A Tale of Two Cities | Study Guide

Charles Dickens

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A Tale of Two Cities | Book 2, Chapter 17 : One Night | Summary



In London, Lucie Manette is talking with Dr. Manette on the evening before her wedding to Charles Darnay. She tells her father that she would have been perfectly happy with him had she not seen Darnay, and that she would never leave him. He tells her how he used to watch the moon out of his prison cell window and wonder who his unborn child was and if it had lived. A son might have avenged him, he says; a daughter might marry and have children of her own. Would they know of his existence? Lucie says she is that daughter and assures him of her devotion and her love. Dr. Manette tells Lucie that the reason he is sharing all of this from such an unpleasant time is to let her know how grateful and happy he is with her—and will be. That night, she sneaks into his room and as he sleeps, prays over her father and kisses him.


This is the first time Dr. Manette has been able to speak of his time in prison without falling apart or reverting to his old shoemaking insanity. It is also the first time he has told Lucie he knew her mother was pregnant when he was imprisoned. It is a testament to the healing effect that Lucie has on her father that he is able to broach such a sensitive subject and remain calm.

Readers should note, however, that seeing Charles Darnay has made Lucie unable to be happy with only her father. This statement confirms to Dr. Manette that he has done the right thing by agreeing to support the marriage. However, this also means that he will have to hear Darnay explain who he really is. Dr. Manette is willing to risk his sanity for his daughter's happiness—more evidence of the theme of self-sacrifice—and can only hope that he will recover.

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