A Tale of Two Cities | Study Guide

Charles Dickens

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A Tale of Two Cities | Book 2, Chapter 8 : Monseigneur in the Country | Summary

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Summary

The Marquis drives through a small, poor village to his chateau. In the countryside, he is considered the Monseigneur. The people of the village are desperately poor because of all of the taxes they pay, including taxes to the Marquis. They are reduced to eating grass, leaves, and sometimes dirt. There are no dogs and few children. The Marquis sees one of them staring at his carriage and stops to ask what he's looking at. He is a mender of roads, who says that someone was hanging under the carriage on its chain, covered in dust, but isn't there anymore. The Marquis asks his servant, Gabelle, to find the person who ran away and drives on.

As his carriage slows beside a graveyard, a woman stops him with a petition about her husband. He responds, "What of your husband, the forester? ... He cannot pay something?" She tells him her husband is dead. "Well! He is quiet. Can I restore him to you?" She explains that he is dead, that like so many others he has "die[d] of want." "Again, well?" replies the Marquis, "Can I feed them?" The woman begs him for a morsel of wood or stone to mark her husband's grave so she can tell where he is buried when she comes back to mourn him. The Marquis drives on.

Arriving at his chateau, the Marquis asks his servant, who opens the door, whether "Monsieur Charles" has "arrived from England" yet, but learns he has not.

Analysis

This chapter continues to reveal to the reader the despicable character of the Marquis. He is truly uncaring and hateful toward the poor and acts as if it is their fault they have so little. By telling the story of the poor woman who just wants to mark her grave so she can find her dead husband again, Dickens elicits sympathy from the reader for the working poor and brings back the theme of injustice. The peasants have been suffering and dying for years under landowners like the Marquis and will exact their revenge in kind later in the novel.

There is also the matter of the man hanging from the bottom of the carriage. The reader doesn't know who it is, but may speculate that he means to do the Marquis harm.

Finally, readers learn "Charles" is coming to see the Marquis. Because he is coming from England, readers may guess this is Charles Darnay. This revelation explains one reason Darnay has been so secretive about his comings and goings to France. It's hard to believe that anyone as decent and respectable as Darnay would want to admit that he is associated with—perhaps even related to—this horrible man. As usual, Dickens leaves out a few details, like Darnay's name and relationship to the Marquis so that the reader will want to read the next chapter in order to learn more.

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