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A Tale of Two Cities | Discussion Questions 21 - 30


In Book 2, Chapter 14 of A Tale of Two Cities, what clues does Dickens give that Roger Cly might have faked his death?

The first clue that Dickens drops regarding Roger Cly's status is the fact that there is only one mourner at the funeral, and when the crowd mobs the funeral coach, that mourner leaves the coach extremely quickly, throwing off his mourning clothes and running away, "after shedding his cloak, hat, long hatband, white pocket-handkerchief, and other symbolical tears." Dickens uses the phrase "symbolical tears" to insinuate that there aren't any real tears involved, and that these mourning clothes are meant to fool the crowd. The second clue is the way that Jerry Cruncher treats his wife the morning after he supposedly goes to raid Roger Cly's grave to get his body. Jerry had accused his wife earlier of praying to make him fail at his job, and the fact that he tells her that she ruined his business, the "dreadful business, " as she calls it, clues the reader in that there wasn't a body to be stolen. If there was no body, then Roger Cly faked his death.

In Book 2, Chapter 15 of A Tale of Two Cities, why is the mender of roads encouraged to view the king and queen as they parade by?

The mender of roads, who is called "Jacques" by everyone in the room but is not in the inner circle of Jacques, wants to see the king and queen parade by. Monsieur Defarge and the other Jacques encourage him to do so, though the other Jacques are confused at first as to why this would be a good idea. Monsieur Defarge explains with a parable: "Judiciously show a dog his natural prey, if you wish him to bring it down one day." Later, after the king and queen have gone by and the mender of roads has cheered for them, Monsieur Defarge decides that he is "the one." The king and queen will not suspect that he hates them or has it in for them. This, Defarge explains, is important in plotting their deaths. When Madame Defarge speaks with the mender of roads, she asks him if he would pick the finest of dolls to dismantle for his own benefit, and if he would pick the finest feathered bird if he wanted feathers. Of course, he says yes, and she tells him, "You have seen both birds and dolls to-day." The fine-feathered bird he has seen is the king, and the doll is the queen; his task will be to keep them clueless about the plot until they can be taken down.

In Book 2, Chapter 16 of A Tale of Two Cities, what is the significance of Madame Defarge's headdress rose?

The narrator describes how, as soon as Madame Defarge puts a rose on her headdress, people leave the shop. This just happens to coincide with the moment that John Barsad enters the shop. Then, two men come into the wine shop intending to order a drink, but when they see the rose on Madame Defarge's headdress, they pretend to be looking for a friend who isn't there and they leave quickly. The narrator also says, "It was remarkable; but, the taste of Saint Antoine seemed to be decidedly opposed to a rose on the head-dress of Madame Defarge." It is not, however, the taste of the neighborhood but the fact that the rose is serving to keep people out of the shop while there is a spy in there asking questions. John Barsad is a spy, and the Defarges recognize him as they have already been warned about him, complete with a description of how he looks. As soon as Madame Defarge takes the rose out of her headdress, which she does when Barsad leaves, people come into the shop. Dickens uses the reactions of characters in the novel to show that the rose is a code. The narrator's indirect reference to the rose reinforces the idea that the code is secret.

In Book 2, Chapters 15 and 16 of A Tale of Two Cities, what purposes does knitting serve?

The first purpose that knitting serves, the reader is told, is to register the names of people who will later be punished for working against the revolution. Madame Defarge has a code she uses to knit these names into her knitted fabric, and she is the only one who can read it. But she doesn't just knit their names. She adds extra stitches while talking about people or to them. She is probably also registering the crimes each person has committed and knits in an extra one for John Barsad just for being sneaky about trying to get information out of her. It should be noted that Madame Defarge never unravels her knitting, so once a person is in the register, there is no hope for that person. Moreover, before the new government is established, the revolutionaries largely dispense with trials, so being knitted into the register becomes a death sentence. In addition, knitting is one way that women keep their hands busy so that they can forget they are starving. In both these ways, the knitting serves as a symbol of the revolution itself—both the reasons for it and the results.

