Summary of A Tale of Two Cities
The Novel A Tale of Two Cities is comprised of three books. Here is the summary of A Tale of Two Cities for each book explained separately.
Summary of Book the First “Recalled to Life” (Chapter 1-6)
Dickens’ opening lines of the novel depicts the economical and political picture of England and Paris. “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times…” The life in England and France seems paradoxically the best and the worst that it can be. The ruling classes and aristocrats of both countries may have the best time of life, but they are ignorant of the miseries of common people and believe that the status quo will have such a good time forever. In France, because of high inflation, the poor were dying of hunger and the cruel attitude of aristocrats made common people depressed who believed they had the worst time in their life. Poor were secretly planning for the revolution.
In England, the Dover mail coach is climbing up a hill one late November night. There were four members, and the coach was escorted because of rising robbery cases in England. Mr. Jarvis Lorry, an employee of the bank, receives a message from Jerry from Tellson’s Bank in London. Mr. Lorry reads the message, which states, “Wait at Dover.” Mr. Jarvis Lorry tells Jerry to return the mysterious answer, “Recalled to Life.” Mr. Lorry arrives at the Royal George Hotel in Dover and he waits for the young woman, Lucie Manette, to arrive there. When Lucie arrives, Mr. Lorry introduces himself and tells why she is accompanying him. It shocked Lucie to know that his father, Doctor Manette, whom she believed to be dead, is alive, and has been secretly imprisoned in Bastille, Paris, for the last 18 years. Now they are going to bring him back to London.
A scene of chaos is depicted in the suburb of Saint Antoine where a crowd is gathered in front of a wine-shop to scoop up pools of wine spilled from a broken cask. The red wine was spilled over a holy place and red color makes people’s hands, faces, and feet, forewarning the blood that will be spilled there in coming years. A man writes the word Blood on a wall with red wine. Monsieur and Madame Defarge, owner of the wine-shop, conversing with three other men inside, all called “Jacques.” Monsieur Defarge sends the men upstairs to a chamber on the fifth floor where they usually make plans for the future. Meanwhile, Mr. Lorry and Lucie enter the shop, Monsieur Defarge, took them upstairs to the fifth floor chamber. Monsieur Defarge opens the locked door. Mr. Lorry and Lucie enter the room and see a white-haired man sitting on a bench busy in making shoes.
The man is aged and weakened by a long time in prison; he keeps busy himself in shoemaking and does not even know that he is out of prison now. On asking his name, he answers, “One Hundred and Five, North Tower.” Lucie approaches his father, however, he seems familiar to her, especially when he compares her hair to golden hairs that he kept tied in a cloth around his neck. After recognizing her because Lucie resembles her mother, he begins to weep. They move to London by a ship with Doctor Manette.
Summary of Book the Second “The Golden Thread” (Chapter 1-24)
Five years have passed since Doctor Manette was brought to England. Jerry Cruncher is still a messenger for the bank, and his son, Young Jerry, often helps him. His wife’s praying frustrates, and he complains that she prays against his prosperity and warns her he won’t tolerate it anymore. Soon Jerry was called by the bank to deliver a message and was told to take a note to Mr. Lorry at the Old Bailey law court.
After handing over a note to the doorkeeper to deliver to Mr. Lorry, Jerry goes into the crowded courtroom where the court is hearing a treason case. The accused, Charles Darnay, is standing quietly and calmly before the crowd. Meanwhile Lucie and Doctor Manette enter the courtroom, who are witnesses against him. The trial begins with the Attorney-General’s as with the charge of treason against Mr. Darnay. Mr. Stryver, Darnay’s counsel, attempts to discredit the prosecution’s two witnesses — Roger Cly & John Barsad. But the climax comes in the trial when Sydney Carton, Stryver’s associate, alerts him by astonishing physical resemblance to Darnay. Stryver calls attention to physical resemblance for the prosecution, casting doubt onto the man’s testimony that he saw Darnay in a hotel waiting for someone. Stryver then concludes the case with witnesses and an abstract that show Barsad as a spy and Cly as his assistant. Darnay states that he is an innocent victim whose private family affairs caused him to move between the two countries. The jury declares that Darnay is innocent.
