In Book the Second, Chapter XIV, what does the absence of a body in the grave suggest about Jerry and about the buried person?A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Chapter XIV of Book the Second of A Tale of Two Cities provides  comic humor and irony, as well as some rather ominous foreshadowing of coincidences to come.  While Jerry Cruncher sits upon his stool on Fleet Street, he witnesses a funeral procession for the manservant of Charles Darnay.  Surprised to learn that the funeral is for Roger Cly, whom Jerry has recently observed to be a healthy young man, Jerry ruminates upon the import of such a funeral,

"Jerry," said Mr. Cruncher apostrophising himself in his usual way, "you see that there Cly that day, and you see with your own eyes that he was a young 'un and a straight made 'un."

Here, of course, is an example of situational irony as later the reader learns that Cly's coffin has not been filled.

In an instance of more irony--this time it is verbal irony--the "honest tradesman" is followed by his son who witnesses his father and other men "fishing" after climbing the iron fence of the graveyard.  However, what they "fish" out is a body from the grave that they dig up. While they are in this act, Young Jerry watches his father and the other men.  Afterwards, he asks his father about his occupation, and Jerry tells his son that he is a "Resurrection Man."  The subtle irony here about which the reader is unaware at this point is that the other burial of the day will later involve a different "resurrection man" who will appear in Book the Third.

In addition, the motif of coincidences is furthered in this chapter as Jerry Cruncher's casual observation serves to be instrumental in the action of Book the Third.

 

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