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A Tale of Two Cities

by Charles Dickens
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In Dicken's A Tale of Two Cities, who is seen peeping through a hole in the wall at Dr. Manette?

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As is typical of Charles Dickens, characters and situations are introduced in the early chapters that will later play larger roles in his narrative.  For instance, in Chapter 5 of "Book the First," a metaphorical chapter on its own, Dickens introduces Ernest Defarge, the wineshop owner, whose clientele include men known as "Jacques." Significantly, Mr. Lorry and Miss Manette accompany Defarge up the staircase, and at the top "they stopped for the third time." (This number three recurs throughout the novel.) When Mr. Lorry asks the keeper of the wine shop why the door is locked, Defarge answers,

"Why! Because he has lived so long, locked up, that he would be frightened--rave--tear himself to pieces--die--come to I know not what harm--if his door was left open."

"Is it possible!" exclaimed Mr. Lorry.

As Defarge and his company reach the summit, they come suddenly upon three men,

whose heads were bent down close together at the side of a door, and who were intently looking into the room...through some chinks or holes in the wall.

These three men are the same men who have been drinking in the wine shop.  Seeing them staring in at Dr. Manette, Mr. Lorry asks quietly, but angrily, "Do you make a show of Monsieur Manette?" Defarge responds that he shows him to a

"chosen few....I choose them as real men, of my name--Jacques is my name--to whom the sight is likely to do good.  Enough, you are English; that is another thing...."

Jacques is the name that the bonnets rouges took; that is, the revolutionaries of 1789 in France. It is an alias assumed by them to prevent identification.  Defarge shows M. Manette to them because Manette has been a political prisoner in the Bastille, a prisoner of the aristocracy.  Thus, Manette is representative of the oppression of the hated aristocracy against whom the Jacques will soon revolt.  And, Manette will be seen by them on two other occasions in the narrative, again making the significant completion that the number three represents.

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Dicken's classic novel, A Tale of Two Cities, revolves around the days leading up to the French Revolution, concentrating primarily around the lives the the Manette family, connections they have in France and England, and leaders of the Revolution, specifically the Defarge family.

"Jacques" is the name used for revolutionaries in France. In Chapter Fifteen, we watch as Jacques 1, 2 and 3, in the company of Jacques 4, meet Jacques Five. Jacques Five is recounting crimes he witnessed at the hands of the Marquis. As the French Revolutions pitted the peasants against the aristocracy, the collection of information will be used to convict enemies of France (the aristocracy) when they are tried in court.

Those spying on Manette in his garret are Jacques 1, 2 and 3. One of the major themes in this novel (which is not surprising based upon its setting and the plot) is spying.


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