With whom has Dr. Manette been staying since his release from prison in A Tale of Two Cities? In what activity does his hostess constantly engage?

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dymatsuoka eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Since his release from prison Dr. Manette has been staying with Ernest and Therese Defarge.  His hostess, Madame Defarge, is constantly knitting.

The Defarges own a wine-shop in the Paris suburb of San Antoine.  Ernest Defarge had formerly been a servant of Dr. Manette, and when Dr. Manette was released after eighteen years in prison, Defarge had been asked "to take him, and at (Defarge's) peril, be discreet".  Dr. Manette, whose mind has been affected by his long imprisonment and who has lost touch with reality, is being kept in a locked room above the wine-shop.  It is to this room that Defarge escorts Mr. Lorry and Lucie Manette when they arrive at the wine-shop to retrieve the old doctor.

Therese Defarge, a formidable, woman, is constantly knitting.  She sits "with a watchful eye that seldom seem(s) to look at anything...and great composure of manner".  She knits "with nimble fingers and steady eyebrows", communicating with her husband with gestures in code.  The Defarges are leaders of the coming revolution.  Monsieur Defarge coordinates the activities of a number of clandestine characters, all called "Jacques", and his wife weaves the names of those targeted for death into her knitting (Book the First, Chapter 5).

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Dr. Alexandre Manette resides in a room on the fifth floor of a residence owned by Ernest and Thérèse Defarge, who own a wine shop where Madame Defarge constantly knits.

Monsieur Defarge was once the manservant of Dr. Manette, but now he owns the wine shop, where members of the Jacquerie come. His wife occupies herself with knitting, but her knitting has another purpose: in her stitches, she records the names of condemned aristocrats to be sent to the guillotine.

After the storming of the Bastille (a symbolic gesture because it was a medieval political prison that represented the abuses of the monarchy), other prisoners and Dr. Alexandre Manette are freed by the revolutionaries. Manette is taken to Saint-Antoine, a village outside Paris, where he is lodged on the fifth floor of a residence belonging to the wine-shop keeper, Ernest Defarge. 

There Dr. Manette occupies himself by making and repairing shoes, and the repetition of the activity soothes him. Some of the residents gaze at him oddly because he seems withdrawn from reality.

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A Tale of Two Cities

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