A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens summary



A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens summary


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A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens summary


Introduction to A Tale of Two Cities

Written in 1859, A Tale of Two Cities explores issues typically associated with other works of Charles Dickens: poverty, oppression, cruelty, social disruption, personal redemption, and class struggle.  As scenes in this story shift between the cities of Paris and London, Dickens explores his themes in both locations.  The circumstances that provoked the revolution, as well as the chaotic consequences of the revolutionaries’ victory, serve as a warning directed at unaddressed and unresolved social concerns in England.  Everywhere, poverty and oppression stand in sharp contrast to justice and love.   Through the lives of characters drawn from many class levels in both England and France, Dickens weaves his intricate plot.

A master of dramatic narrative full of vivid scenes and coincidence, Dickens is able to link the lives of diverse characters who represent the competing forces of that memorable era.  To this day, Madame Defarge personifies revenge just as the Marquis St. Evremonde stands for corruption and cruelty.  Sydney carton represents the extremes to which one might go to salvage a wasted life.  Finally, the lives of these characters offer proof that, indeed, “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

The Life of Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens was born on February 7, 1812, the second of eight children.  Throughout most of his childhood, the family was burdened with debt.  In 1823, his father, John Dickens, was arrested and sent to the Marshalsea Debtor’s Prison, where he was soon to be joined by the rest of his family.  At the age of eleven, Dickens was forced to begin work in a blacking factory.  The misery of those early years haunted him for the rest of his life.

It was because of these unfortunate circumstances that Dickens developed a lifelong concern regarding abuse of the poor, particularly children.  Human suffering, inequality, and injustice are pervasive themes in Dickens’ work.  It was through personal experience that he was able to write so convincingly about the various social evils that prevailed in nineteenth century England.

An unexpected inheritance eventually relieved some of the family’s burdens, and Dickens was able to continue his education.  At the age of fifteen, he began work for a firm of attorneys in London.  Soon afterward, he began work as a freelance reporter in the law courts and in Parliament.  By the Dickens had turned twenty-five, the serialization of The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club has made him one of England’s most widely read authors, a popularity he would enjoy for the rest of his life.

More than any of his other novels, A Tale of Two Cities reveals the complexity of Dickens’ social ideas.  By the standards of his day, he was a political radical, and many of his novels explore specific social problems in great detail.  Oliver Twist, for example, portrays the suffering and mistreatment of children; Little Dorrit describes the debtor’s prison where Dickens’ family had suffered; and Hard Times is a powerful account of the exploitation of industrial workers laboring under devastating conditions.  Through his many novels, Dickens created an unforgettable cast of characters, each representing some aspect of the world in which he lived.

Dickens’ work brought issues of mistreatment and hypocrisy into sharp focus.  He exposed and satirized corruption, greed, and injustice, while forcefully advocating the interests of the poor and downtrodden, especially children.  Though Dickens consistently combated political and social oppression, he feared the violence and upheaval inherent in revolution, as can be seen in A Tale of Two Cities.

Although he was born twenty-four years after the French Revolution, Dickens himself lived in politically tumultuous times.  In 1830, another revolution had again overthrown the French monarch.  Popular uprisings occurred in other European countries.  Although England had avoided revolution, many people felt that if England had not passed the Parliamentary Reform Act of 1832, it too might have suffered from revolutionary violence.

In 1848, a revolution once again toppled the French monarch and inspired yet another series of political upheavals throughout the continent.  Once more England was spared a revolution even though the Chartist movement, which had gained strength among the working class during the first half of the century, had led many to fear that violence would break out there as well.

In 1859, as he was publishing A Tale of Two Cities, a series of revolutions occurred throughout the various states of Italy.  Dickens is said to have begun work on the book shortly after a bomb kill or injured 100 people in an assassination attempt against the French Emperor Napoleon III.  A Tale of Two Cities offered a warning to the English that reform would be preferable to revolution.

The Guillotine

In December 1789, Joseph-Ignace Guillotin, a deputy in the French National Assembly, proposed reforms in capital punishment. 

Hanging, which was probably the most common form of execution in both France and England, was slow and inefficient.  Instead of using the sort of gallows with a drop-trap that appears in so many Westerns, the executioner would sling the rope from a beam or a branch of a tree.  The condemned person, with a rope around the neck, would stand on a cart or sometimes sit on a horse.   When the cart or horse was pulled away, the body was left to fall under its own weight.  Very often the force of the fall was not great enough to break the neck so that death actually came from slow strangulation.  Sometimes friends or family paid the executioner to let them all tug on the condemned person’s legs so that death would come more quickly.

Beheading with an axe or a sword was even more grisly.  Cutting through a human neck with one blow is not especially easy.  Unless the executioner was skillful, he might bungle the job so that instead of killing with one fell stroke, he would leave the victim horrible mangled.

