A Tale of Two Cities | Study Guide

Charles Dickens

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A Tale of Two Cities | Book 3, Chapter 11 : Dusk | Summary

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Summary

As the court room empties, Lucie asks to hold her husband one more time and is brought near him. Wrapping her in his arms, Charles Darnay tells her they will meet again. He sends his daughter a blessing and a kiss, and Lucie replies that she is not sure how long she will last without him so they will not be apart for long. She says she will pray their daughter finds friends as she did to support her when Lucie is gone.

Dr. Manette approaches, about to fall to his knees before them. Darnay tells him he has no reason to kneel, and that the paper gave them a new understanding of the horrors he went through and how hard it was for the doctor to accept Darnay, knowing who he really was. When Dr. Manette continues his agonized shrieking, Charles says, "It was the always-vain endeavour to discharge my poor mother's trust that first brought my fatal presence near you. ... [A] happier end was not in nature to so unhappy a beginning. Be comforted, and forgive me." Then Darnay is led away, Lucie watching him with love and "a comforting smile." Then Lucie turns to her father and faints. Sydney Carton carries her to a coach and lays her on the seat. Her father and Jarvis Lorry get in with her, and Carton climbs up next to the driver.

When they get home, Carton lowers Lucie to a couch, to be taken care of by Miss Pross. Little Lucie throws herself at Carton to embrace him, begging him to save her mother and father. Carton gives her mother a kiss, with her permission, and whispers to her, "A life you love." He then goes into another room with Lorry and the doctor. He asks Dr. Manette to use his influence again to at least try to save Darnay, but recognizes that it is probably futile. Carton says he will return at 9 p.m. to find out what has happened. As Carton is leaving, Lorry whispers to him that the prisoner "will perish; there is no real hope." Carton echoes his words.

Analysis

Lucie shows her strength again in this chapter, even fighting off unconsciousness long enough to get to her husband and comfort him, smile at him, and embrace him. She does, however, know herself well enough to know that if he is put to death, she will not be able to bear living without him for long, and she tells him so. Her honesty adds to her many admirable qualities, and by saying this to Charles Darnay, she hopes it will comfort him to know they will soon meet again in the afterlife. But, when Darnay finally leaves the courtroom, Lucie can't hold on any longer and falls to the ground. Given the circumstances, this is completely understandable, and Dickens doesn't portray it as weakness; it is simply intense, overwhelming shock and grief.

As for Darnay, his reaction to the doctor shows what a truly good man he is and reinforces the idea that all along, he has wanted to turn his family heritage around, and follow his mother's wishes that he be a force for good and peace. At this point, the only way he can manage that is to be put to death, so that the male part of the family line is out of the picture. He is extremely sympathetic to Dr. Manette's plight and lets the doctor know how moved he is by the doctor's suffering and his subsequent strength in putting his love for Lucie and for her happy life before his own revulsion towards the Evrémonde family.

Speaking of putting Lucie's happy life above all else, Carton now knows what he has to do. His statement to Lucie as he kisses her is a goodbye and a gift. He wishes fervently that the doctor can change the sentence, but in his heart he knows it's not possible, so he proceeds with his plan, which still has not been completely revealed to the reader, building the suspense almost to the end of the novel.

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