A Tale of Two Cities By Charles Dickens Summary and Analysis Book 3: Chapter 13 - Fifty-two

Summary

On the eve of his execution, Darnay comes to terms with his imminent death. After writing letters to LucieDoctor Alexandre Manette, and Mr. Lorry, he spends the night restlessly trying to sleep. The next day, Carton enters the cell at one o'clock in the afternoon and exchanges clothes with him. Then, while Carton dictates a letter to Darnay, Carton drugs him so that he loses consciousness. Two guards, who believe that Darnay is Carton and that Carton is Darnay, then carry Darnay out of the prison. At two o'clock, guards take Carton from the cell to a larger room in which the fifty-two prisoners that the court has scheduled for execution are assembling. No one notices that he is not Darnay, except for a meek little seamstress who asks Carton to hold her hand on the way to the guillotine.

Meanwhile, the coach containing Mr. Lorry, Doctor Manette, Lucie, Darnay, and young Lucie passes through the gates of Paris, where they identify Darnay — who is still unconscious — as Carton. Despite delays and fears of discovery, the group escapes France.

Analysis

The theme of doubles again appears when Carton uses his and Darnay's remarkable resemblance to save Darnay's life for a second time. The first time Carton saved Darnay, Carton did so without risk to himself. Afterward, the similarity in their features disturbed Carton, for the resemblance reminded him of the difference in their personalities and possibilities. Darnay represented everything that Carton could have been if he had not succumbed to alcohol and apathy. Saving Darnay this time, however, requires that Carton sacrifice his own life. On the surface Carton appears to make the sacrifice simply out of love for Lucie and her child. However, by considering the theme of resurrection that Dickens has woven through the story, we realize that Carton is also giving his life to save his soul. His remembrance of the "I am the resurrection and the life"passage two nights earlier indicates that he expects to find eternal life through his death. Additionally, by saving Darnay, he resurrects his best qualities in two ways. He has resurrected them in himself by planning and managing the crisis when the others could do nothing to help, and, by giving new life to Darnay, he has resurrected his own discarded potential through the man who embodies the realization of that potential.

Glossary

two score and twelve fifty-two (a score is twenty).

cravat a neckerchief or scarf.

a litter a stretcher for carrying the sick or wounded.

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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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