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A Tale of Two Cities

by Charles Dickens

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In Book One, Chapter Two of A Tale of Two Cities, "The Mail", who seems to be speaking, what is the point of view and who is the narrator?

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Jarvis Lorry is the speaker in the third person point of view of Book One, Chapter 2.

Although the story is told from an omniscient third person point of view, different characters are followed at different times.  Jarvis Lorry is “the first of the persons with whom this history has business,” but we don’t learn his name until the messenger Jerry Cruncher calls for him.

When Jerry gives him an unusual message and he responds with an even stranger reply, the other passengers get very suspicious of him.

With those words the passenger opened the coach door and got in; not at all assisted by his fellow-passengers, who had expeditiously secreted their watches and purses in their boots, and were now making a general pretence of being asleep. (Book 1, Ch. 2)

Lorry’s unusual response, “RECALLED TO LIFE,” actually refers to Dr. Manette.  Although he was never really dead, Dr. Manette was in prison in France, and might as well have been.  To Mr. Lorry it is as if he was brought back from the dead, and he is trying to prepare the man’s daughter Lucie for this revelation.

The choice of Lorry’s perspective for this chapter is an interesting one.  All of Book One provides us with exposition, carefully laying the story before us on a sweeping scale.  In Chapter 1, England and France were compared, and so were the present (Dickens’s present) and the past (the French Revolution).  In this chapter two other characters interact.  The steadfast Lorry demonstrates his personality with his reactions to the message and the ride, and the down to earth (I couldn’t rest the pun) Jerry Cruncher shows his curiosity.  All of this, and the message “RECALLED TO LIFE,” will become crucially important as the story continues.  The reader is just as curious about it as Cruncher.

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