A Tale of Two Cities Book the Second, Chapters 7 and 8 Summary and Analysis

Charles Dickens

Book the Second, Chapters 7 and 8 Summary and Analysis

Summary:

Chapter Seven opens on an extravagant French reception. Everyone is very well-dressed, as though ready for “a Fancy Ball that was never to leave off,” and a nobleman (“Monseigneur”) is fed drinking chocolate by four servants. A storm approaches as the party breaks up. One guest is the Marquis, who departs for his estate in the countryside. His carriage drives wildly through the streets, causing peasants to dive frantically out of the way. The carriage hits and kills a small child. The Marquis blames the peasants for the accident and worries about the state of his horses after the impact. He begrudgingly tosses some gold coins to the child’s father, who is loudly weeping. A man appears, saying that the child is likely better off dead. The Marquis is amused by this “philosopher” and asks for his name. It is Ernest Defarge, the man who kept Dr. Manette hidden in a garret above his wine shop. The Marquis attempts to give Defarge one of the gold coins and then turns to leave; however, someone throws a gold coin at the Marquis, who is outraged. He demands to know who threw the coin, but no one confesses. Defarge’s wife, who stands knitting next to the grieving father, stares at the Marquis as he rides away.

The Marquis approaches his chateau, his face “steeped” in the crimson light of sunset. He stops momentarily to speak to a mender of roads who claims to have seen a strange man riding on the bottom of the carriage. The Marquis orders his servant Monsieur Gabelle to investigate. After arriving at his chateau, the Marquis asks another servant if “Monsieur Charles” has arrived yet from England. The servant replies in the negative.

Analysis:

The greed and extreme privilege of the French aristocracy—as well as the oppression and abuse of the peasantry—are epitomized by the characters of Monseigneur and the Marquis. “Monseigneur,” whose actual name is never given, represents aristocratic corruption in general. The upper class’s entitlement and wealth are evident in his enjoyment of drinking chocolate, which was a rare and expensive delicacy at the time. The dependence of the nobility on the subjugation of the lower classes is emphasized by the four servants required to prepare and administer Monseigneur’s chocolate. The Marquis specifically exemplifies the aristocracy’s lack of regard for the lives of peasants. His response to the death of the child is one of cruel indifference; however, as we shall see, he is not able to appease the peasants’ grief and anger with the mere toss of a coin. The sunset that bathes him in crimson light as he returns to his chateau suggests a potentially bloody future for the aristocracy.