A Tale of Two Cities By Charles Dickens Summary and Analysis Book 1: Chapter 6 - The Shoemaker

Summary

The man making shoes works steadily at his bench. Aged and weakened by his long years in prison, he seems to be aware only of the task at hand — shoemaking — and does not even know that he has been released from prison. When asked his name, he responds, "One Hundred and Five, North Tower."When Lucie approaches him, however, she seems familiar to him, especially after he compares her hair to two golden hairs that he kept tied in a cloth around his neck. He begins remembering Lucie's mother and is confused and troubled when he hears Lucie's voice, which sounds like her mother's voice. Lucie embraces her father, comforting him as he begins to weep.

Later, Monsieur Defarge helps Mr. Lorry and Lucie to remove Doctor Manette from the city. As the coach carrying Mr. Lorry, Lucie, and Doctor Manette rumbles to the ship that will take them back to England, Mr. Lorry can't help looking at the man they have recovered and wondering if the Doctor will be able to be "recalled to life."

Analysis

After eighteen years of being physically and mentally removed from the world, the Doctor has suffered greatly and appears to have lost all sense of time, place, and self. Despite the fact that he is no longer in prison, he still seems "buried alive"when you first see him. Both his mind and body are hidden from view. Even after some light enters the garret where he works, the Doctor looks more dead than alive, with his hollow face, withered body, and a hand so thin that it looks transparent. Similarly, when Monsieur Defarge and Mr. Lorry try to talk to him, his mind seems starved and wasted to the point of being able to comprehend only the most basic questions and to focus solely on his work.

Just as light enters the garret to reveal the Doctor physically, contact with Lucie seems to awaken part of the Doctor's mind and memories. The images of light and dark that run through A Tale of Two Cities are especially apparent in this chapter. As Dickens literally and symbolically depicts the resurrection of the Doctor, the Doctor is drawn out of the darkness of his imprisonment and into the light of life. For instance, when for a moment the Doctor seems to nearly recognize Mr. Lorry, Dickens describes his returning blankness of expression as "a black mist"or as "darkness."

Meanwhile, Lucie's face mirrors his fleeting expression of awareness "as though it had passed like a moving light from him to her."When Lucie goes to sit next to her father, his attention falls on her golden hair. He shows her his wife's golden hairs that he has kept with him and, concentrating, "turned her full to the light and looked at her."Later, when father and daughter embrace, "his cold white head mingled with her radiant hair, which warmed and lighted it as though it were the light of Freedom shining on him."The warmth and love of his daughter are strong enough to bring Doctor Manette back from the cold, colorless place his mind retreated to during his years of imprisonment.

The melodramatic sentimentality of Lucie's speeches to her father somewhat spoil the poignant reunion scene between the Doctor and Lucie. "Weep for it, weep for it!"she exclaims, and modern readers struggle not to roll their eyes or laugh aloud. However, keep in mind that the Victorians greatly enjoyed this type of melodrama, and when Lucie cried out, "Weep for it,"Dickens' readers wept.

Glossary

One hundred and five, North Tower Doctor Manette's designation in the Bastille.

provender food.

pallet bed a small bed or pad filled as with straw and used directly on the floor

the box the driver's seat of a coach.

adieu French for "farewell."

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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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