Characterize the relationship between the Defarges in Book 1, Chapter 5, and Book 2, Chapters 15 and 16 of A Tale of Two Cities.

The Defarges first appear in Book 1, Chapter 5. Gaspard has written "blood" on a wall with wine, and Monsieur Defarge smears mud over it and scolds Gaspard. Readers are told Defarge looks "good-humoured ... but implacable ... a man of a strong resolution and a set purpose." He's about 30 years old and powerfully built ("bull-necked"); he gives the impression of a practical, hard-working man. Defarge's wife is about the same age. She's "stout," wears a lot of jewelry, dresses warmly, and mostly sits in her chair knitting. Nevertheless, she seems to rule the roost; she merely lifts an eyebrow, and her husband sends three Jacques out of the shop then continues to watch her for cues. Still, when Jarvis Lorry asks to see Dr. Manette, Defarge doesn't check for her permission; he shows the visitors to the doctor's room. Apparently, he doesn't defer to his wife in all things. Readers next encounter the Defarges in Book 2, Chapter 15. Defarge brings home the mender of roads, introducing him as Jacques, thus making clear he's part of their revolutionary group; at the same time, he issues a coded order ("It is bad weather, gentlemen!") that inspires three Jacques in the shop to leave and gather in the garret that once housed Dr. Manette. Defarge also tells his wife to get the mender of roads some wine, which she does without comment, then resumes knitting. In Book 2, Chapter 16, readers are privy to a private chat between the Defarges. He shares the intelligence he has received about Barsad and their well-ordered partnership thwarts the spy. The likable and competent husband assembles, organizes, and leads the revolutionaries. Madame Defarge, who is fueled by a personal vendetta, plays a subtler role. She records the condemned in her knitting, quietly passes cues, and keeps people at a distance through the fear her bitter silence inspires. However, she may doubt her husband's long-term commitment to vengeance; she comments, "You are faint of heart to-night, my dear!" and gives him a pep talk. Defarge admires his wife immensely, calling her "strong" and "frightfully grand."

In Book 2, Chapter 18 of A Tale of Two Cities, why can't Dr. Manette communicate or recognize anyone anymore?

Dr. Manette has retreated into his room after Lucie and Charles Darnay go off on their honeymoon. He has been holding himself together in order to be present for their wedding and to say goodbye to them as they left, but his conversation with Darnay has shattered his stability. The narrator does not give readers any details about that conversation, but it is likely that Darnay has told him he is actually the current Marquis St. Evrémonde—or would be if he hadn't renounced his title. What readers do not yet know is why this should be so disturbing to the doctor. Later they will learn that it relates to an incident the Marquis mentioned to Darnay in which a peasant was stabbed for intervening on his daughter's behalf. Whatever the exact reason, once Lucie and Darnay leave, Dr. Manette becomes the person he was in his solitary cell in prison, unable to communicate, except for a few words, and completely, obsessively focused on making shoes. When Dr. Manette was in prison, he was alone for 18 years, which stripped him of his ability to recognize other people as anything but figments of his imagination. Brought back to the reasons for his imprisonment by Darnay's admission, Dr. Manette can't recognize Mr. Jarvis Lorry or Miss Pross, nor can he respond to requests. He is nearly mute, and acts as if the people in the room with him are just noises. The trauma of being in solitary confinement for so long comes right back when the doctor is triggered by the conversation with Darnay.

In Book 2, Chapter 19 of A Tale of Two Cities, why does Mr. Jarvis Lorry concoct a "suffering friend" story, and why does Dr. Manette go along with it?

