A Tale of Two CitiesA Tale of Two Cities opens in the year 1775, with the narratorcomparing conditions in England and France, and foreshadowing thecoming of the French Revolution. The first action is Jarvis Lorry’s nightjourney from London, where he serves as an agent for Tellson’s Bank. The next afternoon, in a Dover inn, Lorry meets with Lucie Manette,a seventeen-year-old French orphan raised in England. Lorry tellsLucie that her father, the physician Alexandre Manette, is not dead asshe’s always believed. Dr.
Manette has just been released from yearsof secret imprisonment in the Paris prison, the Bastille. Lorry escorts Lucie across the English Channel to a house in apoor Paris suburb where her father, in a dazed state from longsolitary confinement, confusedly works at the shoemaker’s trade helearned in prison. Dr. Manette has been taken care of by ErnestDefarge, a former servant of the Manette family, now the keeper of awine shop.Order now
Defarge and his wife- a strong-looking, confident woman-appear to be engaged in antigovernment activity. Lucie is saddenedby her father’s state and, resolving to restore him to himself, sheand Lorry carry the doctor back to England. Five years pass. In London, at Old Bailey (the courthouse) we meetCharles Darnay, a French expatriate who is on trial for treason. LucieManette and Jarvis Lorry both testify that they met Darnay on theirreturn trip across the Channel five years earlier.
John Barsad, anEnglish spy, swears that Darnay’s purpose in traveling was to plottreason against England. Darnay is acquitted when his lawyer, Stryver,shatters a witness’ identification by pointing at Darnay’s uncannyresemblance to Sydney Carton- a brilliant but dissolute lawyer whois wasting his talents in poorly paid servitude to Stryver. Lucie and her father- who has regained his faculties and returned tomedical practice- now live happily in a quiet corner of Soho withLucie’s fiercely loyal companion, Miss Pross. They are frequentlyvisited by Lorry (now a close family friend), Darnay, and Carton.
Lucie imagines hearing hundreds of footsteps thundering into herlife- a fantasy that in fact foreshadows the revolutionary strife inFrance. The scene shifts to France. Driving in his carriage through thestreets of Paris, the cruel Marquis St. Evremonde runs over andkills a poor man’s child. We learn that the Marquis is CharlesDarnay’s uncle (out of shame for his wicked male forebears, Darnay hadchanged his name from St.
Evremonde to the English-sounding Darnay). Meeting the Marquis at the St. Evremonde chateau, Darnay says hewill renounce the family property when he inherits to show his disgustwith the aristocracy. St. Evremonde expresses his hate of hisnephew, and his continued support of the old, unjust order. The nextmorning the Marquis is found stabbed to death.
Gaspard, the fatherof the boy the Marquis ran over, has killed him as an act ofvengeance. Back in England again, Darnay becomes engaged to Lucie. SydneyCarton also declares his hopeless, lasting devotion to Lucie, and vowshe would give his life to save anyone dear to her. Barsad, now a spy for the French monarchy, tips off theDefarges in Paris to the impending marriage of Lucie and Darnay. Privately and meaningfully, Monsieur Defarge comments that he hopesdestiny will keep Lucie’s husband out of France. The marriage ceremony, together with a story Darnay has told aboutdiscovering hidden papers in a prison, send Dr.
Manette intoamnesiac shock. For nine days, until Miss Pross and Jarvis Lorrypull him out of it, he reverts to his former shoemaking habits. Welearn later that on the wedding morning, Dr. Manette securedDarnay’s promise not to reveal his true name- St.
Evremonde- toanyone, not even Lucie. Paris, 1789: the French Revolution breaks out. Defarge leads theattack on the Bastille, while his wife marshals the revolutionarywomen. In the country rebellious peasants burn down the St. Evremonde chateau.
Gabelle, the property’s rent and tax collector,is eventually arrested and thrown into Paris’ L’Abbaye prison. Rushingoverseas, Darnay is at once seized by the revolutionaries as anaristocrat, and flung into another prison, La Force. Lucie, heryoung daughter, Miss Pross, and Dr. Manette rush to Darnay’s aid,lodging in Paris near Jarvis Lorry, who’s there on business. As an ex-Bastille prisoner, Dr. Manette has sufficient influenceto visit his son-in-law in La Force, but he is unable to freeDarnay.