Because of his proposed reforms in capital punishment, the guillotine became associated with Joseph-Ignace Guillotin’s name.  Guillotin himself , however,  did not invent the guillotine – similar devices had existed since the sixteenth century – and he always resented the association with his name.

Ironically, there were a number of deputies in the Constituent Assembly who wanted to abolish capital punishment altogether (except for treason and regicide).  One of these deputies was Robespierre, who later became one of the most important leaders during the worst phase of the Reign of Terror.

The guillotine had been initially introduced as a means to eliminate unnecessary suffering.  During the Terror, however, the guillotine revealed another virtue.  It was very efficient.  A skilled team of executioners could kill at the rate of one person every two or three minutes.


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A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens summary


Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities


It is the year 1775, and England and France are undergoing a period of social upheaval and turmoil. The forces that are leading to revolution in France are colliding with a circle of people in England, causing their destinies to be irrevocably intertwined.

Lucie Manette, a young woman who has been raised as an orphan and a ward of Tellson's bank, learns that her father is alive and has recently been released from prison after eighteen years of unjust incarceration. She travels to the Paris suburb of Saint Antoine with Mr. Jarvis Lorry, a longtime Tellson's employee who had managed her father's affairs before his imprisonment. They find her father at the home of Ernest Defarge, a former domestic of Dr. Manette's who has housed the doctor since his release. Though her father is teetering on the brink of insanity, she solemnly vows that she will be true to him and devote her life to helping him recover himself. The family relocates to London, and Mr. Lorry becomes a friend of the family. After time, the doctor begins to recover and resumes his practice, and though he occasionally reverts back to his trance-like state, he slowly but surely returns to himself. Throughout the process, he and Lucie become extremely close.

After a period of five years, Lucie and her father are called to testify in the trial of Charles Darnay, a French citizen and London resident who has been accused of treason against England. Lucie testifies that she and her father saw Darnay on a ship bound for England the night she brought her father back home to London, and that he was conversing with other men and poring over documents. Though the testimony is damaging, Lucie notes that Darnay had been extremely kind and helpful to her in caring for her father on the ship, and she admits that she hopes her testimony has not doomed him. Darnay is ultimately saved when one witness' testimony hinges on the witness' certainty that he saw Darnay at a certain locale at a particular time. When Sydney Carton, a member of Darnay's defense team, removes his wig in court, it is revealed that he bears a striking resemblance to Darnay, thereby eroding the witness' credibility in terms of his certainty of having seen Charles Darnay himself. Darnay is ultimately freed, and this circumstance draws everyone involved closer together.

 Darnay, along with Mr. Lorry, becomes a friend of the family, and Sydney Carton becomes a regular visitor, if not an entirely welcome one--he is frequently drunk, often sullen, and coarse in his manner. Though the others complain of Carton's manner, one evening he confides in Lucie and tells her that while he has made nothing of his life and will not improve before he dies, he wants her to know that she has awakened feelings in him that he thought had been stamped out long ago. She asks if she can help him, and he says no, but that he wants her to know that he cares for her deeply. The group continues to visit regularly, and on one particular evening, Lucie notes that there is an ominous feeling in the air, as if she is able to forecast that grave danger and turmoil are in her future. But the family continues to be happy, and Lucie eventually marries Darnay, who tells her father that he has a secret that no one else knows. Dr. Manette asks Darnay to save the secret for the marriage morning, and Darnay does.

A year passes. Darnay returns to France to attend to the business that had gotten him into trouble in England in the first place. He pays a visit to his uncle, a corrupt aristocrat who is so cruel that when his carriage driver recklessly ran over and killed a peasant's child, he blamed the peasants for being in the way. After having dinner in his uncle's lavish chateau, Darnay wakes up to find that his uncle has been murdered.

He returns to England, and several more years pass. He and Lucie have two children, a son and a daughter. The son passes away as a young boy, but the family continues to be relatively happy despite this tragic circumstance. But the foreboding sense looms in the air, and Mr. Lorry notes that many of Tellson's Paris customers are frantically transferring their assets to the London branch, signaling some kind of danger in Paris. He notes that he will have to travel to Paris to help the office there handle the volume. One day, Mr. Lorry remarks to Darnay that he has received a letter addressed to a Marquis St. Evrémonde in care of Tellson's. Darnay says that he knows the man and will deliver the letter; in truth, Darnay is the Marquis St. Evrémonde, a descendant of the corrupt rulers of France. The letter is from an old friend who has been put in prison unjustly and who fears that he will soon be executed. Darnay, who has so long avoided France for fear of what might happen to him there because of his heritage, realizes that he must go.

