How does the title of the first book of Tale of Two Cities, "Recalled to Life," relate to the entire novel and its narrative?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"Recalled to Life," or Resurrection, is one of themes of A Tale of Two Cities, and there is no question that life and death are tropes in this novel.

Beginning with Book the First, Chapter II, this theme of Resurrection is introduced by Dickens. Jerry Cruncher, the messenger for Tellson's Bank, is ironically given the assignment to inform Mr. Lorry, agent for this same bank, that Dr. Manette, the man Lorry is going to meet, has been "recalled to life" after fourteen years. As he returns to London on his horse, Jerry ponders the phrase and decides it would not suit his "line of business" if people were brought back to life. For, Jerry exhumes dead bodies and sells them to scientists. Ironically, this occupation proves instrumental for Carton in Book the Third as Jerry knows that the grave of Roger Cly, a spy and partner of Barsad, was empty, so Carton can convince Barsad to cooperate with him.

With regard to Dr. Manette and the theme of Resurrection, he has been released from the Bastille by the Revolutionaries and is now a hero to the peasants and others of the Third Estate. However, his letter, written while he was a prisoner, brings condemnation upon the Evremondes who exploited the peasants on their estate, and, ironically, Lucie Manette marries one of the Evremonde twins, who uses the alias of Charles Darnay. After Darnay is taken to prison as one of the condemned aristocrats, Sydney Carton unselfishly sacrifices his life for that of Charles, who looks like his double. Thus, Charles is brought back to life with his family and Carton is also redeemed, but spiritually. His famous lines as he walks to the guillotine are renowned,

"It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better thing that I do, that I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to, than I have ever known."

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A Tale of Two Cities

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