A Tale of Two Cities Book the Second, Chapter 9 Summary and Analysis

Charles Dickens

Book the Second, Chapter 9 Summary and Analysis

Summary:

The Marquis dines alone in his chateau, waiting for his nephew to arrive. He thinks he hears something outside and asks his servant to draw the blinds, but nothing appears. The Marquis’s nephew arrives, and we learn that it is Charles Darnay. The two, who clearly have an uneasy relationship, discuss some of the mysterious details surrounding Darnay’s treason trial. Darnay believes that their family name is hated all throughout France, but the Marquis argues that “detestation of the high is the involuntary homage of the low.” Darnay is not convinced and insists that the family stop oppressing the poor. His uncle refuses, saying that he will “die perpetuating the system under which [he has] lived.” Darnay renounces France and his inheritance, saying that he will settle down in England. They retire for the evening.

The Marquis paces for awhile in his chamber and then falls asleep. In the morning, the peasants are crowded around the fountain in the village, buzzing with the news that the Marquis was murdered in his bed. The assassin drove a knife through his heart and left a note: “Drive him fast to his tomb. This, from Jacques.”

Analysis:

The Marquis’s marked disdain for the villagers, as well as his indifference to the suffering his family continues to cause them, represents the French aristocracy’s general obliviousness to the growing social unrest that surrounds them. Furthermore, his staunch belief that oppression—and the peasants’ hatred of his family—is necessary demonstrates an arrogant assumption that the lower classes somehow depend on their own subjugation in order to maintain the natural order. Charles Darnay seems aware that the family will pay dearly for their past injustices against the poor; renouncing his inheritance, however, calls into question the feasibility of abandoning one’s inevitable responsibilities to family and social status. The Marquis’s murder fulfills Darnay’s prediction and foreshadows bloodier days to come.