For fifteen months Lucie stands each afternoon outside of LaForce, praying that Charles may catch a glimpse of her. The Terroris in full swing, the guillotine shaving innocent and aristocraticheads alike. At last Darnay is brought up before the French Tribunal. He isreleased through the testimony of Dr. Manette and the long-sufferingGabelle.
But the very night of his freedom the Defarges and oneother denounce Darnay. On the spot, he is hauled back to theConciergerie, the scene of his trial. Ignorant of the disaster, MissPross and Jerry Cruncher, Lorry’s jack-of-all-trades, go shoppingfor provisions and encounter Miss Pross’ long-lost brother, Solomon. Cruncher recognizes Solomon as the spy-witness John Barsad who oncetestified against Darnay.
Suddenly Sydney Carton is on the scene (he has come to Paris to helphis friends). Leading Barsad off to Tellson’s headquarters for ameeting, Carton informs Jarvis Lorry that Darnay has beenrearrested, and forces Barsad to cooperate with him by threateningto reveal the spy’s turncoat maneuvers. Currently in the pay of therevolutionaries, Barsad’s job is to spy on their prisoners, and sohe has access to Darnay in the Conciergerie. Carton sets a secret planin motion, using Barsad. Darnay’s retrial the next morning produces a sensation. A journaldiscovered by Defarge in Dr.
Manette’s old cell at the Bastille isread aloud to the Tribunal. In his journal Dr. Manette blames hisarrest on two brothers of the St. Evremonde family who had summonedhim to their country house to treat a young peasant wife the youngerSt.
Evremonde had raped. The woman’s brother lay beyond treatment,dying from a wound received when he tried to attack the rapist. After both the brother and sister had died, Dr. Manette received avisit in his home from the elder St.
Evremonde’s wife and her smallson, Charles Darnay. The Marquise St. Evremonde believed the deadwoman had a sister, and wished to make reparations to her. Dr.
Manetteattempted to reveal the St. Evremonde brothers’ infamy, but theyarranged for him to be arrested and put in jail. Dr. Manette ended hisstory with a curse on the whole St. Evremonde clan, and hid thedocument in a hole in the chimney. On this evidence Charles Darnayis condemned for his ancestors’ evil deeds, and is sentenced to die in24 hours.
After the verdict, Sydney Carton, drinking in the Defarge wine shop,overhears Madame Defarge announce that she is the missing sister,the last survivor of the family exterminated by the St. Evremondes. She swears to complete her vengeance by wiping out all of Darnay’srelations- Lucie, her little girl, and even Dr. Manette himself.
Carton goes to Jarvis Lorry’s lodgings where both men receive Dr. Manette, who, from the shock of Charles’ condemnation has againslipped into his amnesiac-shoemaker role. Carton warns Lorry of Madame Defarge’s murderous intentions, and they plan an escape from thecountry. Carton tells Lorry to keep the proper papers ready, andwhen Carton appears at two the next afternoon, all- including Lucieand her child- will ride swiftly away. The following day, Carton enters Darnay’s cell, drugs him, andexchanges clothes with him.
Carton intends to take Darnay’s place onthe guillotine, and thus fulfill his old promise to give his lifefor anyone dear to Lucie. As agreed, Barsad hurries Darnay’sunconscious body- dressed as Carton- out of the Conciergerie to thecoach where Jarvis Lorry’s party awaits. All flee successfully. In the meantime Miss Pross, alone in the Manette apartment, has agrim meeting with Madame Defarge, who has come armed with pistol andknife to take her personal revenge. There is a struggle and the pistolfires, killing Madame Defarge and forever deafening Miss Pross. Nonetheless, she is able to meet Jerry Cruncher as they haveplanned, and escape.
Sydney Carton goes to the guillotine with dignity. (For the firsttime Madame Defarge’s ringside seat is vacant.) He comforts a littleseamstress, has a final vision of better times ahead, and reflects:It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it isa far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.English Essays