In A Tale of Two Cities, what theme of the novel does Jerry Cruncher's illicit activity reinforce?
The first hint we have of Jerry Cruncher's night-time activities as a Ressurection Man, or a body snatcher who digs up recently buried bodies and sells them illegally to those interested in medical research, actually comes in the second chapter of Book I of this excellent novel. Having delivered the rather curious message, "RECALLED TO LIFE," Jerry Cruncher is left to muse the meaning of this enigmatic phrase at the end of the chapter. Note what Jerry says to himself as he returns back to his home:
"Recalled to life." That's a blazing strange message. Much of that wouldn't do for you, Jerry! I say, Jerry! You'd be in a blazing bad way, if recalling to life was to come into fashion, Jerry!
Of course, it is only later that we discover the significance of this quote, but it does serve to reinforce the way in which various characters and various secrets are "recalled to life" throughout the novel and how important this is for the plot. Obviously, it is Dr. Manette who is recalled to life, but in addition, Charles Darnay finds that his own past as an Evermonde is recalled to life, with tragic results. In addition, Jerry Cruncher's own secret is revealed as an important proof to enable Sydney Carton to gain an advantage over the English informer who turns out to be Mrs. Pross's son, Solomon. Just as Jerry specialises in unearthing bodies or skeletons that were thought to be well and truly buried, so the novel itself unearths various characters, identities and secrets that were thought to be buried. Recalled to life is thus a key theme throughout the novel, and Jerry Cruncher's illicit activity serves as a kind of metaphor for its importance.