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A Tale of Two Cities

by Charles Dickens

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Book the Third, Chapters 11 and 12 Summary and Analysis

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Summary:

Lucie faints, but she recovers with the resolution to “uphold [Darnay] in his misery‚ and not augment it.” Dr. Manette is distraught, but Darnay assures him that he has nothing for which to apologize and thanks him for conquering “natural antipathy” when consenting to allow Darnay to marry Lucie. Dr. Manette “shrieks in anguish,” and Darnay is led back to his cell. Sydney Carton, who watched the trial from an “obscure corner,” carries Lucie out to a coach and accompanies the family home. He cautions Miss Pross not to “recall [Lucie] to herself” for the moment. Lucie’s daughter (“little Lucie”) tells Carton, whom she adores, that she thinks he “will do something to help mamma, something to save papa!” He asks if he can kiss Lucie. As he bends over her, he murmurs the words, “A life you love.” Before leaving, he asks Dr. Manette to try once more to convince the Tribunal to spare Darnay’s life. Dr. Manette agrees. Lorry informs Carton that Dr. Manette’s influence will not help and that Darnay “will perish; there is no real hope.” Carton echoes his words and departs.

Carton decides to show himself to the Defarges, reasoning that “it is a sound precaution, and may be a necessary preparation.” He enters their wine shop and asks for a drink. Madame Defarge is astonished by his resemblance to Charles Darnay, though Ernest Defarge thinks the similarity is only “a little like.” Madame Defarge begins to suspect that her husband is not completely faithful to the Republic. He empathizes with Dr. Manette, whom he says has “suffered much”; Madame Defarge, however, says that the doctor’s face is “not the face of a true friend of the Republic” and suggests that both Dr. Manette and Lucie should be executed. She then reveals that the family so abused by the Evrémondes was her family; she was the sister that Charles Darnay’s mother was looking for to make amends. Carton returns to Lorry, who is still waiting for Dr. Manette to return. They wait together until he abruptly enters the room, frantically asking for his shoemaker’s bench—his attempt to save Darnay evidently a failure. Carton tells Lorry that Dr. Manette and Lucie are in danger of being denounced by Madame Defarge. Carton then produces a certificate that allows him to safely leave France. He gives it to Lorry and instructs him to have a carriage ready to depart Paris by two o’clock the next afternoon. Lorry agrees, and Carton departs.

Analysis:

Lucie’s ability to remain a stable emotional anchor for her family is put to the ultimate test when she learns that her husband will be beheaded. Her intention to “uphold” Darnay (and, undoubtedly, her father and daughter) instead of succumbing to grief invites a comparison between Lucie’s family community and the community of the revolutionaries. The community fostered by the Defarges originates in a desire for revenge and ultimately results in oppression and brutality. Lucie’s family, however, is united by love and empathy. In a sense, Lucie, who figuratively knits the “Golden Thread” that binds her family together, is a foil for Madame Defarge, who literally knits the names of aristocrats that the revolutionaries intend to execute.

After Darnay is condemned, Sydney Carton primes himself for the immense sacrifice he plans to make. Similar to Christ asking God to “save [him] from this hour,” Carton asks Dr. Manette to attempt to sway the jury once more. However, Dr. Manette has no power, and his interference risks convincing the revolutionaries that, as Madame Defarge later concludes, he is “not . . . a true friend of the Republic.” Nevertheless, Carton’s decision to visit the Defarges’ wine shop may ultimately save Lucie and her family. If he successfully trades places with Darnay, the revolutionaries—starting with the Defarges—must be aware that Darnay and Carton appear identical; otherwise, the entire family might be executed for attempting to rescue a condemned man when they attempt to leave France. Perhaps just as significant is Madame Defarge’s shocking revelation, for it signals to Carton that her quest for revenge has made her oppressive and tyrannical—thus guaranteeing the eventual execution of Dr. Manette, Lucie, and little Lucie.

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Book the Third, Chapter 10 Summary and Analysis

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Book the Third, Chapter 13 Summary and Analysis