illustration of a guillotine

A Tale of Two Cities

by Charles Dickens

Start Free Trial

In A Tale of Two Cities, why does Darnay return to France despite knowing the risks?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In Chapter X of Book the Third of A Tale of Two Cities, the reader learns that Dr. Manette was visited by the wife of one of the Evremonde twins, "a good, compassionate lady," who hoped to avert

"the wrath of Heaven from a House that had long been hateful to the suffering many."

Concerned, too, that if no atonement be made, it would one day fall upon her innocent son to do so; therefore, the Marquise Evremonde  declared that she would do all that she could to make amends.

Now, fatefully, the "loadstone" beckons Charles Darnay, ne Evremonde, back to France.  Having disavowed any connection to the cruelties of his family, Darnay, nevertheless, has tried to make amends by no longer taxing the peasants. And, he feels obligated to defend his former tax collector, Gabelle, who has been arrested by the bonnets rouges of the Revolution, accused of acting for an emigrant. So, Charles Darnay resolves to return to France in order to vindicate Gabelle. Another motive is Darnay's idealistic thinking that he can accomplish something positive by influencing the radicals to more reasonable actions:

Then, that glorious vision of doing good, which is so often the sanguine mirage of so many good minds, arose before him, and he even saw himself‚ in the illusion‚ with some influence to guide this raging Revolution that was running so fearfully wild.

Certainly, his sense of obligation emanates most strongly from the influence of his mother who seeks atonement for the Evremonde name. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In A Tale of Two Cities, why do you think Darney decide to return to France, and why is he drawn to the danger even though he knows the risks?

In Book II of the classic historical novel A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, Charles Darney inherits his family's noble title when his uncle, the Marquis St. Evremonde, is murdered in his bed after running over a peasant child with his carriage. Darney, however, is content to teach French language and literature in England.

Darney's decision to return to France is stirred by a pitiful letter he receives from Gabelle, a servant who has been helping to oversee the estate. Gabelle has been imprisoned unjustly, and his house has been destroyed. He has been accused of treason. He begs Darney to come and help him.

Darney is exceedingly upset by this injustice toward Gabelle, "whose only crime was fidelity to himself and his family." He realizes that when he inherited his title, he did not properly oversee "the renunciation of his social place." Under written orders, Gabelle had been holding the estate as best he could and generously giving what could be given to the people, but Darney feels that it is his duty to return to Paris and set things right.

Everything that arose before his mind drifted him on, faster and faster, more and more steadily, to the terrible attraction. His latent uneasiness had been, that bad aims were being worked out in his own unhappy land by bad instruments, and that he who could not fail to know that he was better than they, was not there, trying to do something to stay bloodshed, and assert the claims of mercy and humanity.

In other words, Darney feels compelled by his conscience to go to Paris to rescue his servant and do whatever he can to make the situation better there.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In A Tale of Two Cities, why do you think Darney decide to return to France, and why is he drawn to the danger even though he knows the risks?

In The Tale of Two Cities, Charles Darnay is a native of France who is now happily living in London.  When he was last in France he denounced his claim to his aristocratic title and home. The Revolution had not yet begun, and he did what he felt was right to absolve himself of his home and heritage--everything but make it official, that is.  Things changed after he left.

Charles must go back. What he doesn't understand is how things have changed and the thirst for aristocratic blood in France since he was last there.  If he had known, he still would have gone; however, it's likely he would have gone about it differently.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In A Tale of Two Cities, why does Darney go to France?

In the story by Charles Dickens about the French Revolution A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Darnay received a letter from a well-liked servant who was also a doctor, Gabelle, who is also the father of his future bride to be.

Gabelle had been cruelly imprisoned at La Bastille and Darnay was asked to go help rescue him with Gabelle's daughter.  It was a very dangerous time as the revolution was already showing signs of imminence and the situation would be a very sour one for anyone. In fact, Darnay paid dearly for his decision of going to France and he became imprisoned himself.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In A Tale of Two Cities, why does Darnay decide to return to France despite the risks? 

Charles Dickens symbolically entitles Chapter XXIV of Book the Second "Drawn to the Loadstone Rock"; the loadstone, a variety of magnetite possessing a magnetic polarity, symbolizes the pull of France to Darnay in his guilt over the sins of his father and, especially, his uncle. Added to this guilt, Darnay cannot allow Gabelle to suffer for the injustices of his family.

Like the mariner in the old story, the winds and streams had driven him within the influence of the Loadstone Rock, and it was drawing him to itself, and he must go.

His personal sacrifice of returning to France in response to the written pleas of Gabelle to show his expiation for the mistreatment of the peasants at the hands of the Evremonde family, of course, serves to further the narrative and provide Darnay's doppelganger, Sydney Carton, his opportunity for redemption, as well. But, Carton's main purpose is to "stay bloodshed," and to "assert the claims of mercy and humanity."

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Last Updated on