A Tale of Two Cities Book the First, Chapter 6 Summary and Analysis

Charles Dickens

Book the First, Chapter 6 Summary and Analysis

Summary:

Dr. Manette, who appears to be a weak and half-insane old man, barely takes notice of his three visitors. He answers some of Ernest Defarge’s questions but otherwise focuses on making shoes. He tells them he is making a lady’s shoe. When Defarge asks him to state his name, he says, “One hundred and five, North Tower.”

Lorry addresses Dr. Manette by name, and Dr. Manette slowly begins to remember both Lorry and Lucie. Lucie is overcome with pity and approaches her father, much to the alarm of Lorry and Monsieur Defarge. She holds him and declares that she will “be true” to him “‘with all my duty and with all my faithful service.’”

Monsieur Defarge and Lorry decide that Dr. Manette must return to England as soon as possible. Lucie stays alone with her father while Defarge and Lorry arrange for the departure. As they leave, Lorry asks Dr. Manette if he cares “to be recalled to life,” to which Dr. Manette replies, “I can’t say.”

Analysis:

Dr. Manette, though free from prison, has yet to be “recalled to life.” The trauma of his long imprisonment has reduced him to a shoemaker who cannot remember his past. His identity as a prisoner (he states his name as “One hundred and five, North Tower”) has superseded his past identity as a physician. Furthermore, he is no longer a productive member of society; his industriousness as a shoemaker, for example, does not benefit anyone—the “lady’s shoe” he crafts in perpetual solitude will probably never be worn. Dr. Manette’s madness introduces another one of the novel’s major concerns: the consequences (both social and individual) of solitary confinement as a means of punishment.

Lucie Manette’s role as a virtuous, self-sacrificing redeemer is underscored by the symbolism of her golden hair, which momentarily reminds Dr. Manette of his wife’s hair (thus beginning the process of remembering who he is). Lucie, as we shall see, is the weaver of the “Golden Thread” that will bind her family together through future trials—and restore her father’s health.