He goes to intervene on his friend's behalf and quickly realizes that the situation is worse than he could have imagined. A revolution has taken place; the peasants have overthrown the government and are murdering anyone who they feel represents the old guard. Darnay is immediately taken into custody, though he tries desperately to explain that unlike his uncle and father, he is on the peasants' side and wants to help them. They disregard his testimony, and none other than Ernest Defarge, who has since become a revolutionary, sends Darnay to prison. By this time, Lucie and her father have learned that Darnay has returned to France, aware that Darnay is probably in grave danger. The revolutionaries treat Dr. Manette as a hero, however, because he had so long suffered at the hands of the same government that oppressed them (and that they have since overthrown). Because of his newfound influence, he is able to learn where Darnay is, and he intervenes on his behalf.

When Darnay is tried for his life in front of a corrupt and farcical tribunal, only Dr. Manette's testimony saves him. He is freed, but before even one day passes, he is recaptured on the grounds that three French citizens have denounced him. He is forced to undergo another trial, at which it is learned that the citizens who denounced him are Ernest Defarge, Madame Defarge (Ernest's cruel and vengeful wife), and Dr. Manette. When Dr. Manette declares that he has never denounced Charles and that whoever accused him of doing so is lying, Defarge presents a paper to the tribunal to be read aloud. The paper turns out to be a journal that Dr. Manette had written after ten years in prison and hidden in  a chimney; Defarge discovered it when the peasants freed that particular prison. The account reveals that Dr. Manette had learned that a Marquis St. Evrémonde and his brother had cruelly murdered a peasant, and he learned this because the men retrieved him to give medical attention to their victims before they died. He saw how the brothers treated their victims so cruelly, and he had written a letter to the government informing them of what he saw. The brothers Evrémonde learned that Dr. Manette had written the letter. Shortly thereafter, he was taken prisoner, and his wife was never informed of what happened to him. For this, Dr. Manette wrote that he denounced the brothers Evrémonde and all their descendants.

After the letter is read, the court erupts into an uproar, and the tribunal votes unanimously to execute Darnay. Lucie and her father are beside themselves; by this time, Carton has traveled to London, and he and Mr. Lorry confer and try to decide what to do. During this time, Dr. Manette tries to save Darnay, but he relapses into his trance-like state and is unable to do anything. Through a series of coincidences, Carton discovers that one of the men who testified against Darnay at his trial several years earlier is working as a spy in France. He learns that the man is a spy in the prison where Darnay is held, and he blackmails the man into granting him access to Darnay. Mr. Lorry remarks solemnly that this will not help Darnay; Carton says he knows this, and Darnay's fate seems irrevocably sealed. Carton, however, has other plans. He goes to the prison on the day of Charles' execution on the pretense of visiting him one last time. But once he gets inside, he uses his physical resemblance to Darnay and his ability to manipulate the spy to pull off the ultimate sacrifice. He drugs Darnay into a stupor, switches clothing with him, and has the spy smuggle Darnay out of the prison and into a waiting carriage that also includes Dr. Manette, Lucie, and Mr. Lorry. He tells no one of his plan, and not even the Manettes know it. They are waiting in their carriage for Carton, fully expecting that he will join them and that they will leave France in a hurry. The rest of the family is in danger because of Madame Defarge, who wants to denounce all of them. The peasant that the Evrémonde brothers murdered was her brother, and she wants revenge against Darnay and his entire family. The spy smuggles Charles to the waiting carriage, and the family escapes France. Carton, however, goes to the guillotine and dies for Lucie, fulfilling his promise to her that he would die "to keep a life you love beside you." Just before he dies, he thinks to himself that his final act is far better than anything else he has ever done.



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A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens summary

Study Guide for A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens


Minor Characters

Mrs. Cruncher

Young Jerry Cruncher

Mr. Stryver

John Barsad

Roger Cly

Marquis d’ Evrémonde


The Mender of Roads (later called the Wood Sawyer)

The Vengeance

Young Lucie Darnay



Major Characters

Jarvis Lorry

Lucie Manette (later Lucie Darnay)

Dr. Alexandre Manette

Ernest Defarge

Thérèse Defarge

Charles Darnay

Sydney Carton

Jerry Cruncher

Miss Pross




L'ABBAYE—Prison of the French monarchy, used by the Revolutionaries to jail aristocrats.

BARMECIDE—Member of a fictional Persian family (in The Arabian Nights), who treated a beggar to a mock feast. Dickens' reference- "Barmecide room"- emphasizes that no dining ever occurred at Tellson's.

BASTILLE—French fortress used to confine state prisoners; the Bastille was much hated by the people.

BEDLAM—Shortened form of Bethlehem Hospital for the Insane. In the 18th century visiting Bedlam was a popular London excursion; in our own day the term has become general for lunacy or chaos.

CONCIERGERIE—Prison attached to the Palace of Justice in Paris. Marie Antoinette, Robespierre, and other famous prisoners of the Revolution awaited execution here; between January 1793 and July 1794 nearly 2,600 prisoners left for the guillotine.

