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A Tale of Two Cities

by Charles Dickens

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What is the significance of "Recalled to Life" in A Tale of Two Cities?

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The title of Book the First captures one of the central themes in the novel - that of resurrection. Of course, you are not alone in your confusion regarding the answer that Jarvis Lorry entrusts with Jerry Cruncher, for Jerry himself exclaims:

"That's a Blazing strange answer, too."

The coachmen likewise are able to make nothing of it at the end of Chapter 2, but we are reintroduced to this phrase in Chapter 3, for Jarvis Lorry begins to dream of speaking to the man who has been buried "for 18 years" and now has been "Recalled to life." It is only in Chapter 4 that we work out that the person who has been "Recalled to Life" is Dr. Manette, Lucie Manette's father, who had been feared dead for so very long but has now been released from the Bastille in France where he has been prisoner for 18 years. Note how the description of Dr. Manette in Chapter 6 reinforces this impression that he has risen from the dead in some way:

The faintness of the voice was pitiable and dreadful... It was like the last feeble echo of a sound made long and long ago...

Note too how the expression "haggard eyes" is used to describe the Doctor at first, placing emphasis on his weakness and frailty.

Of course, the expression "Recalled to Life" is not only featured in the resurrection of Dr. Manette, but in the resurrection (if you like) of both Sydney Carton and Charles Darnay at the end of the novel. Sydney Carton is able to become the man and resurrect his better qualities by his decision at the end to give his life up for Darnay, and Darnay is literally given a second chance at life through Carton's sacrifice.

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What is the significance of the title of the first book, "Recalled to Life," in Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities?

Dr. Manette, who has been held prisoner for the past eighteen years, is finally released. His long imprisonment has left him only a shadow of himself, however, and he has little memory of his past. It is he who is "recalled to life"--in both the sense of his physical release into freedom and in the sense of his psychological healing, which will take place through the loving care of his daughter Lucie.

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How does the title of the first book of Tale of Two Cities, "Recalled to Life," relate to the entire novel and its narrative?

"Recalled to Life," or Resurrection, is one of themes of A Tale of Two Cities, and there is no question that life and death are tropes in this novel.

Beginning with Book the First, Chapter II, this theme of Resurrection is introduced by Dickens. Jerry Cruncher, the messenger for Tellson's Bank, is ironically given the assignment to inform Mr. Lorry, agent for this same bank, that Dr. Manette, the man Lorry is going to meet, has been "recalled to life" after fourteen years. As he returns to London on his horse, Jerry ponders the phrase and decides it would not suit his "line of business" if people were brought back to life. For, Jerry exhumes dead bodies and sells them to scientists. Ironically, this occupation proves instrumental for Carton in Book the Third as Jerry knows that the grave of Roger Cly, a spy and partner of Barsad, was empty, so Carton can convince Barsad to cooperate with him.

With regard to Dr. Manette and the theme of Resurrection, he has been released from the Bastille by the Revolutionaries and is now a hero to the peasants and others of the Third Estate. However, his letter, written while he was a prisoner, brings condemnation upon the Evremondes who exploited the peasants on their estate, and, ironically, Lucie Manette marries one of the Evremonde twins, who uses the alias of Charles Darnay. After Darnay is taken to prison as one of the condemned aristocrats, Sydney Carton unselfishly sacrifices his life for that of Charles, who looks like his double. Thus, Charles is brought back to life with his family and Carton is also redeemed, but spiritually. His famous lines as he walks to the guillotine are renowned,

"It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better thing that I do, that I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to, than I have ever known."

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