

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