A Tale of Two Cities: Novel Summary: Book II Chapter 7-9

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Book II
Chapter 7-9

In Paris, Monseigneur (who is identified only as one of the upper echelons of the French royal court's aristocracy) is holding one of his regular receptions at his Grand Hotel. The Monseigneur is in his private chamber with the four men required to properly serve him his chocolate. The narrator describes the opulence of Monseigneur's lifestyle, filled with parties and theater, and sums up the nobles' idea of public business as "let everything go on its own way" and most especially to let it go his, the Monseigneur's, own way. We are told that, lacking aptitude for managing finances and in danger of growing poor, the Monseigneur took his sister out of a convent and married her to a rich Farmer-General who desired the status associated with the Monseigneur's royal name. Waiting in the main rooms is the usual assemblage of well-connected people who the narrator characterizes as being useless in their avowed specialties. Everyone is wonderfully and richly dressed. Eventually Monseigneur condescends to move among his guests and he is much fawned over before he returns to his private chamber. Eventually only one visitor is left, a man of about sixty with fine features, who is not in the Monseigneur's favor and pauses to offer a curse in the direction of the private chamber before leaving.

The man's carriage rushes through the narrow streets without regard to the safety of the peasants who flee to avoid its wheels. There is a jolt and a cry and the horses rear and stop. The passenger, who is recognized by the newly formed crowd as Monsieur the Marquis, discovers that his carriage has run over a small child and the father, is now weeping over the body of his dead son. The Marquis admonishes the people to keep out of the way of carriages, suggests that his horses might have been injured and throws a gold coin to the moaning father. Another man arrives and calls the bereaved father by name, Gaspard, and comforts him that life is miserable and his son is best shut of it. The Marquis overhears and asks the man's name that he learns is Defarge. The Marquis throws Defarge a gold coin as well but as he is being driven away he is shocked when someone throws a gold coin into his carriage. He stops and angrily yells at the crowd but sees only a stout woman with her knitting where Defarge had been. The Marquis rides on and is followed by other carriages from the fancy ball. The narrator compares the watching peasants to rats who must return to their holes.

The Monsieur the Marquis' carriage is making its way slowly up a country hill on its way to his chateau. The countryside is full of sparse, underdeveloped fields. Eventually the carriage reaches the small village near the Marquis' home. The people of the village are downtrodden, hungry and burdened with heavy taxes. A prison looks down upon the village from a nearby crag. The Marquis questions a man who he saw looking at his carriage as it came up the hill and learns, to his anger, that a man covered in white dust who is stranger in the region had been suspended under his carriage. The Marquis continues to his mansion and is stopped en route by a poor woman who has just buried her husband who died from want. She begs for a small stone engraved with her husband's name to mark his grave but the Marquis ignores her petition and drives on. When he arrives at his chateau he learns that his nephew, Monsieur Charles from England, has not yet arrived.

The chateau is made of stone and its walls contain numerous carvings of flowers, men and animals. The Marquis makes his way through the richly furnished chateau to his private chambers where settings for two diners have been laid. Halfway through his supper the Marquis' nephew arrives from England. The Marquis' nephew is Charles Darnay. The two men have a conversation during the course of which is becomes apparent that Charles, attempting to gratify the last wish of his dead mother, has refuted his aristocratic family and rejected all that it stands for. He accuses his uncle of committing great wrongs against the people with the aid of his dead father, who was the Marquis' twin brother. Charles also asserts that the Marquis, if he were not currently in disfavor at the Court, would have had him imprisoned long ago. The Marquis seems amused by Charles' accusations and does not deny them. Rather, he seems proud of his station and the acrimony of the French peasants. "Detestation of the high," he tells his nephew, "is the involuntary homage of the low." Charles again asserts that wants nothing to do with the family name and states that if the family wealth ever came to him he would find ways to disperse it among the poor. To Charles' dismay his uncle knowingly questions Charles about Doctor Manette and Lucie. Soon thereafter Charles retires and the Marquis sleeps as well. Three hours later the sun rises and the people of the village begin their day. The grizzled mender of roads, however, senses some inordinate bustle at the chateau and returns to the village fountain where he learns that the body of the Marquis has been discovered with a knife driven into its chest through a note that reads: "Drive him fast to his tomb. This from JACQUES."

Analysis of Chapters 7-9
The scenes in the Monseignuer's court serve to highlight the ostentatious wealth of the French aristocracy and its lack of concern for the peasantry. Dickens thoroughly researched this period of French history in preparing his book and many of the details, the number of servers required to serve the chocolate for instance, are accurate. It was not rare for carriages to run over people in the street and only a fine punished nobles if their carriage inadvertently killed a man. The Marquis' obvious inhumanity and failure to appreciate the latent power of the mob serves as a reminder that a lifetime of privilege carries with it a dangerous and destructive egoism. Appropriately, the Marquis' chateau is made entirely of stone and is decorated with stone visages that, like his station in life, both shield him and complement his own intractable world-view. This section also reveals that Charles Darnay, whose real family name is Evremonde, is the nephew of this horrible man. Though he has sworn off all ties with the family it is obvious from his uncle's allusion to Doctor and Miss Manette that there is more to the family's unsavory history that will directly involve Charles though he has moved to England and begun a new life. Though the Marquis believes that he will witness this event his life is taken suddenly by an assassin, assumed to be the stranger riding under the Marquis' carriage. The reference to "Jacques" in the note and the exhortation to drive the Maquis "fast to his tomb" indicates to the reader that Gaspard, the joker of the Saint Antoine district in Paris, has murdered the Marquis to avenge the death of his son.

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