CONVULSIONISTS—Group of French religious enthusiasts given to wild dancing and fits; in fashion somewhat before the time Dickens describes.

FLEET STREET—London newspaper and business district, well known to Dickens.

LA FORCE—Old debtors' prison of Paris; during the Revolution it held political offenders.

FURIES—In Greek and Roman mythology, minor deities who relentlessly pursued sinners.

GAZETTE—Official government publication in England, containing bankruptcy and other notices; to be "driven into the Gazette" is to be published a bankrupt.

GORGON'S HEAD—Reference to Medusa, the Gorgon, a monster of Greek mythology. All who looked at Medusa were turned to stone. The hero Perseus succeeded in cutting off her head.

HILARY TERM—Sitting of the English High Court of Justice, extends from January to just before Easter.

HOTEL DE VILLE—French term for any city hall; here, the Paris City Hall.

JACQUERIE—Originally applied to a French peasant revolt in the Middle Ages, the term came to mean any uprising of the common people. Jacques was the old collective name for French peasants, which Defarge and his revolutionary friends co-opt, proudly, as a password: "How goes it, Jacques?"

LEONORA, BALLAD OF—Ballad of Gothic horror, composed in 1773 and popular among European romantics.

MICHAELMAS TERM—Fall sitting of English High Court of Justice, beginning after September 29 (the Feast of St. Michael).

NEWGATE—Infamous London prison, now demolished; held prisoners awaiting trial at the Old Bailey, next door.

OLD BAILEY—London court of law, remodeled into the Centre Criminal Court, but still widely called "Old Bailey."

RANELAGH—Suburban pleasure garden popular with mid-18th-century Londoners, but falling out of favor when Stryver proposes inviting Lucie Manette there.

SAINT ANTOINE—Suburb (faubourg) of Paris that supported primitive manufacturing; its

impoverished residents were the backbone of the Revolutionary mob.

SARDANAPALUS—Greek name for king of ancient Assyria, made proverbial by his lavish display of wealth.

SESSIONS—Periodic sittings or meetings of English justices of the peace; the Sessions deal with certain crimes and statutes.

SOHO—Upper-class district of central London.

TEMPLE BAR—London gateway dividing Fleet Street from the Strand; the heads of executed traitors were displayed on it. Designed by Christopher Wren in 1670, Temple Bar was removed to a private estate in 1878.

TOWER OF LONDON—Fortress where those imprisoned for treason awaited trial.

TUILERIES, PALACE OF—Paris residence of the French kings, and hated symbol of the monarchy. Burnt down by French Revolutionaries of 1871.

TYBURN—London gallows called "Tyburn tree," until 1783 for hanging felons. Public executions became festivals, drawing large crowds.

VAUXHALL GARDENS—Popular suburban resort, opened in 1660, closed in 1859- the year A Tale of Two Cities was printed.

WALTON, IZAAK—Author of The Compleat Angler, 17th-century treatise on fishing.

WHITEFRIARS—London district between Thames and Fleet Street, long a haunt of fugitive debtors and criminals and so an appropriate address for Jerry Cruncher, body snatcher.




  • Oppression leads to violence and revolution.
  • Men can be reborn under difficult circumstances.
  • Love has the power to redeem.



  • Animal imagery associated with several characters
  • Irony of the many “coincidences”
  • Blood, color red (also symbolic)




  • The Jail
  • Soho (garden of eden)
  • Color Red
  • Tellson’s Bank
  • Sydney Carton (Christ type), Marquis St. Evremonde, Madame Defarge, & the guillotine




SETTINGS IN A TALE OF TWO CITIES: The novel takes place in London and Paris during the late 1700’s.

Book the First, Chapters 1-6

1.     Why are the passengers and coachmen nervous?  What message does the rider bring Mr. Lorry?  What is Mr. Lorry’s strange response?  What image and questions keep going through Mr. Lorry’s mind?

2.     What is the history of Mr. Lorry’s relationship with the Manettes?  What reveals that Mr. Lorry had met Miss Manette before?  What news does Mr. Lorry bring to Miss Manette?

3.     What event opens chapter 5?  How do the residents of Saint Antoine react to this event?  What do you know about their lives?  How does Monsieur Defarge react to the scene?  What means of communication does Madame Defarge use?  To whom does Monsieur Defarge speak first?

4.     What is Monsieur Manette doing when his daughter and Mr. Lorry finally see him?  Describe Monsieur Manette’s state of mind.  Where does Monsieur Manette think he is?


Book the Second, Chapters 1-6

5.     For what crime is Charles Darnay being prosecuted?  What will his punishment be if he is found guilty?  What do the witnesses for the prosecution testify that he has done?  What effect do Miss Manette and her testimony have upon the trial?  What surprising evidence does Mr. Stryver introduce to undermine one of the prosecution’s witnesses?  What attitude does the judge reveal toward the case?  What is the jury’s verdict?

