What details suggest the dehumanizing effects of Dr. Manette's captivity in "A Tale of Two Cities"?

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cmcqueeney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the chapter entitled "The Shoemaker", there are several indications that Dr. Manette's captivity has been dehumanizing.  The most significant is revealed when he is asked his name and responds with "One Hundred and Five, North Tower". His captivity has robbed him of his identity and left him with his location as his only claim.  Another indication of his lost humanity is his inability to answer questions.  When asked if he will finish the shoe he is working on, he does not know.  When asked what kind of shoe he is making, he forgets the questions before he can answer it.  When asked if he can bare more light, he resignedly responds that he must if more light is let in. In all cases, he reveals an inability to hold basic conversation, display intelligence, or share his personal opinion. Those who care for him as he leaves prison, specifically his daughter, must initially treat him as a child because his ability to deal with anything more is gone. The author tells us that he acted "in the submissive way of one long accustomed to obey under coercion". His imprisonment had, for a time, taken his intelligence, opinions, physical strength, and most importantly, his will.

dogtales eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Of the many personal qualities that detail the dehumaninizing effects of captivity on Dr. Manette, the first that stands out is the faintness of his voice. This reflects the hopelessness about being "heard" by anyone. His eyes are "haggard" and look up with a "dull mechanical perception." He has a "vacant air" devoid of life and joy and love of life. His clothes are "tattered" and he is seemingly unaware of his ability to exist for a purpose other than working on shoes. His manner of speech is fragmented and interrupted by long pauses which illustrate his disconnectedness from human contact and dignified expression. The overall tone of Chapter Six is saturated with the barren details of what captivity does to the human will and soul.

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A Tale of Two Cities

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