A Tale of Two Cities By Charles Dickens Summary and Analysis Book 3: Chapter 4 - Calm in Storm

Summary

After four days, Doctor Alexandre Manette finally returns from the prison. He tells Mr. Lorry how he tried to influence the court tribunal to free his son-in-law, but only secured a guarantee of Darnay's safety. He also recounts the erratic behavior of the mob, which one minute would violently attack condemned prisoners and the next minute would exuberantly cheer the freeing of other prisoners. Feeling strong in his power as a Bastille survivor, Doctor Manette is confident that he will be able to free Darnay. Despite the Doctor's efforts, though, Darnay remains in prison for a year and three months. In the meantime, the Doctor becomes well known throughout Paris and gains status as the inspecting physician for three prisons.

Analysis

Darnay has been imprisoned at one of the most dangerous times in the Revolution for political prisoners. In September 1792, revolutionaries killed between 1,110 and 1,400 prisoners, about half of Paris' prison population at that time. Without Doctor Manette's influence, Darnay's captors almost surely would have killed him. The year that passes takes France into the Reign of Terror and places the Manette and Darnay family in the heart of the most violent period of the Revolution.

Dickens deliberately chose the timing of the story to correspond with the September Massacres and the Reign of Terror. By doing so, he is preparing a face-off between the forces of love and the forces of hate. He positions the Doctor, Darnay, and Lucie, who are bound by faith and love, against mobs motivated by violence and vengeance. His technique may seem dramatic, but it is good storytelling — it builds suspense and allows his characters to evolve and shine in ways they never could have if they had remained in their quiet Soho home.

Dickens' allusion to the dechristianization movement that was occurring at this time is also significant. In an attack on the Catholic religion, the new government stated that the only religion of France was the religion of liberty and equality. As a result, the French vandalized churches, forced priests to marry, and renamed the Notre-Dame cathedral as the "Temple of Reason."Dickens refers to the dechristianization trend when he mentions the "Year One of Liberty"and the people's worship of the guillotine instead of the cross. He sees the devil in such changes, stating that "the deluge of the Year One of Liberty"was "rising from below, not falling from above,"and referring to the guillotine as "a toy-puzzle for a young Devil."

By naming the executioner Samson, a name from the Old Testament, Dickens indicates that the people of France are living by the vengeful law of the Old Testament — an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. They have turned away from the cross, the symbol of the New Testament, which teaches the Golden Rule — love thy neighbor. Additionally, in replacing the cross with the guillotine, the revolutionaries have transferred their faith from resurrection and redemption to retribution and death.

Glossary

Year One of Liberty the new government of France created a new calendar, based on the inception of the French Republic in 1792 rather than on the birth of Christ. Consequently, 1792 was Year One.

the head of the king…the head of his fair wife Louis XVI was executed on January 21, 1793. His wife, Marie Antoinette, was executed on October 18, 1793.

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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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