6.     In what way does the narrator describe Charles Darnay’s behavior during the trial?  How does Darnay feel when confronted with Miss Manette’s “pity…youth…and beauty”?

7.     When Carton and Darnay have dinner together after the verdict, what are the topics of conversation?  What does Carton reveal about himself?  about his feelings for Darnay? What warning does Carton give Darnay before they part company?

8.     What peculiar acoustical effects does the Manettes’ corner of Soho have?  What is Lucie Manette’s “whim” about the echoing footsteps?  What story learned during his imprisonment does Charles Darnay relate to the Manettes?  How does Dr. Manette react to this story?  What does Mr. Lorry note about the doctor’s reaction to Charles Darnay?


Book the Second, Chapters 7-13

9.     What incident takes place as the marquis heads out of the city to his country estate?  What caused it?  What is the marquis’ response to what has happened?  What is Defarge’s advice to the father of the slain child?  Who do you think threw the coin back at the marquis?

10.  What is Charles Darnay’s relationship to the marquis?  What is the source of their disagreement?  What does each man resolve or plan to do?  What stops the marquis from carrying out his plan?

11.  Why has Charles Darnay waited so long to declare his love for Lucie?  What promises do Darnay and Dr. Manette make to each other?

12.  Summarize Sydney Carton’s interview with Lucie Manette.  What is his purpose in coming to her?  What two things does he ask her to remember?

Book the Second, Chapters 14-20

13.  What is Jerry Cruncher’s “honest trade”? How does young Jerry find out about it?

14.  In chapter 15, what does the mender of roads reveal to Jacques?  What does the group decide once they have heard this information?  What does it mean to be “registered”?  Where is the group’s register kept?

15.  What information is John Barsad, the spy, trying to find out by visiting the wine shop?  What information does he reveal to Ernest and Madame Defarge before leaving?

16.  What did Charles Darnay promise to tell Dr. Manette on the morning of his wedding?  Describe Dr. Manette’s appearance immediately after his interview with Charles Darnay.  What does Dr. Manette do after the wedding?  Whose opinion does Mr. Lorry consult soon after Dr. Manette is better?  What does Dr. Manette say caused his return to his former mental confusion?


Book the Second, Chapters 21-24

17.  In chapter 21, what important events in the Manette household are described?

18.  What major event occurs in Paris on the hot mid-July night in 1789?  What roles do Monsieur and Madame Defarge play in it?  What personal mission does Monsieur Defarge undertake in the middle of it?  On whom do the people of Saint Antoine vent their fury next?  Why do they seek vengeance against this person?

19.  What happens in the village where the where the mender of the roads lives?  How do the villagers react to this event?  Who is Gabelle, and why do the townspeople turn on him?  What circumstances force him to write to Charles Darnay?

20.  Why do the French nobles congregate at Tellson’s?  Why do the exiles along with Mr. Stryver despise the murdered marquis’ nephew?  What does Darnay resolve to do?  Why does he think he will be safe?


Book the Third, Chapters 1-6

21.  What decree was passed while Darnay was on his way to Paris?
22.   In what way does it affect his situation? 
23. What happens to Darnay as soon as he reaches Paris? 
24. What reactions do people have to Darnay’s protests and claims that he is innocent?

25.What occurs outside the house where Tellson’s Bank has its quarters the night Dr. Manette and Lucie tell Mr. Lorry what has become of Charles Darnay? 
26. What has the crowd been doing that might endanger Charles Darnay’s life?
27.  What happens when Dr. Manette goes out to the crowd and tells his story? 
28. What special arrangements is Dr. Manette able to make for Charles during his imprisonment and trial?

29.  What reason does Monsieur Defarge give for Madame Defarge’s visit to Lucie and her daughter? 
30. What does Lucie sense about Madame Defarge? 
31.What does she beg of her? 
32.What is Madame Defarge’s reaction?

33.What arguments does Charles Darnay make in his defense? 
34. What does Dr. Manette say in Charles’ defense? 
35. What is the jury’s verdict?


Book the Third, Chapters 7-11

25.  In chapter 7, what are Lucie’s feelings about her husband’s safety?  What attitude does Dr. Manette reveal toward his daughter and Charles’ safety?  What happens to Charles Darnay at the end of chapter 7?

26.  What is Miss Pross’s bother Solomon’s other identity?  In chapter 8, what “game” doe Sydney Carton play with John Barsad?  What information does Jerry provide and how does it help Sydney Carton?  What does Carton win?

