Why was Darnay arrested in A Tale of Two Cities?

Expert Answers

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

Charles Darnay, one of the main characters of A Tale of Two Cities, is arrested three times in the course of the novel, each time on a different charge. He is first arrested in 1780, as a French emigre in Great Britain, for treason against the British Crown, after being falsely accused of having sold information about British troops to the French by a pair of British spies.

After returning to his native France in 1792 at the height of the Reign of Terror to attempt to free a former servant of his family, he is arrested for the second time for the crime of being an emigrant aristocrat, and incarcerated in La Force prison.

Although he is quickly released following the intercession of his father-in-law, Dr. Alexander Manette, he is soon arrested for the third time after Madame Defarge reveals that he is the nephew and heir of the wicked Marquis St. Evremonde. Unbeknownst to Charles, his uncle and father had kidnapped and raped the pregnant sister of Madame Defarge, resulting in her death and that of her child. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The second time Darnay is arrested for being an emigrant he is imprisoned only briefly. Dr. Manette uses he influence to free Darnay. Yet almost immediately upon being released he is arrested again based on charges from the DeFarges and "one other." This final arrest sets in motion the exchange between Carton and Darnay that leads to the novel's climax.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The first time Darnay is arrested, it is because he has been accused of conducting secret business between France and England for at least five years; in other words, he is accused of being a spy.

The second time he is arrested, he is on his way to Paris; Darnay is captured, imprisoned, charged with being an aristocratic emigrant. Now he must suffer the justice of the revolution.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial