A Tale of Two Cities – Book the Second: The Golden Thread Chapters 18–21

Summary: Chapter 18: Nine Days
Darnay and Doctor Manette converse before going to church
for Darnay’s wedding to Lucie. Manette emerges “deadly pale” from this
meeting. Darnay and Lucie are married and depart for their honeymoon.
Almost immediately, a change comes over Manette; he now looks scared
and lost. Later that day, Miss Pross and Mr. Lorry discover Manette
at his shoemaker’s bench, lapsed into an incoherent state. They
fear that he will not recover in time to join the newlyweds, as
planned, on the honeymoon, and for nine days they keep careful watch
over him.
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Chapter 18: Nine Days →
Summary: Chapter 19: An Opinion
On the tenth morning, Lorry wakes to find the
shoemaker’s bench put away and the Doctor reading a book. Lorry
cautiously asks Manette what might have caused the now-ended relapse, relating
Manette’s strange case as though it had happened to someone else.
Manette suggests that he himself anticipated the reversion. He goes
on to say that some stimulus must have triggered a memory strong
enough to cause it. Manette reassures Miss Pross and Lorry that
such a relapse is not likely to recur because the circumstances
that caused it are unlikely to surface again. Still speaking as
though the afflicted party were someone other than Manette, Lorry
creates a scenario about a blacksmith. He asks whether, if the smith’s
forge were associated with a trauma, the smith’s tools should be
taken from him in order to spare him painful memories. Manette answers
that the man used those tools to comfort his tortured mind and should
be allowed to keep them. Eventually, however, Manette agrees, for
Lucie’s sake, to let Lorry dispose of his tools while he is away.
A few days later, Manette leaves to join Lucie and Darnay. In his
absence, Lorry and Miss Pross hack the shoemaker’s bench to pieces,
burn it, and bury the tools.
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Chapter 19: An Opinion →
Summary: Chapter 20: A Plea
When Lucie and Darnay return home from their
honeymoon, Sydney Carton is their first visitor. He apologizes for
his drunkenness on the night of the trial and delivers a self-effacing
speech in which he asks for Darnay’s friendship: “If you could endure
to have such a worthless fellow . . . coming and going at odd times, I
should ask that I might be permitted to come and go as a privileged
person [in the household]. . . .” Carton leaves. Afterward, Darnay
comments that Carton tends to be careless and reckless. Lucie deems
this judgment too harsh and insists that Carton possesses a good,
though wounded, heart. Lucie’s compassion touches Darnay, and he
promises to regard Carton’s faults with sympathy.
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Chapter 20: A Plea →
Summary: Chapter 21: Echoing Footsteps
Years go by, and Lucie and her family enjoy a tranquil
life. She gives birth to a daughter, little Lucie, and a son, who
dies young. Lucie still maintains her habit of sitting in a corner
of the parlor, listening to the echoing footsteps on the street
below. By 1789, the
echoes reverberate “from a distance” and make a sound “as of a great storm
in France with a dreadful sea rising.” One day in July, Lorry visits
the Darnays and reports that an alarming number of French citizens
are sending their money and property to England.
The scene then shifts to the storming of the
Bastille in Paris. Defarge and Madame Defarge serve as leaders among
the mob. Once inside the Bastille, Defarge grabs a guard and demands
to be taken to 105 North
Tower. Defarge searches the cell. When he is finished, he rejoins
the mob as it murders and mutilates the governor who had defended
the fortress. Madame Defarge cuts off the man’s head.
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Chapter 21: Echoing Footsteps →
Analysis: Chapters 18–21
Nearly every character in the novel battles against some
form of imprisonment. In the case of Doctor Manette and Charles
Darnay, this imprisonment is quite literal. But subtler, psychological
confines torture other characters as much as any stone cell. Sydney
Carton, for instance, cannot seem to escape his listlessness. Darnay
struggles to free himself from the legacy of his family history.
Lorry tries to unshackle his heart from its enslavement to Tellson’s
Bank. Finally, although Manette long ago escaped the Bastille, in
this section he battles the tormenting memories of his years there.
Prompted by the discovery of Darnay’s true identity, Manette reverts
to pounding out shoes in order to calm his troubled mind. This
episode brings the notion of the fight for freedom from the level
of political revolution to the level of personal struggles, suggesting
that men and women toil to free themselves from the forces that
oppress them as surely as nations do.