A Tale of Two Cities: Novel Summary: Book III Chapter 1-5

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Book III
Chapter 1-5

Upon arriving in France, Charles Darnay's progress to Paris is retarded by numerous inspections by each small village's group of red-capped patriots. At one such village, still a far distance from Paris, he is awakened in the middle of the night and is told that as an aristocrat he must be escorted to Paris under guard, that he must leave immediately and that he must pay for the escort. At the small town of Beauvias he is told that new decrees have seized all the property of emigres and aristocrats and that more decrees are expected soon that will condemn all such persons as himself to death. Nevertheless, Darnay and his escort reach Paris the following day where at the Barrier none other than Monsieur Defarge inspects his papers, especially the letter from Gabelle. The officer in charge consigns Darnay, or Evremonde, as he is known in France, to the prison of La Force. On the way to the prison, Defarge relates his connection to Darnay's family but refuses to help him in any way. Darnay hears a crier in the streets announcing that the royal family has been taken to prison and that all foreign ambassadors have fled the country. He then realizes that the situation in his native country is much more serious and deadly than he had previously imagined. The narrator notes that in a few days the mass executions by Guillotine would begin. Although the orders for Darnay's imprisonment call for him to be held "in secret" or solitary confinement he briefly mingles with some of the other prisoners and is amazed to find that the prisoners are full of manners and refinement while the guards are uncouth and uncultured. Once in his cell he is told that he may not purchase any writing utensils or paper but may purchase food. Alone he paces his cell and thinks about Doctor Manette making shoes.

The Paris branch of Tellson's is located in a wing of a large house that has been seized from its aristocrat owner. Unlike the London branch, it is lavishly furnished and separated from the street by a high wall. In its courtyard there is a grindstone that the revolutionaries used to sharpen their weapons. After a busy day of trying to reconcile utterly chaotic accounts and take inventory of what documents remain, Mr. Lorry is sitting by the fire, listening to the chaos in the streets and giving thanks that, so he believes, no one dear to him is in the city. Shortly thereafter he is surprised when Lucie and Doctor Manette appear at his door and, in a state of high emotion, inform him that Charles has been in the city several days as a prisoner. They are interrupted by the sound of a large crowd in the courtyard and Mr. Lorry, who knows that it is the sound of weapons being sharpened at the grindstone, begs them not to open the blinds. Doctor Manette explains that his past suffering as a prisoner of the Bastille has made him a hero and person whose character is beyond reproach in the new Republic. Fearing that the sight of the mob might overwhelm Lucie, however, Mr. Lorry sequesters her in another room while he and Doctor Manette look upon the grisly sight of the angry mob savagely sharpening its bloody instruments of death in the yard below. Mr. Lorry informs Doctor Manette that the mob is murdering the prisoners and begs him to use what influence he has immediately to spare Charles' life. Doctor Manette converts the mob to his cause and departs with them to La Force. Mr. Lorry goes to Lucie and finds her with Miss Pross and her daughter. Lucie has collapsed under the emotional strain and Mr. Lorry spends a sleepless night waiting for word from the Doctor.

The next day Mr. Lorry, knowing that he cannot endanger Tellson's by sheltering Lucie and her family and also aware that Charles will not be able to leave the city for some time even if he is released, engages an apartment near the bank for the family and leaves Jerry to look after them. Later in the day, Monsieur Defarge arrives with a note from the doctor to the effect that Charles is saved for the moment but will not be released. In the note the doctor asks that the messenger be permitted to see Lucie. Only after Madame Defarge and The Vengeance join them on the way to the apartment does Mr. Lorry notice Defarge's affected, mechanical manner. At the apartment Lucie is initially grateful for her husband's note and his observation that her father has "influence" in Paris. Madame Defarge's cold manner and relentless knitting make Lucie apprehensive. After Madame Defarge has seen little Lucie she leaves. Before she leaves Lucie begs her to help her family and Madame Defarge's impersonal reply brings despair to them all.

Four days later Doctor Manette returns and describes to Mr. Lorry the horror of the hundreds of executions. He relates how he used his influence to stay Charles' execution but could not get him released or his case brought to trial. Over time, Doctor Manette becomes well known and liked among the revolutionaries and practices his trade as the chief surgeon for three prisons including La Force. Mr. Lorry notices that whereas the Doctor's imprisonment was once a source of weakness and fear in revolutionary Paris it has become his strength and solace. He vows to save Charles. Nevertheless, fifteen months pass and Charles remains a prisoner while the Doctor builds his reputation among the bloody horrors of the revolution.

During the long months of Charles' imprisonment Lucie does her best to repress her grief and attend to her father and daughter. One day her father informs her that on some days at 3pm Charles is able to gain access to window that looks down upon a street corner near a woodsawyers shop. Every day afterward she waits from 2pm to 4pm. Over time the woodsawyer, an ardent revolutionary, engages her in conversation. Occasionally she gives him drink money but is fearful of him. The woodsawyer notices that she is constantly looking at the prison but claims, ominously, that it is none of his business. One day while she waits, Lucie is horrified to witness several hundred people including The Vengeance and the woodsawyer doing a demonic dance called the Carmagnole in the street. Later her father joins her and reassures his daughter that he can save Charles who has been summoned before the Tribunal the next day. When Doctor Manette visits Mr. Lorry that evening the narrator comments that Mr. Lorry has a visitor who chooses to remain unknown to the doctor.

Analysis of Chapters 1-5
Dickens is careful about placing Charles Darnay's return to France just prior to the bloody September massacres of that marked the beginning of the Reign of Terror and the mass executions of those condemned as enemies of the people. Darnay's dream of somehow using his influence to help direct the course of the revolution is utterly dashed by the decrees he hears en route to the city and on his way to prison. The wave of murderous, vengeful death begins with the killing of the prisoners. A notable juxtaposition of scenes occurs when Mr. Lorry and Doctor Manette look out from Tellson's, a place of safety and seclusion, to witness the bloody mob sharpening its instruments of death. At this moment, however, Doctor Manette is pressed to use his influence and he immediately succeeds in winning over the mob. This early success emboldens the doctor and whose past suffering becomes a source of strength in revolutionary Paris. While he works among the horrors of the revolution, becoming well known and well liked in the process, he grows more confident of his ability to save Charles and at no point does he express doubts that he will succeed. He is even able to arrange that Charles should be able to see Lucie occasionally during her corner-side vigils. The woodsawyers keen interest in Lucie's loitering and the appearance of the Carmagnole in the street remind the reader that the family is surrounded by danger in a city where a show of sympathy for a prisoner could lead to death.

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