27.  Describe the contents of the letter Dr. Manette wrote while imprisoned in the Bastille.  Why was he imprisoned?  Of what crimes is the Evrémonde family guilty?  What kind of person was the marquis’ wife?  Who was the little boy in the carriage and what did his mother hope to teach him?  What does the doctor say about the Evrémonde family at the end of the letter?  What is the Jury’s verdict after hearing the story?

28.  Describe the conversation between Sydney Carton and Mr. Lorry after Mr. Lorry confronts Jerry Cruncher about his line of work?  What topics of conversation does Carton bring up?  What seems to be troubling him?  What does Carton stop to buy when he goes for his walk in chapter 9?  What words read at his father’s grave keep walking through his mind?  In chapter 11, what does Carton whisper to little Lucie Darnay as he kisses her?


Book the Third, Chapters 12-15

29.  In chapter 12, where and to whom does Carton decide to show himself?  What does he reveal about himself to these people?  What secret does Carton overhear Madame Defarge reveal?  What are her intentions toward Lucie Darnay, her daughter, and Dr. Manette?  What does Carton instruct Mr. Lorry to do to keep the family safe?

30.  In chapter 13, what does Carton say to Darnay that convinces him to begin exchanging clothing?  What message does he ask Darnay to write and for whom does he intend his message?  What does Carton do to ensure that Darnay will go through with his plan?  In chapter 13, there is a sudden change in point of view; while the narrator had been using third person, describing the action with words such as he, she and they, the narrator suddenly switches to the first person plural, using words such as we, us, and our.  Identify where this shift occurs.

31.  What plan does Madame Defarge form without her husband’s knowledge?  What makes Jacques Number Three’s reaction to Madame Defarge’s plan especially ghoulish?  Where does Madame Defarge decide to go after forming this plan?  What escape plan has Miss Pross and Mr. Cruncher devised?  What happens when Madame Defarge arrives at her destination?  What happens to Miss Pross?

32.  In chapter 15, with whom does Carton share a tumbril on the way to the guillotine?  What does he do to comfort this person?  In chapter 13, what was revealed about this character’s “crimes”?  What did this character recognize about Carton?  We are told that the final words Sydney Carton might have spoken are prophetic.  According to his vision of the future, what specific things will happen in France?  What will happen in the years to come to the group who fled to England?


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A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens summary

A Tale of Two Cities - Charles Dickens


6.  Cast of characters: Give the name and complete description of the main characters.


Dr. Manette is the father of Lucie Manette.  He was put in prison for 18 years, but was rescued by his daughter before becoming completely traumatized.  He now adores his daughter for saving him.  However, Dr. Manette used to be extremely prominent, but the action of putting him in jail traumatized him, thus he now suffers from madness and makes shoes as an outlet of his anger.  Eventually, he becomes a hero to the revolutionaries, and then frees his son-in-law, Charles Darnay.  However, after Charles returns to prison, Dr. Manette too returns to his trance-like state of depression and anger.


Lucie Manette is Dr. Manette’s stout yet beautiful daughter.  She rescued him from the jail, thus saving his entire life and career.  She has a mysterious aura around her which causes everyone to fall madly in love with herself.  She marries Charles, but only after promising that she will not forget about her father.  She is also the only person in the novel who treats Sydney Carson with love and kindness.                                                                                    

Charles Darnay is the son of a wealthy French family.  However, he later flees from his family to regain his status among the French peasants, for his family had brought along much shame to itself.  He thus settled in England, but later returns to France during the most dangerous period of the Revolution.  He has extremely strong morals, which is why Lucie Manette chooses to marry him.

Sydney Carton is a poor lawyer who is somewhat crude and savage.  He has a horrendous drinking problem and is often depressed.  He feels disappointed at the life that he has led from his once-promising lifestyle.  However, he later becomes one of the heroes of the novel after putting himself in danger to help another. 

Jarvis Lorry is a moderately wealthy banker at Tellson’s and is a close family friend of the Manette family.  He was the one who brought Lucie the message that her father was still alive in the prison.  He is honest and trustworthy, and thus, is the most trusted person of the Manettes.

Madame Defarge is a spiteful member of the revolution.  Her sole job is to create a list of potential people to seek after and kill for the revolution’s cause.  She is the wife of the man who owns the wine shop, and her mind is sincerely set on killing Charles Darney.  She wants to kill him because Charles Darnay’s uncle and father tortured and murdered her brother and brother-in-law.  She shows how the oppressed became the oppressors in the revolution.

Monseigneur Marquis is Charles Darnay’s cruel and horrible uncle.  He is a French aristocrat and has no pity upon the lower classes of France and England.  He constantly oppresses the lower classes, but is finally assassinated by one of the peasants out of anger. Because he was such a prominent and wealthy figure, his death prompted the revolution.