Doctor Manette, Lucie, Mr. Lorry, and Mr. Stryver congratulate Darnay for his good luck. When people disperse, Carton comes towards Darnay and invites him to a nearby tavern for dinner. Darnay thanks Carton for assistance in the trial, Carton shrugs and tells him that he doesn’t particularly like him. Carton admits that he is drinking a lot nowadays because, “I am a disappointed drudge . . . I care for no man on earth, and no man on earth cares for me.” When Darnay leaves, Carton finishes his drink and falls asleep on the table in the tavern. A waiter awakes Carton; he walks from the tavern to Stryver’s chambers. They work on some cases and when they finish the work, Stryver and Carton discuss their childhood days together and the differences in their fortune: how Stryver progressed in his profession while Carton remained in Stryver’s shadow. Their discussion takes turns and they discuss Lucie, Stryver admires her and Carton dismisses her as “a golden-haired doll.”
After four months since the trial. Charles Darnay, Mr. Lorry, and Sydney Carton have become frequent visitors at Lucie’s home in Soh. One day Miss Pross and Mr. Lorry discuss the several suitors for Lucie’s hand and the recovery of Doctor Manette’s health.
The Marquis St. Evrémonde is driving his carriage recklessly through the Paris streets, the carriage accidentally runs over a little child. The Marquis shows no regret for the death of the little child, and when the child’s grief-stricken father, Gaspard, approaches the carriage, the Marquis throws him a coin. Defarge appears and comforts Gaspard, Meanwhile, Marquis throws a coin to him. The carriage moves, and one peasant throws a coin back into the carriage. Infuriated, the Marquis threatens the crowd and then moves away. As the Marquis travels from Paris to the Evrémonde country estate his carriage stops in a village near his home, the Marquis asks a road- mender who tells that he saw a man riding under his carriage, Marquis is on his way again and a grief-stricken woman stops him at the graveyard and requests him for help for the grave of her dead husband. Ignoring her request, the Marquis moves to his chateau. Marquis arrives and asks if his nephew “Monsieur Charles” has arrived from England yet. His nephew, Charles Darnay, arrives, they exchange brief formalities and Darnay tells his uncle that he is renouncing all ties to his family and to Paris. Although he is polite, the Marquis’ dislike his nephew for his approach. In the morning, the Marquis is found dead; killed by a member of the Jacquerie.
Twelve months have passed after the murder of the Marquis, Darnay has settled in England as a French language tutor. He has been in love with Lucie since the trial, and he finally speaks to Doctor Manette about his feelings. Darnay tells the Doctor that he loves Lucie and wishes to marry her. The Doctor agrees, but when Darnay tries to reveal his real name and background, Doctor Manette stops him and makes him promise not to reveal it until the morning of Darnay and Lucie’s wedding. That evening, Lucie finds her father working at his shoemaker’s bench.
Jerry Cruncher was sitting outside Tellson’s Bank, and he noticed a funeral procession approaching. He looks at a funeral with his own motives and prepares himself mentally for his secret job. Cruncher discovers that it is Roger Cly’s funeral, one of the secret agents (spies) who testified against Darnay. Cruncher stops at a surgeon’s on the way to Tellson’s. Cruncher leaves his house at night, after confirming his wife and son have gone to sleep, carrying a rope, a crowbar, a chain and a sack for his mission. Young Jerry secretly follows his father. Two other men join him and they soon reach the graveyard. As Little Jerry looks with horror, they dig up a coffin. Young Jerry runs home, terrified that the coffin is hopping after him.
The road-mender goes to the wine-shop with Defarge. He explains what happened to Gaspard, who murdered Marquis for running down his child, went into hiding for nearly a year after the killing. The French authorities recently arrested, imprisoned, and hanged him, and left his body hanging by the village fountain. John Barsad reaches a wine-shop and asks the Defarge about the turbulence in Saint Antoine because of Gaspard’s execution. Defarge acts as if he doesn’t know what he’s asking. As Barsad tries to indulge him in more conversation, Madame Defarge knits his name into her register. Barsad wants to extract some secret information and finally mentions that Lucie Manette is engaged to marry Charles Darnay, the nephew of the Marquis St. Evrémonde. When Barsad leaves, Madame Defarge knits Darnay’s name also into her register.
At the wedding ceremony of Lucie and Darnay’s, Darnay and Doctor Manette talk privately. After discussion, the Doctor is very pale but self-possessed. After marriage, Lucie and Darnay move on a two-week honeymoon. Mr. Lorry and Miss Pross are living at Doctor Manette’s home. Once again Doctor Manette has gone to a previous state of total absorption in his shoemaking and even does not know Miss Pross or Mr. Lorry. The situation remains for nine days. On the tenth morning, Doctor Manette is fully recovered and unaware about his past nine days.
