A Tale of Two Cities By Charles Dickens Summary and Analysis Book 2: Chapter 14 - The Honest Tradesman

Summary

As Jerry Cruncher sits outside Tellson's Bank, he notices a funeral procession approaching. People yelling "Spies!"surround the hearse and the mourning coach, and Cruncher discovers that the funeral belongs to Roger Cly, one of the spies who testified against Darnay. When the crowd tries to pull the sole mourner out of his coach, the mourner flees the scene. The crowd then begins to pull the coffin out of the hearse, but decides to accompany it to the graveyard instead. Cruncher joins the unruly procession, which grows larger as it moves along. When the coffin is finally buried, the mob begins assaulting passersby and ransacking businesses until a rumor of the police approaching breaks up the mob. Meanwhile, Cruncher returns to Tellson's, stopping at a surgeon's on the way.

Later that night, after seeing his wife and son to bed, Cruncher leaves his house carrying a sack, a crowbar, a rope, and a chain. Curious about his father's mysterious nightly activities, Young Jerry follows Cruncher. Two men join Cruncher as he walks along, and the trio soon reaches the graveyard. As Young Jerry watches with horror, Cruncher and his companions dig up a coffin and begin to pry it open. Young Jerry rushes home, terrified that the coffin is hopping after him, and he awakes the next morning to find his father beating his mother. As Young Jerry walks to Tellson's with Cruncher, he asks his father what a "resurrection man"is. When Cruncher explains that it is a person who sells people's bodies, Young Jerry pleases his father by saying that he wants to be a resurrection man when he grows up.

Analysis

Dickens uses the funeral procession to demonstrate how easily a rowdy crowd can become a destructive mob. The actions of the crowd turn a solemn occasion — a funeral — into a festive one, with many of the crowd members not even aware of the cause of the uproar. The momentum of the mob has swept them up, and they follow whatever spontaneous commands they hear. In this way, rational, thinking individuals become mindless members of a violent entity. For Dickens, mobs are unstoppable forces, frightening in their inhumanity.

Within the funeral mob, however, one man pursues his own private agenda. Jerry Cruncher, the reader discovers, is a resurrection man — a grave robber — and views Cly's funeral as a business opportunity. Cruncher's work as a resurrection man parodies the resurrection theme that runs through A Tale of Two Cities. Whereas people such as Doctor Alexandre Manette or the French peasants metaphorically return from their living graves through love or revolution, Cruncher literally digs fresh corpses from their graves to sell to surgeons or medical students.

Glossary

bear leader someone who lead a trained bear from place to place for money.

public house a tavern or an inn that provided food and drink.

Izaak Walton (1593-1683); the author of The Compleat Angler, a fishing manual.

resurrection man a man who digs up corpses to sell to surgeons or medical schools for study.

Back to Top

Take the Quiz

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




Quiz