A Tale of Two Cities | Study Guide

Charles Dickens

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A Tale of Two Cities | Book 2, Chapter 19 : An Opinion | Summary

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Summary

It is the tenth day since Dr. Manette lost touch with reality. The doctor comes out of his room for breakfast and acts normal, but seems to think only one day has passed since the wedding. Jarvis Lorry asks him questions about a "friend," and both of them know that he is asking about Dr. Manette, wanting to know what put him over the edge and how he recovered. Dr. Manette has to ask Lorry how long the friend was in this state, because he truly doesn't know. He asks if this friend engaged in activities he did before, and Lorry says yes. He reveals, still speaking of this friend, that he doesn't remember what happened, but that it clearly came about through an extremely unpleasant association.

Lorry also says that he has not told the friend's daughter about the episode and will keep it a secret. He then asks whether it mightn't be best to remove the tools used in the friend's "blacksmith's work," suggesting that it might be best if the friend were to let go of his "little forge." The doctor expresses concern that the friend might need it to avoid having to focus on the things that so upset him, but Lorry insists that the "forge" should not be kept for the friend's daughter's sake. The doctor asks only that Lorry dispose of the "forge" when his friend is away.

The next three days pass peacefully. The doctor then leaves to join Lucie and Charles Darnay. That night, Lorry chops up the shoemaking bench while Miss Pross holds a light for him. They burn the pieces and bury the tools in the yard. As they work, it feels almost as if they are committing and then covering up a murder.

Analysis

The tenderness between Dr. Manette and Mr. Jarvis Lorry is remarkable, and the way Lorry begins his conversation with the doctor about a truly terrifying episode of madness is ingenious. He gets the doctor to report everything he knows about what happened and why, without sending him back into an emotional pit of terror. The doctor knows he is doing this and plays along, which allows him to truly open up to Lorry.

In addition, Lorry makes very clear that he is not going to tell anyone about this episode, because he knows that if he did, it would break Dr. Manette's heart (and possibly affect his sanity) to have Lucie know that he is still so fragile. It would also hurt her terribly to know that this break with reality was sparked by learning who her new husband really is. This is further evidence of Lorry's gentle and considerate kindness and his determination to protect his friends.

The doctor's willingness to allow Lorry and Miss Pross to destroy his shoemaking materials while he is gone is a sign that he is putting the past behind him and feels strong enough to take on whatever happens with his daughter and his new son-in-law. Later in the novel, his strength in this regard will be tested when he has to stand up for Darnay and try to free him, and he will need to keep himself from lapsing back into that "scared, lost" state of mind.

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