Carton visits Lucie and Darnay soon after they return from their honeymoon. He talks to Darnay in an unusually sincere tone and apologizes for his rudeness after the trial. He also requests him for friendship and. Darnay assures him he has forgotten the past. Carton then requests for permission to visit the family occasionally and Darnay permits him.
The year is 1789, eight years have passed. Darnay and Lucie are living a happy life and have had two children: a daughter named Young Lucie and a son who died. Stryver has married a widow with three sons with good economical condition.
Turbulence in France has caused a run on the Paris branch of Tellson’s Bank. In the meantime, the residents of Saint Antoine arm themselves with many types of weapons. They were planning secretly from a long time ago in the lead of Defarges. One day, the crowd attacks on the Bastille led by Defarges. Once Bastille is under the control of revolutionaries, Defarge goes to Doctor Manette’s old cell inside the prison, and finds something. Defarge joins a group escorting the prison’s governor to the Hotel de Ville. The bloodthirsty crowd attacks the governor on the way and beats him to death. Madame Defarge cuts off his head. The revolutionaries are rescuing seven prisoners from the Bastille and putting the heads of seven Bastille guards on pikes depicting a horrible condition after revolution.
A week has passed after the fall of the Bastille, the revolutionaries learn that Foulon, a hated official who is alive. Apparently dead Foulon, who had said that starving people could eat grass, faked his death in order to escape the revolutionaries. The Vengeance, and Jacques Three, the mob seizes Foulon, fills his mouth with grass, and then hangs him to death. After he dies, they cut his head and put him on a pike. The mob then arrests Foulon’s son-in-law, who has moved into Paris under heavy guard. The mob kills him too. The crowd returns to their homes that night; they are hungry but happy and hopeful for a better future.
Summary of Book the Third “The Track of a Storm” (Chapter 1-15)
Charles Darnay travels to Paris, encountering revolutionaries in every village along the way who condemn him as an aristocrat and allow him to continue on only because of his letter from Gabelle. Once he arrives in Paris, a prison tribunal declares him a prisoner “in secret” of La Force prison. Defarge escorts Darnay to the prison and Darnay ask him to inform Mr. Lorry of his imprisonment which Defarge refuses.
Lucie and Doctor Manette approaches Mr. Lorry who is in his rooms at the Paris branch of Tellson’s Bank, and Lucie worriedly tells him that the revolutionaries have taken Charles prisoner. A crowd enters the courtyard outside and begins sharpening its arms on a large grindstone there. Mr. Lorry Encourages her and sends her into another room and tells Dr. Manette that the crowd is bloodthirsty and butchering the prisoners of La Force. Doctor Manette has some influence with the revolutionaries as a former prisoner of the Bastille, so he leaves to try to save Darnay’s life.
After four days, Doctor Manette finally returns from the prison. He tells Mr. Lorry how he tried to influence the court tribunal to free his son-in-law, but only secured a guarantee of Darnay’s safety. Even despite the Doctor’s efforts, Darnay spends a year and three months in prison. In the meantime, the Dr. Mannete becomes recognized throughout Paris and gains status as the inspecting physician for three prisons. Throughout Darnay’s imprisonment, Lucie goes to the outside area of the prison daily for two hours with a hope that her husband will see her. She stands at the spot where Darnay might view her, however, is next to a woodcutter’s house. The woodcutter, (who was known as road-mender previously), torments Lucie by pretending to saw off her and her daughter’s heads; Lucie gives him money to leave her alone.
At the trial, the next day, Darnay offers an expressive and well-planned defense of himself. Though, he could not convince the jury until Doctor Manette and Mr. Lorry testified on his behalf. The court finally set him free. When he reaches home, he embraces his wife Lucie and his daughter Young Lucie. He and Lucie pray together thanks to Dr. Manette. Afterward, Lucie embraces her father, who is proud of the success he has achieved. Soon afterward, four rough men pound on the door and enter the apartment where Darnay and Lucie are living. They tell Darnay that he is a prisoner again, based on accusations from three people: Monsieur and Madame Defarge and someone else whom they refuse to name. Darnay’s new trial will take place the next day.
As Miss Pross and Jerry Cruncher enter a wine-shop, Miss Pross screams when she looks at a man who is about to leave and whom she recognizes as her brother, Solomon Pross. Nervous by Miss Pross’ attention, Solomon tells her to be silent, and they leave the shop. Cruncher follows them, trying to remember where he’s seen the man before. When they reach a dark street corner, Sydney Carton accompanies them and recognizes Solomon Pross as John Barsad, the police spy from Darnay’s trial in England. Carton, who has recently arrived in France, states that Barsad is now a prison informer and threatens Barsad into going to Tellson’s with him. At Tellson’s, Carton informs Mr. Lorry that Darnay has been arrested again and that Doctor Manette was helpless to prevent it.
