A Tale of Two Cities Book the Second, Chapters 17 and 18 Summary and Analysis

Charles Dickens

Book the Second, Chapters 17 and 18 Summary and Analysis

Summary:

Lucie Manette and her father are sitting alone in the moonlight beneath a tree. Lucie is to be married to Charles Darnay the next day. Dr. Manette appears to be very happy about the union, saying that his future is “far brighter” when “seen through [her] marriage.” He tells her about the many nights he gazed at the moon from his prison in the North Tower, imagining the little son or daughter who did not know that he was alive. He says he never truly experienced happiness until they were reunited. Later, Lucie steals into his bedroom at night and kisses him in his sleep, praying “that she may ever be as true to him as her love aspired to be, and as his sorrows deserved.”

In the morning, Charles Darnay reveals his true surname to Dr. Manette. Dr. Manette is very shaken, but the wedding proceeds. Lorry and Miss Pross are the only other people in attendance. After Lucie departs, Dr. Manette—who is increasingly sullen—disappears into his rooms. Lorry is worried but, resolving to leave him alone for a few hours, runs an errand at Tellson’s Bank. He returns after two hours but finds that Dr. Manette has returned to making shoes and does not recognize anyone. Lorry and Miss Pross hide Dr. Manette’s condition from Lucie, hoping it will resolve within several days. However, nine days pass, and Dr. Manette only worsens.

Analysis:

Dr. Manette’s mental illness threatens to resurface on the evening before his daughter’s marriage, suggesting that his sanity depends in part on Lucie (who is the “Golden Thread” that keeps the family intact). Furthermore, there is a definite connection—the origins of which are not yet clear—between Dr. Manette’s sanity and Charles Darnay’s family heritage. Dickens continues to build upon the themes of imprisonment and fate by suggesting that Dr. Manette is free neither from the prison of his mind nor from the inevitable return of his traumatic past.