A Tale of Two Cities | Study Guide

Charles Dickens

Download a PDF to print or study offline.

Study Guide
Cite This Study Guide

How to Cite This Study Guide

quotation mark graphic


Course Hero. "A Tale of Two Cities Study Guide." Course Hero. 15 Sep. 2016. Web. 12 Dec. 2018. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/A-Tale-of-Two-Cities/>.

In text

(Course Hero)



Course Hero. (2016, September 15). A Tale of Two Cities Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved December 12, 2018, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/A-Tale-of-Two-Cities/

In text

(Course Hero, 2016)



Course Hero. "A Tale of Two Cities Study Guide." September 15, 2016. Accessed December 12, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/A-Tale-of-Two-Cities/.


Course Hero, "A Tale of Two Cities Study Guide," September 15, 2016, accessed December 12, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/A-Tale-of-Two-Cities/.

A Tale of Two Cities | Book 3, Chapter 5 : The Wood-Sawyer | Summary



Since Charles Darnay's reprieve, Lucie has remained strong, keeping their home and teaching little Lucie as if Charles were there. One day, her father tells her that if she stands in a particular place at 3 p.m. each day, Darnay may be able to reach a window from which he can see her. So every day she stays in that place from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sometimes she brings little Lucie, but often, she is alone. On the third day, a woodcutter nearby, who used to be a mender of roads, notices Lucie and speaks to her; as required by law, they address each other as "citizen" and "citizeness." The next day, she is there with little Lucie, and he speaks to the child, too. The woodcutter refers to his saw as his little guillotine and gleefully uses it to cut off bits of wood, saying, "And off his head comes!" He then pretends to behead the rest of the family, including a child. Lucie shudders, but to stay in his good graces, she always speaks to him first and even gives him money for drinks. She frequently catches him staring at her as she waits there; when that happens, he often says, "But it's not my business!"

One day in December of 1793, the woodcutter is not in his shop; his saw is in the window, though, with a sign that says "Little Sainte Guillotine." Lucie hears a terrible noise coming down the road, and it is a mob of men and women, singing the theme of the Revolution at the top of their lungs, dancing and whirling, "like demons." The woodcutter is there, holding hands with The Vengeance. Lucie feels she has never seen anything as horrible as this dance, the Carmagnole. Then they are gone, and snow covers their tracks as if they had never been there. Dr. Manette shows up at Lucie's side and calms her. He tells her Darnay is just climbing to the window and, because no one is there, to wave to him. She does so, but suddenly Madame Defarge walks by, greeting them in passing, moving "like a shadow over the white road." The doctor tells Lucie that Darnay is to appear in court the next day, and will be home afterwards. Just then, three tumbrils rattle past, carrying the condemned to the guillotine.

The doctor and Lucie walk back to Tellson's Bank to see Jarvis Lorry, who comes out of another room and embraces Lucie. She tells him the news about Darnay, and he repeats it to someone inside they cannot see: "Removed to the Conciergerie, and summoned for to-morrow?"


Again, Lucie shows herself to be the epitome of grace and decency, not only greeting the woodcutter but offering him tips. When she sees the crowd of people dancing, however, she is overwhelmed by fear. Dr. Manette is the only person who can really calm her, just as she calmed him in his worst episodes of fear after she rescued him. The theme of violence is present, as the crowd has been looting churches and is likely off to watch people being executed at the guillotine. Lucie is constantly aware of what her husband is up against and won't be truly calm until he is back at her side.

One of the most influential leaders in the French government at this time was Maximilien Robespierre. Among other things, he established a form of deism as the state religion known as the cult of the Supreme Being. (Deism was a product of the Age of Reason that held that God could only be known through reason and innate understanding of natural law, not through church teaching or revelation.) The guillotine was viewed as a protector of the people and referred to as "La Sainte Guillotine"; guillotines were even dressed in blue robes like the Virgin Mary for the festival of the Supreme Being in June of 1793. Meanwhile, Catholicism had been renounced, even by priests and nuns (if they knew what was good for them); the mob of dancers who so disturbed Lucie Manette were probably celebrating after vandalizing a church, a common pastime in November and December of that year.

Dickens doesn't reveal the identity of Mr. Jarvis Lorry's mysterious visitor, but he does leave a few clues: Lorry is agitated, for one, and the visitor seems to have come by horseback, because he has left his riding coat across a chair. It could be that he has traveled all the way from England. Also, it seems to be someone who is interested in Darnay's appearance before the Tribunal the following day.

Cite This Study Guide

information icon Have study documents to share about A Tale of Two Cities? Upload them to earn free Course Hero access!