What fantasies did Dr. Manette have while in prison in Chapter 17 of A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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On the night before she is to be married, Lucie sits with her father under the plane-tree at their house in Soho.  Without knowing Darnay's history, Lucie speaks to her father in the hopes that they will not be parted.  Her father reassures her that his future will be all the brighter through her marriage.  Further, he tells his daughter that her life should not be wasted for his sake.  Then, he reminisces about how lonely he was in prison and how he looked at the same moon above them now. 

“I have looked at her, speculating thousands of times upon the unborn child from whom I had been rent. Whether it was alive. Whether it had been born alive, or the poor mother’s shock had killed it. Whether it was a son who would some day avenge his father. (There was a time in my imprisonment when my desire for vengeance was unbearable.)

Dr. Manette thought about his unborn child from whom he had been taken, and he wonders if the mother miscarried the baby from the terrible shock of losing her husband.  Or, he wonders, if the baby lives, if it is female or male, a son who would avenge his imprisonment. 

On evenings that he counted the perpendicular lines he could draw upon the face of the moon, the prisoner of North Tower wondered if he had a daughter who knew nothing of him.  As time passed, he wondered, too, if she were married to a man who knew nothing of his fate. But, he had also imagined his child coming to him at the prison and leading him out to freedom.

Then, the doctor of Beauvais tells Lucie of a phantom that he saw; this was another image that stood before him, one that moved, unlike the figure on the moon.  It, too, resembled the mother. In the moonlight, he imagined this phantom taking him out to show him her home that was full of loving remembrance of her "lost father." She had his picture in her room, "and in her prayers."  Her life was "active, cheerful"; but his "poor history pervaded it."  This phantom showed the physician her children, who had been taught to pity him.  Whenever they passed a prison, they looked up at the bars, whispering to each other.  And, although the phantom came many times, she could not deliver him from his prison for more than the little visits.

Then, Dr. Manette embraces Lucie and tells her that even in his wildest thoughts, he was never as happy as he is now to have known her and to be with her.

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