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A Tale of Two Cities

by Charles Dickens

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Book the Third, Chapters 2 and 3 Summary and Analysis

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Summary:

Jarvis Lorry is taking care of business at Tellson’s Bank in Paris. The bank is located in the house of an aristocrat—the same “Monseigneur” who required four men to assist him with his drinking chocolate. Monseigneur fled the country, and the house was seized and raided by the revolutionaries. Lorry is dismayed by the violence and disorder. He comforts himself with the belief that none of his loved ones are in Paris. At that moment, however, Dr. Manette and Lucie enter the office. They traveled to Paris after learning that Charles Darnay was incarcerated in La Force. Lorry is horrified by the news. While they talk, a crowd of peasants gather around a large grindstone outside. Lorry begs Dr. Manette to stay away from the window so the people, who are sharpening their weapons on the red-stained stone, will not see him. Dr. Manette, however, insists that he is the most capable of saving Charles Darnay because the peasants will welcome him as a former Bastille prisoner. Dr. Manette departs, leaving Lucie, her daughter, and Miss Pross with Lorry.

Lorry realizes that he is endangering Tellson’s Bank by allowing Lucie (the “wife of an emigrant prisoner”) to stay there. Lucie, however, informs him that her father reserved rooms for them nearby. Lorry accompanies Lucie, her daughter, and Miss Pross to their new lodgings and returns to work. The day passes slowly, but the bank finally closes. Ernest Defarge suddenly appears with a note from Dr. Manette, who writes that Darnay is safe but that he (Dr. Manette) “cannot safely leave this place yet.” Defarge also presents a note for Lucie from her husband. Lorry, Defarge, Madame Defarge, and The Vengeance visit Lucie—both to give her Darnay’s message and to allow Madame Defarge to see Lucie. Defarge claims that is important that Madame Defarge be able to recognize Lucie and her daughter if they ever come into contact with the revolutionaries. Lucie is relieved by the news from her husband but begs Madame Defarge to have mercy on her as a wife and mother. Madame Defarge refuses, saying that they have all watched the suffering of peasant mothers and their children go unnoticed for decades. The Defarges depart with The Vengeance, and Lucie is deeply shaken. Lorry tries to comfort her but is quite disturbed himself.

Analysis:

Monseigneur’s abandoned house, which used to symbolize the widespread corruption and greed of the French aristocracy, now represents the corruption of the violent Revolution. The oppressive Republic has transformed France into both a literal and a figurative prison. Dr. Manette, who was once liberated from the oppression of the previous government, now risks imprisonment once more—especially if the revolutionaries discover that he is working to liberate an emigrant. As we shall see, it will become increasingly difficult for Dr. Manette to prevent the trauma of his past from resurfacing.

Lorry, in his efforts to protect both Tellson’s Bank and Lucie, believes that Madame Defarge wants to “recognize” Lucie and her daughter in order to defend them if they have any trouble with the violent revolutionaries. However, it is possible (especially given her staunch pragmatism, penchant for violent retaliation, and loyalty to the revolutionaries) that Madame Defarge is more interested in evaluating Lucie’s loyalty to the Republic. Madame Defarge demonstrates a complete lack of empathy for Lucie, which suggests that she might add Lucie’s name to her coded registry if she believes Lucie is an enemy of the Republic.

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Book the Third, Chapter 1 Summary and Analysis

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Book the Third, Chapters 4 and 5 Summary and Analysis