Recalled To Life

In A Tale of Two Cities what is the meaning of "Recalled to Life" in Book the First, chapter III?

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"Recalled to life" is the utterance from Mr. Lorry when he reads the missive brought him by Jerry Cruncher, the messenger from Tellson's bank where Lorry is employed. Mr. Lorry is on the Dover coach which will carry him to the shore of the English Channel. Then, Mr. Lorry will cross the channel by boat and enter France where his mission is to meet Miss Lucie Manette. His response is metaphorical, but Jerry the messenger does not comprehend its meaning.

Further, in keeping with Dickens's motif of doubling in this narrative, "recalled to life" is a double entendre that means one legal act and another illegal one. The legal act is the release from the French prison of the Bastille, which houses political prisoners, of Dr. Alexandre Manette, who has unjustly served eighteen years of a life sentence. He was cast into jail by aristocrats, so when the Revolution began, all political prisoners of the people's enemies; namely, the aristocrats, are released. The illegal act refers to those activities of the "resurrection man," Jerry Cruncher. Messenger by day, he is a grave-robber by night, selling cadavers to men of science. Worried about the ramifications of this abstruse message sent back by Mr. Lorry, the comical Jerry returns to London on his horse, speculating to himself,

"No, Jerry, no!....It wouldn't do for you, Jerry, Jerry, you honest tradesman, it wouldn't suit your line of business! Recalled----! Bust me if I don't think he'd been a drinking!"

So troubled is Jerry by this message that the shadows of the night "took such shapes to him as arose out of the message," and his horse shied at the shadows on the road to London and the nightwatchman at Tellson's bank.

In addition to this double entendre, "recalled to life" becomes a theme of the story as it also extends to spiritual resurrection for Sydney Carton. Dr. Manette returns from his hallucinatory life of a shoemaker in prison to a man of learning and some prestige. Jerry becomes instrumental in solving a mystery because of his dubious night occupation, and Mr. Lorry finds a renewed life in meaningful personal relationships such as his friendship with Dr. Manette, and his warm relations with Lucie Manette and her husband Charles Darnay and their children.

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