A Tale of Two Cities | Study Guide

Charles Dickens

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A Tale of Two Cities | Book 2, Chapter 10 : Two Promises | Summary

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Summary

It is a year later. Charles Darnay teaches French at Cambridge but spends time in London whenever possible. One day he arrives at the Manettes' London home to find Lucie Manette is running errands. He speaks privately to Dr. Manette about his love for Lucie, assuring the doctor he knows how dearly the doctor and Lucie love one another. Darnay starts to say the doctor has known love before, but the older man cries out as if in pain. Throughout their conversation, Dr. Manette has been very uncomfortable, but Darnay makes a concerted effort to let the doctor know that his love for Lucie extends to love and support for the doctor as well. They discuss the two other suitors who might be hoping to win Lucie's heart—Sydney Carton and Mr. Stryver, who often visit. Darnay does not ask the doctor to speak for him, but only not to stand in his way if Lucie should ever say she loves Darnay. The doctor promises.

Darnay is moved to admit who he really is, but as soon as he begins, the doctor becomes extremely agitated and—called by the narrator "the doctor of Beauvais"—orders him to "Stop!" The doctor makes Darnay promise that if Lucie accepts his proposal, he will not speak of his true identity until the morning of their wedding.

Dr. Manette retires to his room, and when Lucie returns, she is horrified to hear the sound of hammering there, a sure sign her father is slipping back into his prison-era madness. The hammering stops, though, and when she looks into the room later, he is sleeping, and "his tray of shoemaking tools, and his old unfinished work, [are] all as usual."

Analysis

Dickens uses foreshadowing in several places in this chapter. One very important reaction foreshadowing Charles Darnay's pain at being separated from his wife is Dr. Manette's outcry when Darnay speaks of his having known true love. It is too painful for the doctor to contemplate the loss of his beloved wife because, in addition to being a painful loss in itself, it is tied up with his long imprisonment and suffering. The doctor never speaks of Lucie's mother, and this is another of the mysteries in the novel that need resolution.

Another example of foreshadowing is the doctor's reassurance that he will not hold his family name against Darnay; but others will judge Darnay based on his name later in the novel. Because the doctor says that whatever reasons there may be in his mind to be wary of Darnay are not Darnay's fault, the reader begins to understand that the doctor knows exactly who Darnay is. This action brings up the theme of self-sacrifice: The doctor is willing to set aside his very real fears of an evil legacy for his daughter's happiness. Dr. Manette says that if Lucie loves Darnay, the reasons for his wariness will disappear. This declaration foreshadows the devotion the doctor will show toward Darnay once he has become a part of the family.

The hammering shows that Dr. Manette has not completely overcome his illness and foreshadows the extreme agitation he will feel once Darnay actually reveals his name. Readers suspect the Marquis, who was alert to his nephew's association with a doctor and his daughter, is somehow responsible for the doctor's imprisonment and his resulting obsession with shoemaking.

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