Mr. Jarvis Lorry wants to find out why Dr. Manette slipped into insanity for nine days, and yet he doesn't want to trigger Dr. Manette again by talking directly about what happened. He wisely concocts an "I have a suffering friend" story and asks the doctor's advice on how best to help this friend because he knows that Dr. Manette is at his best when administering care to others. This "friend" has a daughter, just like Dr. Manette, and has suffered a great shock, just like Dr. Manette. When Lorry asks how he can help prevent another relapse, the doctor replies that "the relapse you have described, my dear friend, was not quite unforeseen by its subject," showing that he understands that he himself is the "friend" and finding that he can discuss his situation using this device. The doctor says, "He tried to prepare himself in vain; perhaps the effort to prepare himself made him less able to bear it." Saying this to Lorry allows him to relieve himself of the burden of holding his story in, without relapsing again. He is also able to give permission to Lorry to remove the shoemaking tools and destroy them when he is not there without specifying what they are or that they are his. (Lorry uses the example of a "little forge.") The doctor wants to do what is best for Lucie, so he gives his permission even though he is worried about letting go of his emotional crutch.

In Book 2, Chapter 19 of A Tale of Two Cities, why is Dr. Manette so uncomfortable about the thought of getting rid of his shoemaking equipment?

Dr. Manette is visibly uncomfortable about the possibility of his shoemaking equipment being taken away though in the actual conversation he has with Mr. Jarvis Lorry, they speak of the "little forge" that Lorry's "friend" used when he was in the middle of his relapse. Before explaining to Lorry why it is so hard to give advice in this situation, he is silent, nervously tapping one foot on the floor as if he is agitated. He says, referring to the forge, "no doubt it relieved his pain so much, by substituting the perplexity of the fingers for the perplexity of the brain, and by substituting ... the ingenuity of the hands, for the ingenuity of the mental torture; that he has never been able to bear the thought of putting it quite out of his reach." When something provides relief in a situation as dire as being imprisoned in solitary confinement for 18 years, it is extremely difficult to let that thing go. Dr. Manette is also worried that an unexpected need for the tools would render him as fearful as a "lost child." He calls the equipment "an old companion" because it was his only companion in prison. Lorry pleads with the doctor, though, to give his permission to get rid of the equipment for the sake of the "friend's daughter," and Dr. Manette finally agrees, "in her name," as long as the job is done when "the friend" is not present. Lorry's reference to "a friend" has allowed the doctor to take a small step back and view the situation as a professional medical man rather than the patient, even if only for a moment.

In Book 2, Chapter 20 of A Tale of Two Cities, how does Lucie Manette approach her husband regarding his treatment of Sydney Carton without betraying Carton's confidence?

When Sydney Carton admitted to Lucie Manette in Book 2, Chapter 13 that she was his inspiration and the "last dream of my soul," he made her promise not to reveal any of their conversation to anyone, and she agreed to keep his confidence. In asking Charles Darnay to change how he views Carton and to treat him well, she tells Darnay that he is not to ask her why she is asking this of him. In this way, she can express what she believes is true of Carton—that he "has a heart he very seldom reveals, and that there are deep wounds in it"—without revealing anything of their conversation. She says, "I am sure that he is capable of good things, gentle things, even magnanimous things." Darnay agrees to show him "more consideration and respect" both for Lucie and for the friendship he has developed with Carton, whom he now sees in a different light. Lucie serves as the "golden thread" between the two men: each of them views the other differently because of Lucie and their love for her.

In Book 2, Chapter 21 of A Tale of Two Cities, what is happening in France that upsets Mr. Jarvis Lorry?

Mr. Jarvis Lorry arrives late for the evening meal he usually shares with the Manettes, but knows that they will have set food aside for him. He has had a terrible day. There has been a "run of confidence" on Tellson's Bank because customers in Paris are in a state of complete panic. Lorry says that these customers are all rushing to move their money to England, as it appears that soon it will not be safe in France. It is likely that many of these customers are aristocrats who may have to flee France to stay alive. They hope to move their fortunes to England, where they can later retrieve them. Meanwhile, the Defarges are leading the charge on the Bastille, the prison where Dr. Manette was held. This is the beginning of a bloodbath in France, so customers of Tellson's are right to panic. These are the footsteps that Sydney Carton said in an earlier chapter would "bear down" on them. The run on the bank is just the beginning, and Lorry likely knows it. He decides he just wants to sit with his loved ones and be glad that they are all safe in England.

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