A Tale of Two Cities By Charles Dickens Summary and Analysis Book 3: Chapter 10 - The Substance of the Shadow

Summary

In December 1757, two noblemen sought out Doctor Alexandre Manette and requested his medical expertise. Secretly taking him to a country house outside of Paris, the men — who Doctor Manette observed were twin brothers — ordered the Doctor to care for a delirious young peasant woman and her dying brother. The woman's brother told the Doctor that the noblemen had raped the woman and caused the deaths of the woman's husband and father. After taking a second, younger sister to safety, the young man came after the noblemen who held his sister captive. One of the brothers stabbed him, mortally wounding him. As the peasant man died, he cursed the brothers and their family line, signaling the curse with a cross of blood. The peasant woman died shortly afterward, and the brothers instructed Doctor Manette to remain silent about the incident.

Troubled by what he had witnessed, the Doctor decided to write a letter reporting the episode to the Court. Before he delivered the letter, however, the older twin's wife visited him, revealing that the brothers' family name was Evrémonde. The woman explained that she hoped the Doctor could help her to find the surviving member of the peasant family — the younger sister whom the young man had taken away. When the Doctor was unable to help her, she told her young son, Charles, to pledge himself to righting the wrong committed by his uncle and father.

Doctor Manette then personally delivered the letter and that night was kidnapped and secretly jailed by the Evrémonde brothers, who had seen his letter. At the end of his narrative, the Doctor denounced the Evrémonde family. After the document has been read, the courtroom erupts into bloodthirsty cries against Darnay, and the jury sentences Darnay to death on the following day.

Analysis

The revelation of the Doctor's secret is the climax of A Tale of Two Cities: The main plot of the book has led up to the discovery of who imprisoned him and why, and the disclosure of that information results in Darnay's death sentence and the subsequent events that will conclude the story.

Doctor Manette's narrative contains images and themes that have recurred throughout the novel. Most obvious is the image of doubleness, shown in the form of the twin Evrémonde brothers. Both men are evil, and each brother's ruthlessness seems to strengthen the other's. Through the vicious Evrémondes, Dickens makes a statement regarding the nature of violence and cruelty. Just as evil reflects evil in the two brothers, their murderous treatment of the peasant family eventually reflects back upon Darnay, the Evrémonde heir, as the French citizens demand his death. Darnay's mother recognizes the likelihood of Darnay becoming a victim of his father's sins when she tells the Doctor, "If no other innocent atonement is made for this, it will one day be required of him."Thirty-six years later, the death sentence has realized her premonition.

Glossary

quay a landing place along the bank of a river.

surgeon someone who cared for external injuries such as broken bones or wounds. Surgeons were not physicians and were referred to as "Mr."rather than "Dr."

anathematize to denounce or curse.

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