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

Charles Dickens

Book the Third, Chapter 9 Summary and Analysis

Summary:

Lorry suspects (correctly) that Jerry Cruncher has been digging up and selling dead bodies in England. He is disgusted and claims that he will have nothing to do with Cruncher after they return from France. Cruncher politely points out that, if Lorry fires him, he will be forced to continue robbing graves in order to support his family. Lorry concedes. Sydney Carton and Barsad (Solomon) return, and Barsad departs. Carton explains to Lorry that, if Charles Darnay is sentenced to death by the Tribunal, Barsad will smuggle Carton into Darnay’s cell. Lorry is confused, arguing that Carton’s access to Darnay will not make a difference if Darnay is convicted. Carton does not explain further but asks that Lucie not be informed of either their conversation or his arrangement with Barsad. He asks Lorry if his “duties [in Paris] have drawn to an end”; Lorry responds that there is nothing more he can accomplish. Carton then asks Lorry if “the days when [he] sat at [his] mother’s knee seem days of very long ago,” and if childhood seems “far off.” Lorry responds that, as he ages, he feels as though he travels “nearer and nearer to the beginning.” Carton asks if he thinks he is “the better for it,” and Lorry says he thinks so. The two depart Tellson’s Bank together. Carton visits a chemist’s shop to purchase a mysterious packet of highly potent drugs and then wanders the streets of Paris until arriving at the courthouse for Darnay’s trial the next morning. The prosecutor calls forth Darnay’s denouncers: Ernest Defarge, Madame Defarge, and Dr. Manette.

Analysis:

The simple but ultimately honorable character of Jerry Cruncher, whose poverty necessitates his gruesome profession, suggests that the poor are to some extent hindered from becoming productive, respectable members of society (at least by upper-class standards). Lorry, who is a privileged and prosperous member of the middle class, greatly disapproves of Cruncher’s grave-robbing without considering how his own prosperity might impose such a profession on an impoverished member of the lower class. Cruncher, perhaps inadvertently, holds Lorry responsible for his “resurrecting” by explaining that he will be forced to continue digging up bodies—possibly more regularly than before—if Lorry fires him.

Sydney Carton, in the meantime, strongly implies that he plans to switch places with Charles Darnay if Darnay is sentenced to death by the Tribunal. Carton intends to do so in secret, which is in keeping with his reputation as a “jackal” (someone who shoulders hard work without receiving credit or reaping the rewards of his labor). In this case, however, Carton’s sacrifice hardly designates him as a jackal; instead, he is a figurative Christ, willing to sacrifice himself in order to save the lives of Darnay, Dr. Manette, Lucie, and little Lucie.