7.  Name and describe the point of view of the narrative.

            A Tale of Two Cities is told almost entirely in the third person point of view.  The narrator appears to be familiar with 18th-century London, for he often speaks about the layout of the town.  Additionally, the narrator appears to be of French background, for it seems as if he longs for and admires France much more that England.  This third person point of view is used to tell what each character is thinking and feeling, for it shifts between the minds of several characters in a relatively short amount of time.  Thus, the narrator is present in all the situations and knows what everybody’s thoughts and feelings are, leading us to moral judgements about several of the characters.  However, the author somewhat strays off this third person point of view in a few instances.  For example, the author uses the word “I” for some chapters instead of “he” or “she.”  This can be especially seen during Darnay’s escape from France to return to England.  By using this first person point of view, the author instils fear in the reader and adds emphasis to this part of the novel.  Thus, these two point of views, the third person and first person, both are used extremely effectively for characterizing several individuals and adding mood and emphasis upon several chapters.


8.  Summarize the time period the story takes place and document the main historical events, correlating them with the Societies textbook.  You may use a timeline with dates, annotations, and page numbers.

            This novel takes place in England and France between November 1775 - December 1793.  The most prominent feature that occurs in the novel that correlates to the actual events is the French Revolution. In France, the peasant and landowning classes emerged as the dominant power, pushing the wealthy citizens down on the social scale (World Societies 722).  The social order became overturned, thus unifying France and enhancing the power of the state. This can be seen in the novel when Monseigneur Marquis, in the first chapters,  constantly oppressed the lower peasant classes and made fun of their poverty.  However, because of the French Revolution, these very same peasants became wealthy and powerful, thus overthrowing Monseigneur Marquis and assassinating him, which shows the overturn of social classes.  Another similarity between the two societies is the use of the English Channel as the main source of life in London.  Characters travel back and forth across the English Channel during the course of the novel, illustrating that the force of the French Revolution spills over from Paris to the boundaries of France and beyond.  Even today, the English Channel is extremely important for the transportation of several goods to and from London.   Furthermore, the women in the novel and London’s society of the late 1700's both demanded more freedom and became more powerful.  Madame Defarge became one of the leaders of the French Revolution in the novel, just as the women in France gained power through their seven thousand women march across twelve miles of land from Paris to Versailles to demand action and rights (World Societies 726).  Finally, France's citizens arm themselves for a revolution, and, led by the Defarges, start the revolution by raiding the Bastille.  Shortly before the start of the revolution, the Marquis runs over a child in the streets of Paris.  Similarly, there was a real storming of the Bastille which shows the civilians and militia on the attack (World Societies 725).


9A.  Pick a passage you feel was a major turning point for the main character.    

            "It portended that there was one stone face too many, up at the chateau.

The Gorgon had surveyed the building again in the night, and had added the one stone face wanting; the stone face for which it had waited through about two hundred years.

It lay back on the pillow of Monsieur the Marquis. It was like a fine mask, suddenly startled, made angry, and petrified. Driven home into the heart of the stone figure attached to it, was a knife. Round its hilt was a frill of paper, on which it was scrawled: 'Drive him fast to his tomb. This, from JACQUES.'" (Book 2, Chapter 9, pg. 125)


9B.  In a paragraph, explain why you chose this passage.

            I chose this passage because it is one of the most prominent and intriguing turning points in the novel.  It also shows several interesting points which also occurred during the French Revolution in real life.  Defarge's insistence that the entire ruling class be destroyed illustrates how members of his class have become so fed up with being oppressed at the hands of the aristocracy that they will stop at nothing to gain their freedom.  They are so bitter, however, that their rage has turned murderous, and he kills Monseigneur during his sleep.  Thus, this is the pivotal point of the French Revolution, for this one even has brought about its start.  Because Defarge’s is a lowly peasant, he is turning the tables of the social classes by disobeying his superiors.  For the rest of the novel, several more characters will continue to overturn the social scale.  Thus, this one event has created a pattern present for the rest of the novel, thus creating the entirety of the plot.  Without this one event, the entire rest of the novel wouldn’t occur, for the as the novel puts it, the French Revolution would never have occurred.  Thus, this one event in which the lower class defies their social roles is the main motivating factor of the plot, for it starts the French Revolution. 


10A.  What is the complete name of the main character? 

            Lucy Manette Darnay is the complete name of the main character.


10B.  Give a physical description of the main character.

            Lucie Manette Darnay is described as a beautiful French lady who causes everyone about her to fall in love with herself.  She is said to have extravagant bright blonde hair, which is mentioned several times in the novel and presents an important theme about the light and dark sides of human nature.  Lucie is also somewhat short compared to her father, Dr. Manette, however, this does not seem to detract any of her suitors.  Finally, Lucie has a very kind and gentle overall appearance, for the novel mentions her bright and smooth face as well as her slender body. 


10C.  Explain the role of the character and why he or she is important to the story.

