A Tale of Two Cities By Charles Dickens Summary and Analysis Book 1: Chapter 5 - The Wine-shop

Summary

A street in the Parisian suburb of Saint Antoine is the scene of chaos as a crowd gathers in front of a wine-shop to scoop up pools of wine spilled from a broken cask. When the wine is gone, the people resume their everyday activities. Left behind, however, are the stains of the red wine on the street and the people's hands, faces, and feet, foreshadowing the blood that will be spilled there in later years.

Inside the wine-shop, Monsieur and Madame Defarge converse with three other men, all called "Jacques."Monsieur Defarge sends the men upstairs, to a chamber on the fifth floor. Meanwhile, Mr. Lorry and Lucie have entered the shop and, after a brief discussion with Monsieur Defarge, they follow him upstairs to the fifth floor chamber, where the three Jacques are peering inside through holes in the wall. Monsieur Defarge unlocks the door, and he, Mr. Lorry, and Lucie enter the room. Inside the darkened room, they see a white-haired man sitting on a bench making shoes.

Analysis

Dickens leaves no doubt that the crowd scene in front of the wine-shop is a glimpse of things to come. The wine soaking into the street and smearing people's faces and hands represents the blood that the people will shed during the violence of the Revolution. To reinforce that imagery, Dickens goes so far as to have one of the men in the crowd dip his finger in the muddy wine and write "Blood"on a wall. As Dickens predicts future violence, he also hints at how hunger, want, and anger will transform decent, caring human beings into unthinking, bloodthirsty animals. He describes some of the wine drinkers as having "a tigerish smear about the mouth,"and the residents of Saint Antoine have a "hunted air"and harbor a "wild-beast thought of the possibility of turning at bay."The image of the tiger will appear again later in the book, as will the vision of an oppressed people losing their humanity in their anger and quest for revenge.

This chapter also introduces Monsieur and Madame Defarge, characters that Dickens uses to embody the ideas and emotions of the Revolution. Monsieur Defarge is a man of authority, as shown when he reprimands Gaspard for writing "Blood"on the wall and in his conversation with the three Jacques. Although Dickens describes Monsieur Defarge as "good-humored-looking,"and Monsieur Defarge demonstrates kindness and loyalty to Doctor Manette, when considering the injustice of the Doctor's imprisonment, Monsieur Defarge becomes "a secret, angry, dangerous man."

In the subdued atmosphere of the wine-shop, Monsieur Defarge's air of authority and resolution are exceeded only by that of his wife. Although she doesn't say much, Madame Defarge communicates secretively with her husband through coughs and facial expressions. She also seems more hardened than her husband does. While the plight of Doctor Manette enrages Monsieur Defarge, Therese Defarge remains unresponsive. When Mr. Lorry and Lucie go with Monsieur Defarge to see the Doctor, "Madame Defarge knitted with nimble fingers and steady eyebrows, and saw nothing."Her eerie calm and concentrated focus indicate a steadfastness and determination that may in the end prove more dangerous than the anger growing in the hearts of her husband and the populace of Saint Antoine.

Glossary

lee-dyed soaked with the dregs of the wine.

Jacques the use of the name Jacques to signify French peasants began in the peasant revolts in 1358. To maintain anonymity and to show solidarity, rebels called each other by the same name. The network of rebels using the Jacques appellation is referred to as the Jacquerie.

Notre-Dame "Our Lady": a famous, early Gothic cathedral in Paris; the full name is Notre-Dame de Paris.

the window of dormer shape a window set vertically in a sloping roof.

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During the day Jerry Cruncher is a porter for Tellson’s Bank. What is his occupation at night?




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