A Tale of Two Cities | Study Guide

Charles Dickens

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A Tale of Two Cities | Book 2, Chapter 24 : Drawn to the Loadstone Rock | Summary

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Summary

Three years have passed, and in France, the aristocracy has been "scattered far and wide." Those who foresaw what was coming sent their property to England and are now coming to Tellson's Bank to collect it. Those who did not share that foresight, gather there to look for help and to learn the latest news on their homeland. Tellson's even posts the news in its windows.

Charles Darnay is at Tellson's speaking with Mr. Jarvis Lorry. As a longtime employee who knows the bank's business in both England and France, Lorry has to go to Tellson's Paris office tonight. Darnay, who wishes he could go back to France himself to try to calm the situation there, is worried about his friend's safety. Lorry explains that the situation is precarious: No one knows from one day to the next whether Paris will be set alight or whether important papers will be stolen or destroyed; he refers to clients escaping the barriers of the city with their heads "hanging on by a single hair." Lorry will be taking Jerry Cruncher with him as a bodyguard.

An assistant brings Lorry a letter and asks if he has found the addressee yet. Darnay looks down at the letter and is shocked to see his own real name there. Lorry doesn't know who Darnay really is, and neither does Darnay's wife; only Dr. Manette knows. The former French nobles gather round and discuss the missing heir, calling him "degenerate" and a coward who "abandoned [his] estates ... and left them to the ruffian herd." Stryver, who is also present, finds this behavior reprehensible. Angrily Darnay says, "I know the fellow," and points out that Stryver "may not understand the gentleman." But Stryver and the others remain unconvinced and leave. Lorry asks Darnay if he can deliver the letter, and Darnay agrees to do so.

Darnay slips away and reads the letter, which is from Gabelle, who has been jailed and will be executed for treason against the people, for aiding the emigrant marquis—Darnay. He begs Darnay to save him. Darnay realizes he must go to Paris because Gabelle's only crime has been loyalty to him. But he can't tell Dr. Manette or Lucie because they would try to stop him or go with him. Darnay tells Lorry he has delivered the letter and asks him to take a reply to Gabelle that the man is coming. Lorry agrees to do so and leaves for Paris. That night, Darnay writes letters to both Dr. Manette and Lucie, and the next day tells them that he has an engagement which will take him out of town. He packs a valise, mounts his horse, and heads for Dover and the ferry.

Analysis

As is pointed out in the chapter, Mr. Jarvis Lorry is close to 80 and has been working for Tellson's Bank for some 60 years. He is very familiar with the bank's French business and is therefore the best person for the job. Moreover, as he points out, his age and nationality should protect him from the revolutionaries. He is also wise enough to take Jerry Cruncher with him to protect against violence and crime on the road.

Charles Darnay is pulled to France, of course, because it is his home, his "loadstone," and he wishes that he could help the unfortunate people more than he already has by lessening the financial burden on the peasants on his lands. His uncle left the estate deeply in debt, and Darnay has asked Gabelle to take from the land only what is needed to keep the debt current. He doesn't realize the peasants don't know he tried to help them, and he has no sense of how much they hate him because of who his family was. Darnay's innate generosity and nobility of spirit blinds him to the realities of the revolution.

The peasants have a similar hatred of Gabelle because of his loyalties, and Darnay feels entirely responsible for this terrible turn of events in Gabelle's life. Gabelle may have survived the burning of the chateau, but his loyalty to Darnay will soon cost him his freedom if not his life. Interestingly, the film version of this novel has Barsad and Gabelle using the letter to lure Darnay to Paris. Another possibility is that the Defarges have imprisoned Gabelle but allowed him to write to Darnay, hoping to get Darnay to come to Paris so that they can kill him. Dickens doesn't mention any of these ideas, but later critics noted this weakness in the plot.

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