            Lucie Manette Darnay is Dr. Manette's kind, loving and beautiful daughter.  She is important because she helped bring Dr. Manette from the brink of insanity after he had been in prison for 18 years.  Lucie evokes a deep love from those around her, including her father, Charles Darnay, and most of all, Sydney Carton. She cares deeply for her father and marries Charles only after she reassures her father that the marriage will not separate her from him at all. Her beauty and tenderness evoke the last sentiments of real love and emotion in Sydney Carton, as Lucie is one of the last people on earth to treat him with sympathy and kindness. His deep, unspoken love for her leads him to commit an extremely selfless and courageous act on her behalf, for he pronounces his love by taking his own life on the guillotine.  Thus, Lucie affected his life by driving him to his own demise.  Furthermore, Lucie affects several characters through her mystifying attraction, thus creating triangles of jealousy and spite.  For example, the most obvious one involves Carton and Darnay. Lucie marries Darnay, but exerts great influence on Carton, who eventually kills himself in dismay.  A second triangle can be seen with Lucie, her father, and Charles Darnay.  Both men love Lucie, but because they both love Lucie, they must love each other equally as much.  This poses a problem because it is the Darnay’s family who caused Dr. Manette to go to prison.  Thus, Lucie is the catalyst for friendship and love, bringing about several interesting situations between opposite characters.


11.  In as much detail as necessary, describe the plot of the story.

            Jarvis Lorry travels as an agent of Tellson's Bank to tell Lucie Manette that her father, Alexandre Manette isn’t dead as she had previously believed, but alive in the Paris prison, the Bastille.  Lorry brings Lucie across the English Channel to a old shack in which she meets her father who is now a shoemaker.  Dr. Manette has been taken care of by Ernest Defarge, a former servant of the Manette family, now the keeper of a wine shop.  Lucie is dismayed by her father’s appearance and brings him back to England with her.                                                                        

            After five years in London, Charles Darnay, a French expatriate, is on trial for treason. Lucie Manette and Jarvis Lorry both testify that they met Darnay on their return trip across the Channel five years earlier. John Barsad, an English spy, swears that Darnay's purpose in traveling was to plot treason against England. Darnay wins the case because his lawyer points out that his client has a resemblance to Sydney Carton, who is a brilliant but poverty‑stricken lawyer.  Dr. Manette returns to medicine and is now frequently visited by Lorry, Darnay, and Carton.  Lucie begins to be bombarded with suitors, all of which she humbly rejects.                             

            In France, Marquis St. Evremonde runs over and kills a poor man's child.  Marquis turns out to be Charles Darnay's uncle. Darnay and St. Evremonde meet, while St. Evremonde expresses his hate of his nephew, and his continued support of the old, unjust order. That night, St. Evremonde is stabbed in the heart by the dead boy’s father.  In England Lucie accepts Darnay’s proposal, while Sydney Carton becomes depressed and states that he would sacrifice anything for Lucie.  At the marriage ceremony, Darnay mentions finding secret papers at a prison, which sends Dr. Manette into a trance. For nine days, until Jarvis Lorry helps him out of it, he stays in his trance and only makes shoes.  Dr. Manette states that he will not tell anyone the Darnay’s true name is St. Evremonde.                             The French Revolution breaks out a year later, and Defarge attacks the Bastille, while his wife commands the revolutionary women.  The lower class cause a riot and burn down several buildings.  Darny is arrested by the revolutionaries because he is considered an aristocrat.  Soon afterwards, Lucie and her family smuggle him out of prison.  However, the plan is only somewhat successful, for Lucie then must die for her crime to free a prisoner.  Carton, however, goes to the guillotine and dies for Lucie, fulfilling his promise to her that he would do anything for her.


12.  In conclusion, tell how you feel this book has helped your understanding of history and your efforts to expand the study of other cultures and societies in this class.

            This novel has tremendously increased by understanding of history and several other cultures and societies.  I have learned immensely about the French and English societies in the late 1700's , especially about the French Revolution.  I have learned about their prison system and Bastilles, as well as the overturn of their social classes, all of which are tremendously prominent in the novel.  Without reading this novel, I would have never been able to learn all of this important knowledge.  If I weren’t to of read this novel, then I wouldn’t have been able to get this opportunity to learn about the French and English civilizations during the later 1700's, for we probably wouldn’t have reached this point in our World History AP class.  Furthermore, this novel was extremely interesting and has prompted me to read more Charles Dickens novels which can similarly increase my knowledge about European culture.  The extravagant characterization techniques and tremendous use of symbolism has further enticed by affinity for reading, which will most definitely help me in my English classes.  Ultimately, this novel has enticed by affinity for reading and has  tremendously increased my understanding of French and English societies, including the French Revolution, the prison systems, Bastilles, social classes, and political uprisings. 




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