A Tale of Two Cities By Charles Dickens Summary and Analysis Book 3: Chapter 12 - Darkness

Summary

Deciding to make himself known to the local citizens, Carton goes to the Defarge wine-shop. Madame Defarge notices the resemblance between Carton and Darnay, but she is soon convinced that Carton is not Darnay because Carton pretends that he knows very little French. As Carton appears to be absorbed in a newspaper, the Defarges, The Vengeance, and Jacques Three discuss whether or not they should also denounce Lucie, her daughter, and Doctor Alexandre Manette. Madame Defarge reveals that she is the younger sister of the peasant woman who was raped by the Evrémondes and demands vengeance for the murder of her entire family. Defarge, however, believes the killing should be limited.

After listening to the discussion, Carton goes to Mr. Lorry to tell him of the danger to Lucie and her family. The Doctor appears, reduced again to his demented state and searching for his shoemaking bench. After calming the distraught man, Carton instructs Mr. Lorry to have a carriage and everyone's passport ready at two o'clock the following afternoon.

Analysis

Dickens' plot becomes even more cohesive with the discovery of Madame Defarge's connection to the Evrémonde family. With her disclosure, she reveals the last major secret of the book, and the reason for her ruthless hatred of Darnay and all aristocrats becomes clear.

Madame Defarge has stood apart from the other revolutionaries in her attitude and purpose. For instance, rather than being swept up in the revolutionary fervor of a mob, she incites and controls it for her own objectives, as in the case of Foulon's death. Similarly, rather than viewing the Revolution as an agent of positive change, as her husband does, Madame Defarge regards it as an instrument of vengeance and retribution. Readers now understand that her cold-blooded rage is the product of a devastating childhood trauma. In killing her family, the Evrémonde brothers killed her heart. They also, in effect, killed their own future, for Madame Defarge seems intent upon wiping out the entire Evrémonde line, including Darnay's innocent wife and daughter.

Dickens uses the relationship between the Evrémonde brothers and Madame Defarge to represent the relationship between the French aristocracy and the lower classes. As he states repeatedly throughout the book, the horrors of the French Revolution grew out of the horrors of the old regime, just as Madame Defarge's viciousness stems from the ruthlessness of Darnay's father and uncle.

Glossary

Jacobin journal the newspaper of a society of radical democrats in France during the French Revolution: so called because their meetings were held in the Jacobin friars' convent.

inveteracy persistence or tenaciousness.

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