A Tale of Two Cities: Novel Summary: Book II Chapter 21-24

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Book II
Chapter 21-24

Years pass. Lucie occasionally suffers misgivings about the future but she is a model mother and homemaker. She gives birth to a daughter, which she and Charles name Lucie. Later they have a son who dies while still a child. They see Sydney Carton about six times a year but he is never intoxicated when he visits. Little Lucie forms an emotional attachment to Carton and, without knowing why, pities him. Stryver achieves professional success with Carton's help and marries a wealthy widow with three sons. When Stryver presents these boys as pupils to Darnay they are rejected. About the time of little Lucie's sixth birthday, Mr. Lorry arrives with grave news of social unrest in France from Tellson's Paris branch. They all feel powerless against the rising tide of violence.

Far across the water in the district of Saint Antoine, centered upon the Defarge's wine shop, the revolution has begun and the Defarge's are busy arming the peasants and leading them in an assault upon the hated Bastille prison. For many hours the siege continues until the remaining soldiers surrender and the peasantry rush in with bloodthirsty vengeance. Madame Defarge, armed with pistols and a saber, leads the women and Monsieur Defarge is one of the first men to enter the breached prison. Monsieur Defarge has a soldier lead him to one-hundred-and-five north tower, the former cell of Doctor Manette. The soldier leads him though dense passageways to the long uninhabited cell where Defarge and one of the Jacques find the initials A.M. (Alexandre Manette) carved in the wall. They search the cell and Defarge claims to have found nothing in the chimney before they return to the mob. With the Defarge's in the lead, the mob propels the governor of the prison through the streets and when he falls dead from its blows Madame Defarge cuts off his head with her knife. Seven prisoners are released and the heads of seven guards are hoisted up on pikes for display.

A week later the Saint Antoine district is calm but enlivened by its newly discovered power. Madame Defarge has a lieutenant honorably named The Vengeance. Monsieur Defarge returns to the shop with the news that an aristocrat named Foulon, an enemy of the people who told them they should eat grass if they were hungry, is being brought into the city as a prisoner. At the urgings of the Defarge's the district of Saint Antoine is roused to a murderous pitch and the crowd goes to the Hall of Examination where Foulon is being questioned. Eventually the crowd seizes the aged man and hangs him from a lamppost, severs his head from his body and places it, with grass in its mouth, upon a pike for all to see. Then the mob seizes Foulon's son-in-law and treats him to a similar fate. Eventually the crowd returns to Saint Antoine to prepare what meager food is available and share in the companionship of the district.

Far away in the village the mender of roads continues at his occupation. There is a great blight upon the lands and nothing will grow in the dry heat. The soldiers of the prison are reduced in number and their officers have no faith that they will obey orders. Throughout France the aristocracy has begun to flee the country for fear of so many hungry people. All over France, low-caste men from revolutionary Paris have begun to mix with the local populations in the small villages. One day in July, the mender of roads meets a shaggy-haired man coming down the road. They greet one another as "JACQUES" and by dropping a pinch of gunpowder into his pipe the stranger indicates that there will be action that night. The stranger sleeps while the mender works and at sunset the stranger proceeds in the direction of the Marquis' chateau. That night the village, much to the consternation of Monsieur Gabelle (the local chief functionary) expectantly gathers near the fountain. In the grounds of the chateau the stranger meets three others who have come from the cardinal points on the compass. Soon their efforts yield a great conflagration that swallows the chateau. A rider from the chateau comes to the village seeking aid but is ignored. The rider gallops to the prison but the officers, looking doubtfully at their soldiers, tell him that the chateau must burn. The villagers light their houses with candles and surround the house of Monsieur Gabelle who resolves to throw himself from the roof if the villagers break in. In other villages the same scene is repeated and the revolution comes to the countryside.

Three years pass and the aristocracy have all been killed or hunted out of France. Many of those aristocrats who live in exile in England gather daily at Tellson's, which due to its branch offices in both countries, has become a conduit of information. One morning Charles Darnay visits Tellson's with the object of dissuading Mr. Lorry from making a scheduled trip to France in order to save what documentation can be spared from the Paris branch. Darnay expresses the wish that he was going himself because, as a Frenchmen with sympathy for the people, he might be of some use. Mr. Lorry assures his friends that the trip is absolutely necessary and tells him that he will depart that night with Jerry Cruncher as an escort. Their conversation takes place amid the hustle and bustle of the bank where various French aristocrats-in-exile are venting their complaints against the people of France. Mr. Styver is also there and much to Darnay's annoyance loudly supports the aristocrat's assertions. Darnay notices that a letter on Mr. Lorry's desk is addressed to Darnay's real name "The Marquis St. Evr�monde". When the other exiled aristocrats begin to disparage the missing Evr�monde, Darnay defends him and receives much ridicule from Mr. Stryver. Darnay admits that he knows Evr�monde and Mr. Lorry entrusts him to deliver the letter. Outside, Darnay opens the letter and finds that it is from Gabelle, an old loyal servant of the Marquis, who has been imprisoned and will be killed unless the emigrant (i.e. Darnay) returns to answer charges of treason against the people. Darnay considers that he has committed no crime and resolves to go to Paris. He is beguiled with the belief that by going he can do some good and perhaps help steer the revolution away from its bloody beginning. He gives Mr. Lorry a letter for Gabelle. The following night, before he departs for France, he leaves letters for Lucie and Doctor Manette explaining his reasons for going to Paris.

Analysis of Chapters 21-24
The revolution finally arrives with the storming of the Bastille. Dickens strove to be historically accurate in his depiction of the event, including such incidents as the beheading of the governor and the number of prisoners actually freed, but places his characters in the forefront of the action. Although the subject's name is changed, the incident in which Foulon is killed by the mob and his mouth stuffed with grass actually occurred during the revolution and lends credence to the story for Dickens' readers. Madame Defarge is revealed to be a woman capable of great acts of violence indicating a deep-seated need for revenge previously only gleaned through her methodical knitting. She shows great zeal in beheading the Bastille's Governor and later plays a key role in Foulon's death. When the revolution spreads to the countryside it is the men from the city who must stir the peasants to rebellion but once shown that the old ways can be destroyed they are quick to capitalize on their new sense of power as evidenced by the scene with the functionary Gabelle is persecuted and driven to his rooftop. It is typical of the plot scheme that the letter, which calls Darnay to France, should reach him through his association with Mr. Lorry. The train of events, which stemmed from the Marquis' carriage killing Gaspard's child, has resulted in Gabelle's imprisonment and Darnay's motive for returning to France. His decision to leave is motivated at least in part by pride as displayed by his obvious displeasure at Mr. Stryver's remarks regarding his Evremonde identity and his belief that he can play some part in leading the uprising against his own class.

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