A Tale of Two Cities | Study Guide

Charles Dickens

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A Tale of Two Cities | Book 3, Chapter 3 : The Shadow | Summary



Mr. Jarvis Lorry decides to find an apartment for Lucie so that the presence of an emigrant prisoner's wife does not endanger the bank. He leaves Jerry Cruncher there to guard them. That evening, Monsieur Defarge arrives at the bank with a message from Dr. Manette saying Charles Darnay is safe, but the doctor can't leave yet, and that the messenger has a letter for Lucie from Darnay. Lorry is to let Defarge see Lucie. Madame Defarge is in the courtyard knitting, and accompanying her is her friend The Vengeance.

Monsieur Defarge says it is necessary for his wife to see Lucie and the child for their safety. His tone is unemotional and almost mechanical, which concerns Lorry. Darnay's note to Lucie is only a few phrases, but Lucie is so taken by having any message at all that she kisses Madame Defarge's hand, which is limp and cold; her expression is chilly as well. Lorry presents little Lucie and Miss Pross to Madame Defarge, who points her knitting needle at little Lucie and asks if she is Darnay's child. Lorry says she is the prisoner's only child, and the shadow that Madame Defarge casts on little Lucie makes her mother kneel down and hold onto her, frightened.

Lucie begs Madame Defarge to be good to her husband and "do him no harm." Madame Defarge responds by saying only little Lucie is her business, not Darnay, and Dr. Manette's influence will have to suffice. Lucie pleads with Madame Defarge not to use her influence against Darnay, as a wife and mother who understands. Madame Defarge retorts that wives and mothers in France have not been considered, and their husbands and fathers have been imprisoned and worse: "All our lives, we have seen our sister-women suffer, in themselves and in their children ... Is it likely that the trouble of one wife and mother would be much to us now?" With that, the Defarges and The Vengeance leave, Madame Defarge knitting as she goes. Lucie feels the darkness of their shadow long after they have gone, and so does Lorry.


The cold way that Monsieur Defarge speaks to Lorry seems to contradict his insistence that he see Lucie and her child for their safety. The shadow that Madame Defarge casts on them makes it even less likely that Lucie and little Lucie are safe from harm. Even though Dr. Manette is protected because of his former prisoner status, it appears that his daughter doesn't get the same protection. The reader knew this back when Madame Defarge entered Lucie's name on the register of her knitting, and it appears that she has not changed her mind.

Dickens has set Lucie up as such a faultless character that she serves as a foil for Madame Defarge, who certainly has suffered enough to earn the right to be furious, and even to take revenge on those who have hurt her and her community. However, in making Madame Defarge the cold-hearted person that she is, Dickens reveals his sentiment that the entire populace has become just as evil as the force they are fighting against. The characters of Madame Defarge and The Vengeance exude that evil.

Dickens also uses the dialogue between Madame Defarge and Lucie to evoke the darkness of events to come, not just for Lucie and for little Lucie, but for Darnay and many others in Paris. It would be next to impossible for anyone to have hope for a loved one in prison after speaking with Madame Defarge. She makes it clear that her suffering and that of her fellow women have never made anyone pity them, so she sees no reason to pity Lucie. Once a person is on Madame Defarge's register, they are there for good, just as people condemned by the king were killed, no matter who petitioned to save them.

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