A Tale of Two Cities Questions and Answers
by Charles Dickens

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What is the name of the doctor who was imprisoned for 18 years in A Tale of Two Cities?

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The doctor’s name is Alexandre Manette.

Alexandre Manette was falsely imprisoned for political reasons.  He served 18 years in prison in France.  The reason Dr. Manette was sent to the Bastille was because he saw a woman in his capacity as a doctor who turned out to be the Marquis St. Evremonde’s victim.  To keep him silent, they sent him to prison.  That time was a time of great abuses for the aristocracy in France.

"Buried how long?"

The answer was always the same: "Almost eighteen years."

"You had abandoned all hope of being dug out?"

"Long ago."

"You know that you are recalled to life?"

"They tell me so."

"I hope you care to live?"

"I can't say." (Book 1, Chapter 3)

By the time Dr. Manette was released, he was practically a ghost.  He barely knew his own name and spent most of his time making shoes.  He was hardly aware of his surroundings.  Slowly, with the help of his daughter Lucie Manette and his friend Jarvis Lorry, Manette regained most of his sanity.

That sanity was called into question when his daugther’s fiancé, who went by the name of Charles Darnay in England, told Dr. Manette his real name and family connection.  It turned out that he was a nephew of the very man who sent Dr. Manette to prison, and heir to the title of the Marquis St. Evremonde.

The news devastated Dr. Manette.  He relapsed completely, suffering from a severe case of post-traumatic stress disorder.  He returned to his cobbler’s bench and forgot who and where he was.  In his mind, he was back in prison again and not safe in England.  However, by the time Lucie and her new husband returned from prison, Jarvis Lorry had removed the cobbler’s bench and Dr. Manette was back to normal.

Dickens uses the case of Dr. Manette to put a face to the horrors and abuses of the French aristocracy pre-revolution. Dr. Manette was an innocent victim and poster child for all that was wrong about pre-revolutionary France.  The peasants rose up and took their country back, but ironically Dr. Manette’s family was caught in the middle.  His son-in-law was lured to France and arrested, and if not for Sydney Carton’s brave intervention, he would have been executed on the guillotine.

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