A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

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What is the significance of Dr. Manette's prison diary on the rest of the book?

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Defarge tells how when he stormed the Bastille, he found in Manette's old cell a paper in Manette's hand in a crevice in the wall. He proceeds to read the paper. Manette's story dates to 1857 when he was summoned by two men, the twin St. Evremondes, to attend to a dying peasant woman and a dying, peasant boy, wounded fighting in her defense. The woman had been raped by the two men. They tried to pay Manette off, but he refused; when he tried to write to authorities regarding their case, they destroyed his letter and threatened to kidnap his wife. He then denounced them and their descendants (and thus Charles Darnay). Darnay is condemned to die within 24 hours.

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