A Tale of Two Cities | Study Guide

Charles Dickens

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A Tale of Two Cities | Book 3, Chapter 7 : A Knock at the Door | Summary

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Summary

That night, Lucie still can't shake her fears for her husband's safety, whereas her father feels triumphant and sees Lucie's worry as womanly weakness; she can lean on his strength, he feels, because he has overcome his feebleness and his insanity. He has saved Charles Darnay from death, and has had Darnay's name—"Charles Evrémonde, called Darnay"—added to the list of residents on their doorpost.

Even though neither speaks French, Miss Pross and Jerry Cruncher (who is now living with the Manettes) do the family's shopping "every evening, in small quantities and at various small shops"; this prevents potential thieves from noticing the household. They are getting ready to go on this nightly errand when Miss Pross asks Dr. Manette when they will be returning to England, but the doctor says it isn't safe for Charles to leave yet. Miss Pross tries to respond cheerfully and says, "We must hold up our heads and fight low, as my brother Solomon used to say." She and Jerry leave.

Sitting with her family by the fire, Lucie is feeling "more at ease than she had been." Suddenly, she shouts, "What is that?" and explains she thought she heard footsteps on the stairs. Her father replies, "My love, the staircase is as still as Death." But there is a hard knock on the door, and Lucie begs him to hide Darnay. Again, the doctor chides her for overreacting, because he has "saved" Darnay already. "What weakness is this," he says; "Let me go to the door."

At the door are four armed men wearing red caps who demand "the Citizen Evrémonde." Darnay asks who wants him, and they reply that he is "again the prisoner of the Republic" and is to be taken to the Conciergerie to go before the Tribunal the following day. Dr. Manette asks them to explain and is told the Defarges and one other person have denounced him. The doctor asks, "What other?" One of the four, who is from Saint Antoine, says, "Do you ask, Citizen Doctor? ... Then ... you will be answered to-morrow."

Analysis

For all of Dickens's portrayals of Lucie as a typical soft-voiced, gentle woman of her age, in need of direction by a man, he has moments where he portrays her as a woman with nerves of steel and an incredible ability to understand the psychology of everyone she meets. In this chapter, he shows the latter quality: Lucie is completely in tune with the environment in which she hides. She is very much aware that no one is ever safe from the populace, and that one person's hatred can condemn another person to death. It is strange that Dr. Manette doesn't see that the populace is fickle, but his elation at having special status clouds his understanding of just how bad the situation has become in Paris. Sure enough, Lucie's assessment of Charles Darnay's safety is spot on: He is free for less than a day before the Defarges cast their shadow over him again, denouncing him to the Republic. Injustice is rampant, and Darnay is not safe. No one is.

Dr. Manette no longer has as much influence as he has had in the past, and this is seriously disturbing to him. He can't even get information out of the four men who show up to take Darnay away, much less save his son-in-law a second time. It is the doctor, not Lucie, who is delusional, much as Darnay was when he first came to Paris to save Gabelle.

In Chapter 2, the reaction of the people on the mail coach to Jerry Cruncher's arrival showed how great the fear of crime was in England; it was everyone's first thought that he was a highwayman, and any stranger at all might be a criminal. But this chapter demonstrates that things are much worse in France. People are not only afraid of strangers; they're afraid of their neighbors. That's why Jerry and Miss Pross must shop together and shop so frequently. They even change the stores they buy from every day and buy only small amounts in each. This way no one around them can figure out how much money the family has to spend on food and other necessities.

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