A Tale of Two Cities Summary – Charles Dickens

A Tale Of Two Cities Summary - Charles Dickens
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A Tale of Two Cities is a literature novel writed by Charles Dickens in 1859. The story is set in Paris and London before and during the French Revolution.

Summary of A Tale of Two Cities Book

In the first opening lines of the novel ‘A Tale of Two Cities,’ Charles Dickens uses the expression ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’ as he describes life in England and France. The story begins in the year 1775, with Jarvis Lorry traveling from London to Paris on a secret objective mission for his employer, Tellson’s Bank. Accompanying him on this journey is 17-year-old Lucie Manette, who is astonished to learn that her father, Doctor Alexandre Manette, had been secretly imprisoned in Paris for 18 years and has recently been released, still alive.

Upon their arrival in Paris, Mr. Lorry and Lucie find that Doctor Manette is now under the care of his former servant, Ernest Defarge, who, along with his wife, operates a wine shop in the impoverished district of Saint Antoine. As Defarge leads Mr. Lorry and Lucie to the attic where Doctor Manette is kept, he warns them that the years of imprisonment have greatly affected him. Weak and pale, Doctor Manette is meticulously making shoes at a workbench. Despite almost avoiding questions from Defarge and Mr. Lorry, when Lucie approaches him, he remembers his wife and begins to weep. Lucie consoles him, and that night, Mr. Lorry and Lucie takes him to the England.

Five years later, Tellson’s Bank’s messenger, Jerry Cruncher, conveys a message to Mr. Lorry at the court. Mr. Lorry has been summoned as a witness in the case of Charles Darnay, a Frenchman accused of espionage for France and the United States. In the trial, Doctor Manette and Lucie also serve as witnesses for the defense. Doctor Manette has fully recovered and established a close bond with his daughter.

If found guilty of treason, Darnay faces a gruesome death, and the testimonies of familiar faces, John Barsad and former servant Roger Cly, are expected to secure a conviction. The questions from Darnay’s lawyer, Mr. Stryver, reveal that Cly and Barsad are actual spies. However, the turning point in the trial comes when Sydney Carton, an assistant to Stryver, points out the striking resemblance between Carton and Darnay. This revelation casts doubt on the positive identification of Darnay as the spy, leading to his acquittal.

After the trial, Darnay, Carton, and Stryver spend time at the Manette residence, openly expressing interest in Lucie’s beauty and kindness. Stryver decides to propose to her but changes his mind upon Mr. Lorry’s persuasion. Carton confesses his love to Lucie but refrains from proposing, recognizing that his dissolute and indifferent lifestyle is unworthy of her. Nevertheless, he promises to sacrifice himself willingly to save the life of Lucie’s beloved. Eventually, Lucie chooses Darnay as her husband with Doctor Manette’s hesitant approval. While the couple is on their honeymoon, Doctor Manette experiences a relapse into his former state of mental instability, returning to his belief in making shoes in prison. Meanwhile, the situation worsens in France.

In July 1789, the Revolution erupts with the storming of the Bastille. The Defarges become central figures in the revolutionary movement, leading the people in a wave of violence and destruction. By 1792, the revolutionaries have seized control of France, imprisoning and executing anyone they consider an enemy of the state. Darnay receives a letter from the steward of the Evrémonde estate, pleading for him to come to France and save him. Motivated by a sense of responsibility to his servant, Darnay embarks on the journey without fully understanding the danger. Upon reaching Paris, revolutionaries clandestinely take him to La Force prison without any opportunity for communication or hope of a trial.

Soon after, Doctor Manette, Lucie, and her daughter arrive in Paris, joining Mr. Lorry at Tellson’s Paris office. Doctor Manette, a former prisoner of the Bastille, gains heroic status among the revolutionaries, using his influence to inquire about what happened to his son-in-law. He manages to secure a trial for Darnay, and with Doctor Manette’s strong testimony, Darnay is set free. However, hours after reuniting with his wife and daughter, Darnay is arrested again based on the accusations presented by the Defarges.

The next day, Darnay faces another trial. This time, the Defarges present a letter written by Doctor Manette during his imprisonment, accusing all Evrémondes for the murder of Madame Defarge’s family and Doctor’s imprisonment. With this evidence, the court condemns Darnay to death, and Doctor Manette, deeply affected by the events, relapses into his previous state of dementia.

In an unknown manner, Sydney Carton arrives in Paris and learns of Darnay’s fate. He also discovers a plot to send Lucie and her daughter to the guillotine. Determined to save their lives, Carton, with the help of a prison spy, enters the prison where Darnay is held. He enters Darnay’s cell, changes clothes with him, sedates him, and is taken out of the prison in Darnay’s place. Due to their similar facial features, no one questions Carton’s identity. As Mr. Lorry, Doctor Manette, Darnay, Lucie, and little Lucie leave France, Carton goes to the guillotine, strengthened by the consciousness of saving the woman and family he loves and bids farewell with peace.

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