Carton then proceeds to Barsad and threatens him including Roger Cly to denounce the French authorities as an English spy. When Barsad protests Roger is dead, Jerry shocks everyone by informing that Cly’s coffin contained stones and dirt instead of his body. Barsad asks Carton what he wants from him to be silent. Carton inquires whether he has access to the prison, and when Barsad replies he has the access, Carton takes him to another room for a private conversation where he demands access to Darnay.
When Mr. Lorry leaves Tellson’s soothing Lucie and Dr. Mannette, Carton walks the streets all night with the biblical passage, “I am the resurrection and the life,” echoing in his mind. At one point, he approaches a chemist’s shop to buy some drugs. The next day, Sydney Carton attends Darnay’s new trial. The cruel jury includes the malicious Jacques Three. The public prosecutor opens the trial by stating that Darnay’s three accusers are the Defarges, Madame Defarges and Dr. Manette. Dr. Mannete complaints this statement, but is reprimanded. Defarge explains that he found a letter from the Doctor’s cell in the Bastille. Dr. Manette wrote the paper and contains his denouncement. The Darnay could not be saved this time, and the jury announced death punishment.
Darnay’s death sentence overwhelms Lucie, but she controls herself for her husband’s sake. The court permits her to embrace her husband last time. She and Darnay say their farewells. Lucie faints when the guards escort Darnay away. Sydney Carton picks her up and carries to the carriage. Carton goes to the Defarge wine-shop to make himself known to the local citizens. Madame Defarge observes the resemblance between Darnay and Carton. Carton pretends he knows French very little which makes her convinced Carton is not Darnay. Madame Defarge also tells that she is the younger sister of the peasant woman who was raped by the Evrémondes and demands revenge for the murder of her entire family. After listening to her, Carton approaches Mr. Lorry to inform him of the danger to Lucie and her family. Carton tells Mr. Lorry to have a carriage and everyone’s passport ready at two o’clock the following afternoon.
Before the execution day, Darnay writes letters to Lucie, Doctor Manette, and Mr. Lorry. The next day, at one o’clock in the afternoon, Carton enters the cell secretly by the help of John Barsad and exchanges clothes with Darnay. Then, Carton drugs him so that Darnay loses his consciousness. Two guards, who believe Carton is senseless, carry Darnay out of the prison. At two o’clock, guards take Carton and other fifty-two prisoners to a larger room that the court has scheduled for execution. Meanwhile, the coach carrying Darnay, Mr. Lorry, Doctor Manette, Lucie, and young Lucie escape from Paris, where they identify Darnay as Carton who is still unconscious.
Madame Defarge tells Jacques Three and The Vengeance that she wants to denounce Doctor Manette, Lucie, and her daughter that evening after Darnay’s execution. She leaves for their residence accompanying them. Madame Defarge plans to use Lucie’s grief against Lucie because showing grief for an enemy of the Republic is considered treasonous. In the meantime, Jerry and Miss Pross prepare to leave and plan to meet up with Mr. Lorry’s coach later. Jerry vows he will stop beating his wife for praying and grave robbing if Mr. Lorry and his group return to England safely.
As Miss Pross is preparing to leave, Madame Defarge enters the apartment. Miss Pross closes the doors quickly to all the rooms and pretends to be guarding Lucie and her family. After no response on calling for Doctor and Lucie, Madame Defarge suspects that they have escaped and tries to enter the room that Miss Pross is blocking. Both women move violently and Madame Defarge pulls out her gun. Her own gun killed Madame Defarge when Miss Pross strikes it aside and the gun goes off accidentally. After locking the apartment, Miss Pross rushes to the cathedral to meet Jerry and escape.
As the cart moves with fifty-two prisoners, people crowd to see Evrémonde go to his death. When they reach the guillotine, they discuss the afterlife, not noticing prisoners steadily being executed ahead of them. Mean- while, The Vengeance wonders why Madame Defarge is not there to witness Evrémonde’s execution. Before he dies, Carton has a vision. In his vision, he foresees long and happy lives for the Darnay family, Doctor Manette, and Mr. Lorry. He also assumes Lucie and Darnay will have a son, whom they will name after him and who will become the man Carton always wished to be. With this mighty vision in mind, he embraces his death thinking, “It is a far, far better thing I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest I go to than I have ever known.
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