Free Study Guide: A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens - Free BookNotes|
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A TALE OF TWO CITIES: FREE STUDY GUIDE
When the time comes, Carton, with his typical astuteness, carefully
plans every step to save Darnay and ensure Lucie’s happiness. He blackmails
Barsad into helping him, visits the wine-shop so that people know that
there is a person who looks like Darnay, arranges for the family’s passage
out of Paris, buys drugs at the chemist to give Darnay, and tricks the
prisoner into complying with his plan. Because of his ingenuity and careful
organization, Carton’s plan is executed with perfection. Darnay is a free
man, and he is a prisoner headed to the guillotine. Standing in the tumbrel,
holding the hand of a poor seamstress who recognizes that he is not Darnay,
Carton has redeemed himself. In death, he has finally found a purpose
in life. He has become the noble sacrificial hero who chooses to die so
that others can live.
Dr. Manette is a French physician. He was thrown in prison and left to die there for eighteen years, because he witnessed a crime committed by the Evremonde brothers and had tried to report it to the authorities. His imprisonment and release are the hub around which the story revolves. Dr. Manette’s long solitary confinement leads to loss of memory, temporary insanity, and premature aging. At the time of his release, he can only call himself by his cell number, one hundred and five, and occupies himself by cobbling shoes.
The love and care of his daughter Lucie nurture Dr. Manette back to health and normality. However, there are times when he lapses into his earlier state, usually caused by some terrible memory or association related to his imprisonment. In truth, Dr. Manette struggles between a normal life style and a desire for vengeance against the Evremonde. When his loving daughter marries an Evremonde, Dr. Manette is a torn man. He decides, however, to put aside his vengeful feelings in order to ensure the happiness of Lucie. When Darnay is arrested in France, he does everything in his power to save his son-in-law. He is proud when he accomplishes his release during the first trial; when he fails to save Darnay after his second arrest, he looks for his old cobbler’s bench, seeking an escape from his failure.
Dr. Manette is one of the truly dynamic characters in the book. His
changes during the course of the novel are total and complete. At the
beginning of the plot, he is isolated and demented due to his long, solitary
imprisonment. He changes into a bright, kind and loving man, thanks to
the affections and care of his daughter Lucie. Throughout the first part
of the novel, Dr. Manette is also plagued by his unstated desire for revenge
against the Evremondes. By the end of the novel, he has destroyed all
thoughts of vengeance and tries everything in his power to save an Evremonde,
his son-in-law Darnay. Manette is a much happier man when he is ruled
by love instead of hatred.
Lucie is a typical Victorian heroine who is beautiful, gentle, frail, and given to fainting under stress; but she has a remarkable inner strength that is derived from practicing Christian virtues. She shows love and compassion for all mankind; in return, she is very admired and loved. Although she is only seventeen when she hears that her father is alive, she goes to Paris to meet him, brings him back to London, and successfully nurses him back to health and happiness. She is a reluctant witness at Darnay's trial and emphasizes the way he helped her. She does not scorn or reject Carton when he declares his love for her; while admitting that she cannot reciprocate his feelings, she implores him to change his wasteful ways, assuring him that he has value. Lucie is so pure and noble that everyone who encounters her seems transformed.
Lucie is also a pillar of strength and patience, accepting her tribulations
and sorrows. She sympathizes with the plight of her demented father and
never gives up on him. When she learns that her husband has been arrested
in France, she heads to Paris in spite of the revolution. When Darnay
is headed to the guillotine, she never sheds a tear in his presence, not
wanting to add to his misery. She keeps both family and friends together
through her strength and love. Lucie is truly the "golden thread"
that unites, in a benevolent way, the various characters in the story.
Defarge is a victim of aristocratic tyranny and rages against the upper
class. Good-humored by nature, Defarge becomes secretive, angry, and dangerous
due to his hatred of the nobility and his strong desire for revenge. Because
of his passion and spurred on by his evil wife, he becomes the leader
of the revolutionary cause. He, however, is a moderate compared to Madame
Defarge. He even pleads with his wife for Darnay's life, but to no avail.
Madame Defarge, with her strong body, strong face, and strong features, likens herself to the wind, to fire, and to an earthquake. Like these natural force that are violent and cannot be stopped, Madame Defarge is ruthless and unstoppable. She is the "watchful eye" of the revolution, always observant and aware of what is going on, although she often appears to be aloof and unconcerned. She is usually seen knitting on her “register” that lists the names of aristocratic families that must perish in the revolution. During the course of the novel, Madame Defarge actually become the symbol of the revolution, with all of its hatred and desire for vengeance.
Under her calm exterior, Madame Defarge hides a passionate anger that
will not be satisfied until she gets her revenge on the aristocracy, especially
the Evremonde family, who is responsible for the deaths of her brother
and sister. She is determined that Darnay will be executed for being an
Evremonde by birth and determines his wife and child must also perish.
When she finds out they have escaped, she is beside herself with anger.
Wanting proof that Lucie is indeed not hiding in her room, she struggles
with Miss Pross. Ironically, during the struggle her own gun falls to
the floor and discharges, killing Madame Defarge immediately.
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