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Tale Of Two Cities: Abstract
(Charles Dickens)

Abstract: Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
The theme of Tale of Two Cities is that ill-treatment will eventually be repaid by ill-treatment??not necessarily directed at the source or the motives behind the original suffering. The kernel of the plot is the story of Dr Manette and his daughter Lucie in parallel with the nature and fate of the Everemonde family. The binding of these two strands draws in others?such as Sydney Carton and Madame Defarge?as a direct response to their connections with the two main strands.
The narrative of this book is dramatic and brutal. The story, told by one of the Jacques as an event in his own life, of the death of a regicide uses much of the original official report but under Dickens' spell this is a horror story, whereas the same report used by an historian in more recent times produces only information.
Comparison directs much of the narrative, as in the calm of Carton and the seamstress in their last moments, the counting of the falling heads ? Twenty Two for the seamstress. The shriek of the falling blade taking up the count to Twenty Three for Carton, the shriek of Madame Defarge's companion 'The Vengeance' when Madame misses the moment she has been living for.
The language of the book is generally accessible in its homely way but the pictures created by Dickens' imagination are vivid and forceful. Red is the colour of the wine spilt in the streets of Saint Antoine, running in the gutters as a promise of blood to be spilt later.
The repetitions of poverty, hunger, waste, are drumbeats urging us along the journey.
Similes of colour and apparent temperature bring London and Paris to life. The sun in the gardens and the scents of the flowers give a gentle picture of soft warmth to the Manette/Darnay years in London. The fifteen months in Paris waiting for Charles Darnay's trial and the hoped for verdict are cold and empty but in the background is the death of the monarchs, the drownings and the September massacres. Nevertheless, Lucie waits on a corner for two hours each day in the hope that Charles may look out of the window and see her.
Overall the book makes nothing of the 'personalities' of the day, Robespierre, Marat, Hebert etc, although their 'works' are well recorded. That is probably how it would be for most people of the time, part of Dickens' realistic weaving.
Overall Dickens' sympathies are with the poorer folk but he does not use his sympathy as an excuse for their excesses. The crowds at Darnay's trial in London are no more kindly displayed than those at his Parisian trials
The Story.
Satire opens the weaving shed: 1775 and social conditions on both sides of the Channel are not encouraging for the future. Mr Lorry the banker will take Miss Manette to meet her supposedly dead father. The suburb of Paris where former servant Defarge is caring for Dr Manette is a personalised thread of the story. Saint Antoine: where the Jacques meet to recall atrocities and the women knit the details into a permanent record.
Five years later Mr Lorry, a recovered Dr Manette and Lucie are witnesses at the trial of Charles Darnay. They saw him going to and from France and are required to tell the court so. Darnay is accused of spying but Sydney Carton shows a major witness how similar to the accused Carton himself is and the witness says he can no longer swear the accused is the man he saw passing on documents five years before. More slim threads are knotted into the pattern here with Carton's similarity to Darnay and Dr Manette's reaction to a story about documents found in a disused dungeon in the Tower of London.
A plot move to France shows the Everemonde style of control and reveals that Barsad (who was the informer against Darnay) has been appointed a government spy in Saint Antoine ? and the ladies knit.
Underlining the complexities of this patterning, Barsad later becomes a Revolutionary Council spy and is revealed to be the brother of Lucie's long time nurnion Miss Pross. All useful tools for Carton's final twist of the yarn.
Throughout the book the Manette and Everemonde threads touch and cross until, several years after the marriage of Lucie and Darnay, the fate of an old servant forces Darnay back to France, the Reign of Terror and Madame Defarge's hatred of all things Everemonde?including Lucie and her daughter because Darnay is an Everemonde.
This races towards the end as Madame is revealed as the youngest child of the family whose fate propelled the innocent Dr Manette into the Bastille.
All the threads are tied off and fabric is released whole from the loom as Carton takes Darnay's place under the blade for the sake of his beloved Lucie.
Carton's last words ? "It is a far far better thing?" etc are probably the best known, but to me the most evocative exemplar of the theme is: "Changeless and hopeless, the tumbrils roll along.".

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