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A Tale of Two Cities: Novel Summary: Book I Chapter 5-6

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Book I
Chapter 5-6

The scene is the squalid street outside a wine shop in the poverty-stricken Saint Antoine district of Paris. A cask of red wine has been spilled in the street and hungry peasants use various means to sop and drink the mixture of wine and mud before it soaks away. The narrator describes these people as desperate and haggard from long years of deprivation and hunger. One of the peasants, a tall joker named Gaspard, uses the wine to write the word "BLOOD" on a wall but the owner of the wine shop, Monsieur Defarge, fails to appreciate the intended humor and rubs out the word with some mud. Monsieur Defarge returns to his shop where his wife sits with her knitting at rest while she picks her teeth. She gives a short cough to let her husband know to look about the shop for some new customers. He sees an older man and a young girl sitting in the back of the shop but ignores them for the moment in order to discourse with three men drinking at the counter. They exchange doleful observations of the wretched condition of the people and refer to each other by the name "Jacques." Monsieur Defarge offers to show the three men a bachelor-style apartment on the fifth floor but then remembers that one of them has been there before and can lead the others to it. After the Jacques depart, the elderly man approaches Defarge. The elderly man is Mr. Lorry and as he and Miss Manette follow Defarge up a steep staircase he makes several inquiries regarding the health of Miss Manette's father who is living in the garret. Mr. Lorry is dispirited by Defarge's response. At the top Mr. Lorry is surprised to find that Defarge must use a key to open the door but Defarge observes that the former prisoner would be frightened if left in an unlocked room. Miss Manette is afraid to enter but Mr. Lorry admonishes her to have courage and see to the business at hand. They come upon the three men from the shop looking through a chink in the wall and Mr. Lorry, somewhat angrily, asks Defarge the why he chooses to make a show of Dr. Manette. Defarge replies that it is best if some select people see the doctor. They enter the dim and dark apartment where an old man with white hair is bent before the feeble light of a solitary window making shoes.

Defarge opens the window wider and the additional light reveals the haggard dress and sunken visage of the shoemaker who returns to his work. Mr. Lorry comes near the man and Defarge prompts the shoemaker to describe his work while Mr. Lorry examines the shoe. At Defarge's prompting, the shoemaker gives his name as "One Hundred and Five, North Tower." Upon further prompting the shoemaker reveals that he became a shoemaker only after many requests to teach himself the trade and even then with much difficulty. Mr. Lorry calls the shoemaker by name, Monsieur Manette, and the old man drops his work and briefly struggles to remember his visitor but soon returns to his work. During this conversation, Miss Manette moves through the shadows to a position near her father who eventually notices her. He is deeply affected by the sight of her and though he does not know who she is he examines her hair. He pulls from around his neck a locket with a few strands of hair like her own and tries to figure out who she might be. Finally he decides that she cannot be his wife and asks her name. He is deeply affected by the sound of his voice as she explains with great emotion that she has come to take him to England. By the end of her speech his head is resting on her breast and the pair have collapsed to the floor. With her father cradled in her arms, Miss Manette beseeches Mr. Lorry to prepare their departure immediately. Mr. Lorry and Defarge leave to obtain the necessary papers and transportation. The daughter and father are left alone for some time and then Mr. Lorry and Defarge return with food and traveling cloaks. Though Dr. Manette is evidentially comforted by his daughter's presence he is bewildered and believes himself to be leaving the prison as they depart the shop. They succeed in transferring Dr. Manette to a waiting coach but he then asks for his shoemaking tools. Madame Defarge, who stands nearby but "saw nothing", retrieves the tools from the garret. They quickly make their way to the Barrier where Defarge leaves them to their journey. They travel all night under stars that, just before dawn, seem to ask Mr. Lorry the same question: "I hope you care to be recalled to life" but he receives the same reply: "I can't say."

Analysis of Chapters 5-6
This section describes the miserable condition of the peasants in Paris during the period and Gaspard's graffiti foreshadows the revolution that is soon to come. The Defarge's wine shop is revealed to be more than simply a drinking house in the society of Jacques that meet there and the obvious understanding between Defarge and his wife hints at the deeper role they will play in the coming violence. Monsieur Defarge's insistence that some men are better for having seen the wretched condition of doctor Manette also serves to illustrate the work he is doing to proliferate discontent among those who would organize the overthrow of the current system. Miss Manette's instant connection with her father belies their shared blood and brings the first ray of hope into the miserable doctor's bleak existence. Doctor Manette's attempts to understand his daughter's identity are the first steps he takes in recovering his senses though Mr. Lorry's dream that the unearthed man still cannot say whether or not he cares to be recalled to life belies the uncertainty of that recovery and the various trials that the doctor will undergo if he is to return to normal.


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