A Tale of Two Cities Charles Dickens (1812-1870)

A Tale of Two Cities

Charles Dickens (1812-1870)

Type of Work:

Historical fiction


London and Paris during the French Revolution

Principal Characters

Dr. Manette, a French physician, wrongfully
imprisoned for 18 years

Lucie Manette, his daughter

Charles Darnay, a former French aristocrat
who has repudiated his title and left France to live in England

Jarvis Lorry, the able representative
of Tellson & Co., a banking house

Sydney Carton, a law clerk

Madame Defarge, a French peasant and longtime

Story Overveiw
(In the year 1775, King George III sat
on the throne of England, preoccupied with his rebellious colonies in America.

Across a narrow neck of water to the east, Louis XVI reigned in France,
not very much bothered by anything except seeing to his own comforts.)

On a cold and foggy night in late November,

Mr. Jarvis Lorry was headed out of London bound for Paris, via Dover, on
a matter of business. In the darkness of the coach, as he and the other
passengers waked and drowsed by turns, Lorry was confronted by a gaunt
and ghostly apparition, who engaged him in a silent and macabre conversation

The figure haunting him through the night
was Dr. Manette, a French physician and the father of Mr. Lorry\'s young
ward. When the doctor had disappeared from his home eighteen years before,
his young English wife had diligently and sorrowfully searched for him,
until she died two years later, leaving her small daughter Lucie, who was
placed in the care of Mr. Lorry. Lorry had brought the child to England,
where she was turned over to Lorry\'s servant, Miss Press, a wild-looking,
wonderful woman who adored her.

At Dover, Lorry was joined by Lucie - now
a young woman - and Miss Press. Lorry informed Lucie that her father had
been found alive after years as a political prisoner, and that he, Mr.

Lorry, was making this trip to Paris in order to identify him. Lucie, it
was hoped, could then help "restore him to life." The sudden reality of
finally meeting her father was so great that Lucie could only mutter in
an awestricken, doubting voice, "I am going to see his Ghost! It will be
his Ghost - not him!"

In Paris, Mr. Lorry proceeded directly
to the wine-shop of Monsieur Defarge, a former attendant to Dr. Manette,
who was now looking after him. The company ascended to the attic. Lucie
had been prophetic; indeed, Manette seemed but the ghost of a man, bending
over his little shoemaker\'s bench, unaware of anything around him. Still,
together with the free and bewildered Manette, the little group journeyed
back to England. Lucie already showed a love and understanding for her
long-isolated father, and her companions felt sure she would accomplish
the miracle of calling him back to his former self.

Five years later, Lucie and her father
were called as witnesses in an English court, where a Frenchman, Charles

Darnay, was on trial for treason. In the courtroom sat another young man,
a lawyer\'s clerk named Sydney Carton. Carton was immediately struck by
the resemblance he and Damay bore to one another, and when a key witness
identified the prisoner as the man he had seen gathering information at
a dockyard, Carton managed to discredit the witness by calling attention
to the fact that in that very courtroom sat another - himself - who could
easily be mistaken for the prisoner. The jury was swayed, and Darnay was

During the trial, both Carton and Darnay
became acquainted with the Manettes. From that time on, they often visited
the Manette\'s comfortable little house on Soho Square. Both men enjoyed
the company of the good doctor, whose health of mind and body had been
restored through Lucie\'s patient ministrations - and they also came to
see Lucie. As suitors, their physical resemblance was never remarked upon
because they were so different in attitude and demeanor. While Darnay,
who had turned his back on his ancestral name and title, showed his refined
upbringing in his confidence and courtliness, Carton seemed to be his own
worst enemy. He was only confident of continued failure, and assured himself
of it through drink, slovenliness and a morose character. Though Lucie
elcomed them both, she was most drawn to Darnay. Being of a sympathetic
and loving nature, she listened and wept one day as Carton, in uncharacteristic
openness, confessed his love for her. He asked from her nothing in return
because he believed even her love would not be enough to redeem him. The
conversation ended with Carton\'s strange statement and promise: It is useless
to say it, I know, but ... for you, and for any dear to you,