A Tale of Two Cities Book the First, Chapter 4 Summary and Analysis

Charles Dickens

Book the First, Chapter 4 Summary and Analysis

Summary:

The mail coach arrives safely in Dover. Jarvis Lorry is the only passenger left, as the other passengers were dropped off at earlier stops. He reserves a room at the Royal George Hotel. After eating breakfast, dozing, and having his hair cut, he books an additional room for a young lady who is supposed to meet him there. He idles in the hotel’s coffee room all afternoon, drinking wine and staring anxiously at the “live red coals” in the fireplace.

The young lady, Lucie Manette, arrives at last. Lorry meets her in her room, and we learn that he is supposed to accompany her to Saint Antoine in Paris to settle a business matter concerning her deceased father. Lorry reveals, however, that Lucie’s father is not actually dead; he has been in prison for eighteen years. He has been released and is now in need of Lucie’s care and Lorry’s guidance. Lucie is greatly shocked and becomes unresponsive. Her servant arrives to care for her, and Lorry departs.

Analysis:

The parallel between the two cities is further solidified by the introduction of Lucie Manette, who was born in Paris but raised in London. Her origins are “recalled” by the news that her French father is alive and hiding in Saint Antoine, a suburb of Paris. Jarvis Lorry, the staunchly pragmatic businessman, also represents a strong connection between London and Paris. He works for Tellson’s Bank, which is “quite a French house, as well as an English one.” He conducts business, sometimes in secret, between Paris and London on behalf of the bank.

The Manettes exemplify several of the novel’s key themes. The inescapability of one’s heritage is closely tied to the symbolic resurrection of Dr. Manette. Consequently, Lucie (though addressed as “a young English lady”) cannot avoid the responsibilities accompanying her family history and is obligated to retrieve her father and nurse him back to health. Furthermore, the importance of heritage seems to underscore the novel’s growing preoccupation with fate—especially for French emigrants, like the Manettes, who attempt to discard their backgrounds in favor of a new life.