It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. This is the famous starting to the book A Tale of Two Cities, by Charels Dickens. Charels Dickens is one of the most famous writers of his century. This book tells about the main characters, Lucie and her father.
The story starts out with Mr. Jarvis Lorry, a representative of Tellson’s Bank in London, who is sent by his firm on a mission to Paris. The mission is to meet a newly released prisoner of the Bastille, Doctor Alexandre Manette, in Paris and to bring him back to London to be cared for by his daughter, Lucie Manette. Lucie has but a faint idea of her father’s existence and Mr. Lorry is to meet her at Dover and break the news to her.
When The two meet, Lucie is informed that her father is alive. This news awakens fear and trepidation in her breast and the two journey to Paris. They proceed to a wine shop in the Saint Antoine region and there they meet Ernest Defarge, keeper of the wine shop and a former servant of Dr. Manette’s. Defarge has been caring for the doctor pending the arrival of Lucie and Mr. Lorry. The Shopkeeper takes them to a garret room where they see an old, white-haired man making shoes: it is Doctor Manette, who took up the trade in prison and who now thinks of himself only as a shoemaker, having forgotten his earlier existence. After an emotional scene between father and daughter, during which there is a brief flicker of remembrance in the doctor’s eyes, arrangements are made for the three to leave Paris immediately. In a short while Defarge bids good-bye to them as the coach sets out for Calais with its three passengers, on the first leg of the trip to London.
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The second book opens five years later. During this time, Dr. Manette has been restored to his old self through Lucie’s tender care and father and daughter live in a modest lodging, with Miss Pross, Lucie’s old nurse, as maid and general housekeeper. There Dr. Manette carries on a small medical practice.
One day, Jerry Cruncher, a messenger for Tellson’s Bank, is told to go to the Old Bailey, London’s Criminal Courts Building, to await a message from Mr. Lorry who is there. Jerry proceeds to the Old Bailey and finds a treason trial in progress. The accused, Charles Darnay, is called a spy for France and several witnesses appear, including Mr. Lorry, Dr. Manette and Lucie, all of whom met Darnay on the packet boat sailing from Calais to Dover on that night five years ago when Dr. Manette was brought to London.
Things look dark for Darnay, but Mr. Stryver, Darnay’s counsel, manages to blacken the characters of two of the witnesses and Stryver’s assistant, Sydney Carton, upsets the testimony of a third by calling Stryver’s attention to a striking resemblance between himself, Carton, and the prisoner Darnay. Darnay is acquitted. While Darnay is being congratulated after the trial, a look of fear and doubt crosses. Dr. Manette’s face as if an old memory was awakened by Darnay.
At this time in France, the clouds of the coming revolution continue to darken the skies as the downtrodden peasants work and starve to fatten the coffers of the nobility. One nobleman, a Marquis, on his way home from a lavish ball, crushes a child beneath the wheels of his coach and is quite unconcerned about it, tossing a gold coin to the stricken father. That evening, the Marquis receives a visitor at his chateau: his nephew, Charles Darnay, who has come once again to attempt to persuade his uncle to improve the lot of the peasantry, but with no success. Later in the evening, the Marquis is slain in his bed and the clouds of revolution grow blacker in the night sky.
Both Charles Darnay and Sydney Carton have fallen in love with Lucie Manette on the occasion of her appearance at Darnay’s trial. Carton, who is a slovenly, debauched man, knows that it would be fruitless to woo Lucie, but he visits her and pledges her his eternal friendship and devotion. Darnay approaches Dr. Manette to reveal his love for Lucie. Dr. Manette is visibly disturbed by this news of Darnay’s affection for his daughter, but promises to give his blessing to a marriage if Lucie should express her love for Darnay.
A new royal spy is commissioned for the Saint Antoine quarter of Paris. It is John Barsad, who was one of the witnesses at Darnay’s trial. The word travels rapidly to the wine shop and to the ears of Monsieur and Madame Defarge, leaders of the underground conspiracy which will soon give the signal for revolution.
Barsad arrives at the wine shop to try to get some information concerning the unrest of the peasantry, but the Defarges give nothing away. Only when he reveals the news that Lucie is to wed Charles Darnay, nephew of the murdered Marquis, does Defarge show any emotion. The spy makes a mental note of this and leaves.
Lucie’s wedding day arrives and, as had been agreed beforehand, Darnay reveals his true identity to Dr. Manette before the ceremony. Then Lucie and Charles are married and they leave on their honeymoon. Darnay’s revelation has a serious effect on Dr. Manette and he loses his stability and once again becomes a shoemaker. After nine days, however, he recovers with no seeming ill effects, and as he goes off to join Lucie and Charles, Mr. Lorry and Miss Pross destroy his shoemaking equipment. Sydney Carton arrives at the house shortly after the Darnays’ return and asks Darnay if they can be friends, to which request Darnay assents heartily.
Meanwhile, the situation in France has worsened and many nobles are fleeing France for their lives, taking whatever valuables they can with them or having them sent to England. Mr. Lorry is kept busy at the bank, for Tellson’s has a French office and does much business with its French customers. Mr. Lorry is asked by the bank to return to Paris once more to try to straighten out the bank’s affairs there, which are in chaos. On the day of his departure, he and Charles Darnay are conversing at Tellson’s when a letter is brought.
It is addressed to the Marquis Saint Evremonde, Charles’ true name, which has been concealed from everyone except Dr. Manette. Darnay takes the letter and promises to deliver it. Later, he reads it and learns that it is from a representative of his in France who has been arrested by the new Revolutionary government, and whose life is threatened for being a representative of a hated nobleman. Darnay resolves to return to Paris to save the man’s life.
He leaves London that night and finally reaches Paris. Upon his arrival in Paris, he is thrown into prison. Dr. Manette and Lucie, along with Miss Pross and little Lucie, rush to Paris when they hear of Charles’ fate. Dr. Manette, as a former prisoner in the Bastille, has great influence with the Revolutionary government and he manages to keep Charles safe though he is unable to arrange his relieve. The prisoners, meanwhile, are being slaughtered in droves.
Finally, many months later, Darnay is brought to trial and, through Dr. Manette’s influence, is released. Darnay returns to Lucie’s loving arms, but within twenty-four hours he is arrested again: this time accused by the Defarges and one other person. At the trial, the one other person turns out to be Dr. Manette himself, and the cause of Darnay’s arrest is an old diary the doctor wrote while he was in prison and which was found by Defarge on the day the Bastille fell. In this diary Dr. Manette cursed the Evremonde family for causing his imprisonment, and Charles Darnay, as the last living descendant of the family of Saint Evremonde, is thus cursed by the doctor as well. Darnay is sentenced to die within twenty-four hours. Dr. Manette attempts once again to have him released, but to no avail. But Sydney Carton, who has arrived in Paris, conceives a scheme to spare Darnay’s life. He forces John Barsad, who is now a spy for the prisons, to aid him in the scheme. He manages to visit Darnay’s cell, change clothes with the prisoner, drug him, and have him taken out by Barsad to a coach, where Mr. Lorry is waiting with Lucie and Dr. Manette. Carton remains in the cell in Darnay’s place.
As the prisoners who are to be executed assemble, Carton answers to the name Saint Evremonde, and he proceeds to the place of execution and there is slain in place of Charles Darnay to fulfill his pledge to Lucie. Madame Defarge, meanwhile, in her hatred for the Saint Evremonde family, decides that the whole family must be wiped out and, accordingly, she proceeds to Lucie’s lodgings. However, only Miss Pross is there, and in a struggle between the two women, Madame Defarge is killed, while the people who were the objects of her hatred flee to England and safety.