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A Tale of Two Cities | Discussion Questions 1 - 10

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In Book 1, Chapter 2 of A Tale of Two Cities, what is illustrated by the scene that occurs when Jerry Cruncher catches up to the mail coach?

This scene illustrates the high level of concern over crime in England in 1775. Mr. Jarvis Lorry is traveling to Dover by mail coach, and Jerry Cruncher is sent after him with a message from Tellson's Bank. The narrator has made clear that everyone on the coach suspects everyone else of criminal intent. The coach is stopped at the top of a hill for the horses to rest when Jerry catches up with it. As his galloping hoofbeats are heard, the coachman and guard become worried; the guard alerts the passengers, cocks his blunderbuss, and gets ready to fire if necessary. (Later in the chapter, the narrator shows readers that he has two more guns on the coach.) Everyone is silent, listening to the horse's approach and to their pounding hearts. They all fear that a highwayman may be approaching, as highwaymen were known to prey on travelers and to attack mail coaches. The guard challenges the newcomer. Even after Jerry asks for Mr. Jarvis (Lorry) and is identified as safe, no one trusts him. What's more, Mr. Lorry has also become suspect by association and is "assisted [in leaving the coach] from behind more swiftly than politely by the other two passengers"—that is, they push him out. The others get back into the coach and shut the doors and windows. The guard remains on alert as Jerry and Mr. Lorry conduct their business. Afterward, Mr. Lorry gets back into the coach, but this time no one helps him. In fact, the other passengers, who have already "secreted their watches and purses in their boots" are now pretending they're asleep. This unusual and unnerving encounter has given them all the impression that, despite his mild manners and decent appearance, Mr. Lorry may be a criminal, and they do not want to set him off with a comment or even a glance. This scene makes clear that, unless they know one another, people in England in 1775 simply could not trust one another. A threat lurked beneath the surface of every encounter with a stranger, no matter how innocent it seemed.

In Book 1, Chapter 4 of A Tale of Two Cities, why does Jarvis Lorry keep repeating to Lucie Manette that his purpose for accompanying her to Paris is business?

Mr. Jarvis Lorry keeps referring to business because he is trying to remain emotionally neutral in this situation. He says, "I have no feelings; I am a mere machine." However, the fact that he knows the prisoner, Lucie Manette's father, well enough to be the person contacted when her father comes out of prison tells the reader that there is no way that he can remain completely neutral. His body language, rubbing Lucie's hands to comfort her when she grabs his arms, as well as the expressions on his face and his indirect way of telling her about her father in order not to get her upset show that he does have feelings. Mr. Lorry is personally connected to this family, and going to rescue Lucie's father isn't just business for him; it is a very emotional experience not only for Lucie, but for Mr. Lorry as well.

What is the significance of the name "Jacques" in A Tale of Two Cities?

In A Tale of Two Cities, the name "Jacques" is the name used by male members of the third estate who are participating in the Defarges' plot to revolt against the monarchy and the aristocracy in France. All of Monsieur Defarge's friends are named Jacques, and he says his own name is Jacques. The men use the name to refer to each other in public for two main reasons. First, it serves as a code word that allows them to recognize each other as fellow revolutionaries. Second, they use it to make sure that if someone overhears their conversations, that person will be less likely to guess the real identities of people involved in the plot to overthrow the government. This is illustrated by the response Defarge gives to the spy John Barsad in Book 2, Chapter 16. Barsad is trying to catch Madame Defarge and Monsieur Defarge in the act of plotting against the king, so when Madame Defarge points her husband out to Barsad, Barsad greets him with "Good day, Jacques!" He has to say it twice, and Monsieur Defarge feigns confusion, finally replying, "You deceive yourself, monsieur." He tells Barsad his name is Ernest Defarge, which, in turn, confuses Barsad, who expected the code name to work.

In Book 1, Chapter 5 of A Tale of Two Cities, why does Monsieur Defarge allow the Jacques to wait outside Dr. Manette's door?

Monsieur Defarge allows the men to wait outside Dr. Manette's door because they are waiting for him to regain his sanity and join their revolution. He is a hero for having tried to report the Marquis for his crimes, and the fact that he survived 18 years in the Bastille is admirable. They want to get a look at this man, who has managed to come out of the Bastille alive, just as if he had risen from the dead. Seeing such a man is a great boost to the revolutionaries' morale, and Defarge realizes that. Of course, because Dr. Manette is still making shoes, he isn't really mentally capable of helping the cause, but Defarge also knows they will need a doctor once the fighting begins and hopes Dr. Manette will later join them in that capacity.

In Book 1, Chapter 6 of A Tale of Two Cities, why does Dickens emphasize the faintness of Dr. Manette's voice?

Dr. Manette's voice is faint because for 18 years, he had no one to talk with in his cell. To spend that much time alone is not healthy for any human being, and it leads to depression and an inability to communicate. When Monsieur Defarge says to Dr. Manette, "Good day!" it takes the doctor a while to even register that someone has spoken to him. When he finally answers, "Good day!" it is in, as the narrator says, "a very faint voice ... as if it were at a distance." When Monsieur Defarge asks Dr. Manette if he is still working and the doctor replies in the affirmative, the narrator says that "it was the faintness of solitude and disuse." Dr. Manette's voice is a reflection of the hopelessness that set in throughout his time in jail, and the narrator says that his tone is that of a person who is "lying down to die." Solitary confinement has broken Dr. Manette's ability to cope with being in the world. Not only is his voice faint, but it takes him a long time to both understand and respond to questions. The doctor has been brought back to life, but he doesn't know how to handle it. This is why, earlier in the novel, Mr. Jarvis Lorry kept hearing the prisoner in his daydreams say he wasn't certain he wanted to be "recalled to life."

