In A Tale of Two Cities, what is the significance of the number 4?  

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

For Madame Defarge, there are four people against whom she must avenge herself:  The twin aristocrats, the Evremondes, Charles Darnay, and Dr. Manette.

1-2. The Evremondes - It is the heinous acts of the young Viscounts, the "worst of a bad race," who exploit the family of the later named Madame Defarge by using these peasants who live and work on their land in any sordid fashion that they choose that causes the deaths of the brother and sister, as well as the brother-in law, of Therese. In Chapter X of Book the Third, the letter of Dr. Manette is read and the listeners learn of the egregious behavior of one of the Evremondes as he took the sister away for "his pleasure and diversion." The brother tried to defend his sister's honor, telling Manette, 

"They have had their shameful rights, these Nobles, in the modesty and virtue of our sisters, many years, but we have had good girls among us.

3. Charles Darnay - As a child, the son of one of the brothers Evremonde is brought by his mother to the house of Dr. Manette after he has treated the dying boy and injured girl. This mother, the wife of the better of the two, fears that the crueler one will retaliate against his brother for calling upon Manette, and she fears that something will happen to her boy in the future as she knows that a younger sister [Therese] lives,

"I have a presentiment that if no other innocent atonement is made for this, it will one day be required of him."

4. Dr. Manette - The doctor who innocently has tended to injured people becomes the pawn of the wicked Evremondes. As Manette writes, his innocent act has brought him to the Bastille,

I, Alexandre Manette, unhappy prisoner, do this last night of the year 1767, in my unbearable agony, denounce to the the times when all these things shall be answered for. I denounce them to Heaven and to earth. 

Madame Defarge has spent her life focused solely on getting revenge upon these four people; indeed, their names hold a prominent spot in her knitting.  When her husband Ernest Defarge asks her to reconsider her revenge, she replies that he could sooner stop the wind or other elements.


Read the study guide:
A Tale of Two Cities

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question