A Tale of Two Cities By Charles Dickens Summary and Analysis Book 2: Chapter 15 - Knitting

Summary

The mender of roads who spotted the man under the Marquis St. Evrémonde's carriage accompanies Defarge to the wine-shop. In the garret where Doctor Alexandre Manette stayed, Defarge and Jacques One, Two, and Three listen to the road-mender describe what happened to Gaspard, the man who killed the Marquis. Gaspard, who murdered the Marquis for running down his child, went into hiding for nearly a year after the killing. The French authorities recently captured, jailed, and hanged him, and left his corpse dangling by the village fountain, with his shadow poisoning the atmosphere of the town.

Monsieur and Madame Defarge later take the road-mender to Versailles, where the splendor of the court dazzles him. Caught up in the emotion of the experience, the road-mender cheers the King, Queen, and other nobles. The Defarges commend his behavior, feeling that it will fuel the courtiers' arrogance and ignorance of the revolutionary movement. Additionally, the Defarges believe that the sight of such luxury and finery will supply the road-mender with a focus for his hatred and violence in the future.

Analysis

Gaspard's tortured death demonstrates how the cycle of violence in France is escalating: The Marquis killed Gaspard's child with no regret, Gaspard retaliated by killing the Marquis, and then the French government hunted down and executed Gaspard. As a result, Madame Defarge condemns the entire Evrémonde family to death in her register. From Dickens' perspective, violence can only lead to violence, and an uprising of the oppressed in France is inevitable.

As influential members of the revolutionary movement, the Defarges represent different aspects of the rebellion. Both are leaders, but Defarge focuses on organizing the Jacquerie while Madame Defarge records in her knitted registry the names of people marked for death. Defarge's actions so far reveal him to be a man who values fairness and justice. His principles, for example, caused him to risk his life presenting a petition to the King to save Gaspard. On the other hand, Madame Defarge shows little concern for anything but her register of death. The mender of roads fears her implacable demeanor, and when he asks her what she makes, she replies, "Shrouds."While Defarge seems to be working toward a system that will serve justice and save lives, Madame Defarge works single mindedly toward a system of revenge and death.

Glossary

crag a steep, rugged rock that rises above others or projects from a rock mass.

shroud a cloth used to wrap a corpse for burial; winding sheet.

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