In Book 1, Chapter 6 of A Tale of Two Cities, how and why does Lucie Manette's personality change?

At the beginning of the chapter, Lucie Manette can barely make it up the staircase to the garret, let alone look at her white-haired father sitting there in his ragged clothing, oblivious to the world, making shoes. She tells Mr. Jarvis Lorry that she is afraid of her father. Once everyone is in the room with Dr. Manette, Lucie keeps her hands over her face, looking through her fingers, like a small child trying to work up the courage to see something terrible. She is curious but can't face the idea that this helpless man, who can barely speak, is her father. But as Monsieur Defarge asks Dr. Manette questions, and as Dr. Manette looks at Mr. Lorry with a glimmer of recognition that fades almost immediately, Lucie begins to find her strength. Witnessing the injustice he has suffered makes her strong, and makes her forget her fear. First she moves to stand next to him, and then sits down next to him, with her hand on his arm. When he pulls a piece of cloth from his neck to compare two gold hairs from his wife he has kept all these years to Lucie's hair, he realizes that she can't be his wife and wants to know who she is. Not only does she decide that she should wait to tell him exactly who she is, though she hints enough at her identity for him to begin crying, but she tells the rest of the people gathered in the room to leave them be and prepare a cart to get them to the ferry. Lucie tells her father that she is taking him to England "to be at peace and at rest" and makes sure that no on upsets him any more than he is already upset. Lucie is clearly in charge now that she knows what her father has endured, and being a caretaker makes her strong.

In Book 2, Chapter 1 of A Tale of Two Cities, how does Jerry Cruncher's behavior illustrate the theme of injustice?

Jerry Cruncher yells at and physically abuses his wife for praying for their family. He accuses her of taking work and therefore money away from him by praying and throws a muddy boot at her when he sees her "flopping." He even tells their son, young Jerry, to alert him if she prays again so that he can stop her. Jerry then accuses her of taking food away from him by saying grace over the meal. No matter what his wife says, Jerry is convinced that her religious leanings are making his life miserable. No matter what the content of her prayers might be, it is terribly unjust of him to abuse her, and it is also unjust to put the responsibility of keeping or losing his job on his wife's shoulders. It is clear that Jerry is stressed because of his poverty, but his wife is suffering both the injustice of poverty and the injustice of her husband's abusive behavior toward her.

In the first part of Book 2, Chapter 1 of A Tale of Two Cities, how does Dickens combine the setting of Tellson's Bank and character description?

Dickens uses not only details of the ugliness, dinginess, and old-fashioned, outdated business practices of Tellson's Bank, but also the interactions people have with the bank's employees and the building itself to describe the setting. He almost turns Tellson's Bank into another character: an old, stodgy, painfully slow and ineffective business that is proud to be that way and whose employees endeavor to keep it that way. Everything a client could store at Tellson's takes on an odor or an appearance that mimics the place where it is stored, and even the room where private documents are kept serves as a witness to death outside the building. An employee who begins at Tellson's at a young age is kept in the back until he is old, "in a dark place, like a cheese, until he had the full Tellson flavour and blue-mould upon him." In addition, because the death sentence is used for just about every financial crime a person could commit, the narrator goes so far as to say that it is Tellson's itself that has caused the deaths of hundreds of people. Dickens also uses second person to make the reader experience the setting on a more intimate level: "If your business necessitated your seeing 'the House,' you were put into a species of Condemned Hold at the back, where you meditated on a misspent life." This allows readers to better imagine their possible interactions with such a bank to serve as a description of all the ways in which Tellson's slows down business transactions, "the triumphant perfection of inconvenience."

At the end of Book 2, Chapter 3 of A Tale of Two Cities, how does Jerry Cruncher introduce the theme of resurrection?

Jerry Cruncher says at the end of the chapter that if the verdict had been "Recalled to Life" instead of "Acquitted," he would have at least understood it better this time than he did last time he heard it, when Mr. Jarvis Lorry gave him that exact written message to take back to the bank at the beginning of the novel. Jerry brings up the theme of resurrection, being "recalled to life," because he hears at the start of the trial that if the prisoner is declared guilty, he will be to be drawn and quartered. The person who tells him about this punishment gives a gleefully graphic description of what it entails, so Jerry knows that by being acquitted, the prisoner has been brought back from the brink of a horrible death. The theme of resurrection in the novel revolves around saving someone from death, even if, as it does for Sydney Carton, it costs one's own life.

In Book 2, Chapter 4 of A Tale of Two Cities, why does Sydney Carton speak so disagreeably to Charles Darnay and ask him if he thinks Carton likes him?

Sydney Carton is unpleasant to Charles Darnay because he sees how Lucie Manette pitied Darnay in the courtroom and how grateful she was to have not caused him harm. Carton would have preferred it if Lucie looked at him (Carton) like that, but he knows that, although he looks just like Darnay physically, he is dressed poorly, drinks too much, and wastes his life carousing. He dislikes Darnay mostly because of jealousy; after all, he takes him to a tavern to make sure that Darnay eats and regains his strength, so he can't really hate Darnay. But Carton resents him because Darnay makes him think of all he has not done and the man he has not become. It is rather unfair of Carton to pin all of this on a man he has never met, especially a man who has been unjustly accused of treason and has nearly lost his life over the matter. The truth is he wants to hear Darnay say that he doesn't like Carton because Carton can't see how anyone could like him as he is. When Darnay leaves the tavern, Carton looks at himself in a mirror and says to himself, "Come on, and have it out in plain words. You hate the fellow." This is really how he feels about himself.

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