A Tale of Two Cities | Study Guide

Charles Dickens

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A Tale of Two Cities | Book 2, Chapter 1 : Five Years Later | Summary



The time is "Anno Domini" 1780, or as Jerry Cruncher, the odd-jobs man for Tellson's Bank says, Anna Dominoes. Cruncher is at home with his wife and his son, Young Jerry, described as a "grisly urchin" who looks very much like his father. Cruncher is yelling at his wife for praying for him, convinced that she is trying to destroy his livelihood. She protests that she is just saying a blessing. He even yells at her for saying grace over breakfast. After breakfast, Jerry heads to Tellson's Bank where he learns they need a porter right away, so he goes off to do the job. Young Jerry holds his father's place outside Tellson's, wondering why his father's fingers are always rusty.


In this chapter, the narrator gives the reader a clear picture of Jerry Cruncher's personality (as well as his remarkable ability to mistake one phrase for another). Jerry is portrayed as a man with little education who is not well off financially, and takes out his dissatisfaction on his wife. Jerry's malapropisms lighten what is otherwise a fairly bleak story. Contemporary critics of A Tale of Two Cities complained that the novel did not contain Dickens's usual sense of humor and tendency to have at least a few comical characters in his stories. Jerry and Miss Pross, Lucie Manette's blustery governess, provide the only comic relief in the novel.

The narrator also portrays Jerry as a person who, though difficult at home, is reliable in his job. Dickens uses vivid descriptions of characters' faults as well as their finer points, especially characters who are working class or poor, to give readers a complete picture of each character. In this novel, the graphic turns of phrase he uses in his character descriptions are exemplified by the phrase "grisly urchin" that he uses to describe Jerry's son, a mini-Jerry.

Dickens also tends to use names that reflect the personalities of characters, especially the funny ones. The name Cruncher conjures up someone who does physical work and doesn't give up until the job is done. However, it also conjures up a person who might possibly break things, which is how he behaves at home. How will Jerry's job connect with the story of the Manette family? As the only person Mr. Lorry trusts to take messages to people and otherwise do as he is told, Jerry will certainly play a part.

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