A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

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Book the Third, Chapters 14 and 15 Summary and Analysis

Summary:

Meanwhile, as “the fifty-two awaited their fate” in La Force prison, Madame Defarge meets with Jacques Three and The Vengeance in the wood-sawyer’s shop. She no longer trusts her husband, because he is too sympathetic toward Dr. Manette. She decides to denounce Lucie and little Lucie, saying that the Evrémonde family must die out. Jacques Three assures her that his “patriotic jury” will condemn them and then fantasizes about beheading little Lucie. Madame Defarge argues that Dr. Manette must die, too, because she allegedly saw him “signalling” to Charles Darnay with Lucie during Darnay’s first imprisonment. Madame Defarge decides to visit Lucie, armed with a knife and loaded pistol. It is a crime against the Republic to mourn for the condemned, so Madame Defarge hopes to witness Lucie grieving for her husband. While Madame Defarge makes her way along the city streets, Jerry Cruncher and Miss Pross prepare for their departure from Paris. Lorry, who did not want an inspection of his carriage to be prolonged by two extra people, ordered a second carriage to convey them out of the city as quickly as possible. Miss Pross, however, worries that two carriages departing the same location will awaken suspicion, so she asks Jerry Cruncher to stop the carriage and meet her at the cathedral. He leaves, but Miss Pross is soon confronted by Madame Defarge, who demands to see Lucie. Miss Pross does not comply, and the two women fight. Madame Defarge reaches for her pistol, but it accidentally fires—killing her and permanently damaging Miss Pross’s hearing. Miss Pross, however, meets with Jerry Cruncher, and the two safely leave Paris.

Sydney Carton and the young woman ride in one of six tumbrels that “rumble” toward La Guillotine. The “regular inhabitants” are so accustomed to the spectacle that many ignore the procession. Barsad sits on the steps of a church, watching. A man yells, “Down, Evrémonde!” The tumbrels arrive. The Vengeance, who sits with her knitting at the foot of La Guillotine, calls for Madame Defarge (who, as we now know, has very recently died).

One by one, each prisoner is called up to La Guillotine. The young woman is next. She thanks Carton for his kindness, and he tells her, “Keep your eyes upon me, dear child, and mind no other object.” When it is her turn, they kiss. She proceeds to La Guillotine, “is gone,” and “the knitting-women count Twenty-Two [heads].” Carton follows, imagining Barsad, The Vengeance, Roger Cly, and the other “new oppressors . . . perishing by this retributive instrument,” while Paris will, with its “brilliant people,” rise “from this abyss.” He imagines himself holding a “sanctuary” in the hearts of Lucie, Darnay, their children, Dr. Manette, and Lorry—and “in the hearts of their descendants, generations hence.” He steps up from the scaffold, and “all flashes away. Twenty-three.” Afterward, many people claim that his was “the...

(The entire section is 721 words.)