illustration of a guillotine

A Tale of Two Cities

by Charles Dickens
Start Free Trial

What are the advantages of the type of narration for the author in the following quotation from A Tale of Two Cities?  "Jerry, left alone in the mist and darkness, dismounted meanwhile, not only to ease his spent horse, but to wipe the mud from his face." 

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The end of Chapter 2 of Book I finds a nonplussed Jerry Cruncher standing with his exhausted horse as the Dover Mail coach departs into the mist.  He has raced to catch the coach and deliver a message to Mr. Jarvis Lorry of Tellson's Bank, a message that instructs him to wait for a young lady after he arrives in Paris; there is also some additional message that Mr. Lorry keeps secret. Thus, his response to his message is rather abstruse, "RECALLED TO LIFE."

With the use of the omniscient narrator, Dickens depicts Jerry standing beside his horse in order to "ease" it, wiping the splattered mud from his face. The narrator is omniscient--all-knowing--because he knows the reason that Jerry dismounts his horse, as well as knowing that Jerry wishes to wipe his face. This type of narration describes not only exterior things, but also the inner workings of the characters' minds, giving the reader insight into the characters' thoughts and feelings.

Interestingly, too, is the use of epistolary narration; that is, the flow of letters clearly drives the plot of much of the novel. In Chapter 2, it is the message to Mr. Lorry; later, the letter from Gabelle, the tax collector for the Evremonde estate, begging Charles Darnay to return to Paris and clear his name with the revolutionaries who have accused him of aiding an emigrant; and still later in the novel, the letter written by Dr. Manette while he was the prisoner of the Bastille is used against Darnay.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team