Summary and Analysis
Book 2: Chapter 21
Eight years have passed, and the year is 1789. Darnay continues to prosper, and he and Lucie have had two children — a daughter named Lucie and a son who lived several years before he died. Both children have been especially fond of Carton, who visits a few times each year. Carton continues to work for Stryver, who has married a widow with three sons. Time passes peacefully for the group in England while turmoil in France seems like "a dreadful sea rising."Problems in France begin to encroach upon the lives of those in England when Mr. Lorry appears at the Manette-Darnay home one night, tired and irritable after a long day at Tellson's. Unrest in France has caused a run on the Paris branch of Tellson's Bank.
Meanwhile, in France, the residents of Saint Antoine arm themselves with every type of weapon imaginable and begin to mass in the streets, and the Defarges lead the crowd in an attack on the Bastille. Once inside the prison, Defarge goes to Doctor Alexandre Manette's old cell and searches it for something. Afterward, Defarge joins a group escorting the prison's governor to the Hotel de Ville. On the way there, the crowd attacks the governor and beats him to death, and Madame Defarge cuts off his head. In the course of the turmoil, the revolutionaries rescue seven prisoners from the Bastille and put the heads of seven guards on pikes.
Dickens contrasts the calm of life in Soho with the turbulence in Saint Antoine. Time has passed quietly for Lucie and her family, but Mr. Lorry's agitated visit indicates that their time of tranquility is over. Mr. Lorry seems to anticipate trouble when he tells the Doctor, "these hurries and forebodings by which I have been surrounded all day long, have made me nervous without reason."The "hot, wild night"reflects his restlessness, and as a literal storm takes place in England, a storm of violence rises in France.
The storming of the Bastille, which occurred on July 14, 1789, began the French Revolution, and Dickens blends history with fiction in his recreation of the event. The revolutionaries did kill and behead seven guards as well as the governor of the Bastille, De Launay. They also freed seven bewildered prisoners. For the sake of the story, though, Dickens places the Defarges at the center of the incident, with Defarge coordinating the tactical aspects of the attack and Madame Defarge leading the women in a frightening display of bloodlust.
Additionally, the violence and chaos of mobs that Dickens has hinted at previously in the novel explode here with full force. He describes the mob as "a whirlpool of boiling waters,"a "raging sea,"and a "howling universe of passion and contention."For Dickens, the mob is a potent force that is mindless, heartless, and inescapable.
a run of confidence a large number of customers withdrawing their money from a bank.
musket a smoothbore, long-barreled firearm, used especially by infantry soldiers before the invention of the rifle.
pikes weapons formerly used by foot soldiers, consisting of a metal spearhead a long wooden shaft.