A Tale of Two Cities | Study Guide

Charles Dickens

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A Tale of Two Cities | Book 1, Chapter 4 : The Preparation | Summary

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Summary

Mr. Jarvis Lorry arrives in Dover, where he takes a hotel room and orders one for a young lady arriving sometime that day. Over breakfast, he talks with the waiter about Tellson's Bank, which has had flourishing offices in London and Paris for about 150 years. He says, "It is fifteen years since we—since I—came last from France."

In the evening, Miss Lucie Manette, a pretty, blonde 17-year-old who believes herself an orphan, arrives from London, and "with an air of stolid desperation," Lorry goes to meet her. Lucie has received a letter from Tellson's mentioning a discovery regarding her father's property and advising her to meet with their representative. Lorry admits he is that man and, so as not to shock her, explains he was the adviser and trustee for a French doctor from Beauvais—like Lucie's father—and the doctor's English wife. Lorry makes an effort to distance himself emotionally from the story by insisting it is simply business, that he is "a mere machine." But he can't bring himself to tell Lucie directly that her father is alive. As he speaks, Lucie recognizes him as the man who accompanied her to England after her mother's death 15 years earlier. Despite his protestations of indifference, he tenderly kisses her hand. Resuming his story about the anonymous "Doctor of Beauvais," Lorry describes how the man was untraceably locked away in prison by a powerful enemy, leaving his wife to plead unsuccessfully with the king and queen for information about her husband. She then had a daughter and, to spare her daughter pain, said the doctor was dead. Lucie falls on her knees, begging him for the truth. Finally, he explains her father has been found, "Greatly changed, it is too probable; almost a wreck, it is possible; though we will hope the best. Still, alive." The doctor is at the home of his former servant in Paris. He is using a different name, and they must take him out of France secretly without asking questions.

Lucie is in shock, and Lorry calls for assistance. A ruddy, masculine woman rushes in, shoves him aside, and tenderly helps Lucie lie down. Lorry asks the woman if she will be coming with them to France.

Analysis

The reader learns that Tellson's Bank provides services for many people who are in the same situation that Lucie Manette's parents were in: her mother was English, and her father, French. In order to have a trustee who could handle the financial affairs of both the husband's and the wife's family, it was necessary for such couples to work with a bank that had offices in both countries. Tellson's has an office in London and an office in Paris, so it has many clients with financial ties in both countries.

Readers see once again how kind-hearted Jarvis Lorry is. Having been the trustee for the family and taken care of Lucie's needs since she was small, he finds it hard to transmit information she will find difficult to hear. He tries to make up a story, but she immediately realizes he's saying her father is alive. Lorry can barely keep his composure as he tells her that her father has been found. Without getting emotional, Lorry is also unable to tell Lucie her father has been changed by his long ordeal in prison. Lorry may be insisting to Lucie that this interaction will be all business, but his reactions reveal that he has a very personal connection with Dr. Manette. It's impossible for him to remain neutral. The more the narrator reveals about Lorry, the more he seems like a softy rather than a tough, businesslike banker.

The theme of resurrection comes up again in this chapter, and for Lucie it seems like a true resurrection from the dead. Because she is 17 and Dr. Manette has been in prison for 18 years, she has never actually met her father. Lucie believes he is dead—she says her mother survived her father "only two years"—so she feels like she is about to meet a ghost. She isn't far from wrong. Lorry tells her that Dr. Manette has changed a great deal, and may, in fact, be "almost a wreck." Her shock is palpable, and her protective and doting governess, who swoops in to take care of her, is extremely angry that Lorry has upset her.

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