A Tale of Two Cities | Study Guide

Charles Dickens

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A Tale of Two Cities | Book 2, Chapter 20 : A Plea | Summary



The chapter opens with a discussion between Sydney Carton and Charles Darnay, reflecting on their conversation over dinner after Darnay's trial. Carton tells Darnay not to make light of his inability to move forward with his life and improve himself, and Darnay tells Carton not to make light of the huge debt he owes Carton for saving his life. Carton tells Darnay he knows he's rather useless and morose but would like to be a "privileged person" in the family and spend time with them when he chooses, which, he promises, would not be too often. Darnay agrees.

At dinner that night, Darnay tells Lucie, Dr. Manette, Miss Pross, and Jarvis Lorry about the discussion and casts Carton "as a problem of carelessness and recklessness." Lucie later confronts him, saying she feels he was harsh on Carton and asks him to show Carton "more consideration and respect." She tells Darnay Carton has a deeply wounded heart and "is capable of good things, gentle things, even magnanimous things." Darnay agrees.


Lucie really is the "Golden Thread" (the title of Book 2) that runs through all of the relationships in this chapter. She makes a plea for empathy and compassion for Sydney Carton, because she sees in him something genuine and beautiful. She is remarkable in that she is able to find the best in everyone and bring it out.

Carton may believe that there is nothing redeemable about him, but he knows that he is as good as he will ever be when he spends time with Lucie, Dr. Manette, and Darnay. This is why he asks to spend time with the family as he pleases. Because he has promised Lucie he will do everything in his power to make sure she lives a happy life, he has to spend time with the family in order to protect them. In this way, he can make sure that Lucie and her family have what they need. He is sacrificing his own needs for that of the family—not that he has ever been all that good at taking care of his own needs.

In earlier chapters, readers have had the chance to examine the relationship between the Defarges, who are united in their work for revolution, share mutual goals in business and politics, and seem to support one another in these areas; Monsieur Defarge certainly admires his wife. Readers have also met the Crunchers, who share a mutual distrust; Mrs. Cruncher disapproves of Jerry Cruncher's moonlighting as a body snatcher, and he feels undermined by her disapproval and expresses his anger in physical violence. In this chapter, readers observe another husband–wife relationship—the one between Lucie and Darnay, which is characterized by mutual trust and respect and by kindness and gentleness that extends to all around them.

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