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A Tale of Two Cities

by Charles Dickens

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What does "recalled to life" mean in A Tale of Two Cities?

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The phrase "recalled to life" in A Tale of Two Cities refers to the physical liberation of Dr. Manette from the Bastille and the spiritual awakening of Sydney Carton when he falls in love with Lucy.

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“Recalled to life” has a double meaning in relation to Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities. First of all, it refers to the rebirth of Dr. Manette after his release from the hellhole of the Bastille. Manette had spent eighteen long years rotting away in the notorious royal prison, that dark and deadly symbol of arbitrary royal power. Now finally released from his lengthy period of incarceration, Manette has effectively been reborn; he has been “recalled to life.”

The second meaning of the expression relates to the spiritual awakening of the dissolute lawyer Sydney Carton. Here is a man who's done absolutely nothing with his life—who's spent most of his adult years getting drunk and indulging in a lifestyle of general dissipation. Cynical and full of self-loathing, Carton is in desperate need of a spiritual awakening.

Just such an epiphany occurs due to Carton's love of a good woman, namely Dr. Manette's daughter, Lucie. Though Lucie is already spoken for, Carton's unrequited love for her provides the spark for a spiritual awakening in which the cynical, world-weary barrister is “recalled to life.” It is largely for Lucie's sake that Carton takes the place of her husband, Charles Darnay, at the guillotine. In making this supreme sacrifice, Sydney Carton is being recalled to eternal life.

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I must say, due to mwestwood's exquisite answer, there is not too much to add; however, I can give a couple different tidbits.  Of course, the term "recalled to life" is the carrier's, Jerry Cruncher's, message during his return on horseback from the Dover stage.  Jerry's message reaches Jarvis Lorry right before he heads to France and is kind of a secret message.

The message is truly a mystery to Lorry.  Even Jerry thinks it is a "strange message."  It is only the reader that truly understands it and how it connects to "Mam-selle" at Dover.  It is about Manette's rescue from his imprisonment at the Bastille.  When he was let go, Manette was in poor condition, and his release gives him a new lease on life (especially to live in peace with his daughter, Lucie).

In conclusion, it is important to note that this message of "recalled to life" introduces one of the main themes of the novel:  the dual nature of the body and the spirit.  Note how Manette is bodily "recalled to life" from the Bastille after many years.  Further, Sydney Carton is spiritually "recalled to life."  He goes from a being a person of ill-repute (a simple barrister) to an upstanding citizen when he falls in love with Lucie Manette.  This is proven when Sydney sacrifices his own life.

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"Recalled to Life" is the return message that Jerry Cruncher, the carrier on horseback, returns with from the Dover stage one foggy night. On this stage is Mr. Lowry of Tellson's Bank, a representative who sojourns to Paris, but he has been told to "wait at Dover for Mam'selle." Jerry's urgent message reaches Mr. Lowry just before he embarks upon the boat to Calais, France, across the English Channel from which he will again take a coach.

It is a mysterious message, indeed, that Mr. Lorry gives Jerry to carry back to the bank--"recalled to Life," and he puzzles over its import as he rides back to London,

"No, Jerry, no!....It wouldn't do for you, Jerry, Jerry, you honest tradesman, it wouldn't suit your line of business! Recalled----! Bust me if I don't think he'd [Mr. Lowry] been a drinking!"

This phrase, "recalled to life," becomes a motif in Dickens's novel of dualities; moreover, it is involved in one of the ironic twists near the end of the novel as Jerry's secret profession to which he alludes in his remark on his ride to London becomes an important clue to solving one mystery. Also, two main characters are recalled to life: one physically is brought back to the world he once knew. Dr. Manette is released from the Bastille after fourteen years when the peasants stage a rebellion at the incipience of the French Revolution; the other is resurrected spiritually. Sydney Carton, a dissolute barrister, awakens his soul with love Lucie Manette and her family and maintains a friendship with the man of sterling character, Jarvis Lowry. Because of his great love for Lucie, he sacrifices his own life so that her husband Charles may live; thus, he is resurrected spiritually--recalled to eternal life--in his offering of himself.

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Dickens made the phrase "Recalled to Life" purposefully intriguing and mysterious; A Tale of Two Cities was originally published in serial form, so Dickens heightened suspense in order to draw in as many readers as possible.  The catch-phrase, "Recalled to Life," is first used in Chapter Two.  Mr. Jarvis Lorry tells Jerry Cruncher a secret code for the "Mam-selle" at Dover.  Jerry perceives the phrase as a "blazing strange message," but the reader soon deciphers its meaning as a reference to Doctor Manette's rescue from his eighteen years in prison.  At the time of his release, Dr. Manette was mentally unstable and wasting away; his release gives him a new chance to reunite with his daughter Lucy and live peacefully. 

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In A Tale of Two Cities what is the meaning of "Recalled to Life" in Book the First, chapter III?

"Recalled to life" is the utterance from Mr. Lorry when he reads the missive brought him by Jerry Cruncher, the messenger from Tellson's bank where Lorry is employed. Mr. Lorry is on the Dover coach which will carry him to the shore of the English Channel. Then, Mr. Lorry will cross the channel by boat and enter France where his mission is to meet Miss Lucie Manette. His response is metaphorical, but Jerry the messenger does not comprehend its meaning.

Further, in keeping with Dickens's motif of doubling in this narrative, "recalled to life" is a double entendre that means one legal act and another illegal one. The legal act is the release from the French prison of the Bastille, which houses political prisoners, of Dr. Alexandre Manette, who has unjustly served eighteen years of a life sentence. He was cast into jail by aristocrats, so when the Revolution began, all political prisoners of the people's enemies; namely, the aristocrats, are released. The illegal act refers to those activities of the "resurrection man," Jerry Cruncher. Messenger by day, he is a grave-robber by night, selling cadavers to men of science. Worried about the ramifications of this abstruse message sent back by Mr. Lorry, the comical Jerry returns to London on his horse, speculating to himself,

"No, Jerry, no!....It wouldn't do for you, Jerry, Jerry, you honest tradesman, it wouldn't suit your line of business! Recalled----! Bust me if I don't think he'd been a drinking!"

So troubled is Jerry by this message that the shadows of the night "took such shapes to him as arose out of the message," and his horse shied at the shadows on the road to London and the nightwatchman at Tellson's bank.

In addition to this double entendre, "recalled to life" becomes a theme of the story as it also extends to spiritual resurrection for Sydney Carton. Dr. Manette returns from his hallucinatory life of a shoemaker in prison to a man of learning and some prestige. Jerry becomes instrumental in solving a mystery because of his dubious night occupation, and Mr. Lorry finds a renewed life in meaningful personal relationships such as his friendship with Dr. Manette, and his warm relations with Lucie Manette and her husband Charles Darnay and their children.

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