Summary and Analysis
Chapter 1 - In Secret
Charles Darnay travels through France to Paris, encountering bands of revolutionaries in every village along the way who condemn him as an aristocrat and emigrant and allow him to continue on only because of his letter from Gabelle. A decree has passed, he learns, that sells all the property of emigrants and condemns them to death. Eventually he is forced to take an escort of two men with him. Once he arrives in Paris, a prison tribunal declares him a prisoner "in secret"of La Force prison. Defarge escorts Darnay to the prison and Darnay asks him to notify Mr. Lorry of his imprisonment. Defarge refuses. When Darnay enters the prison, the other prisoners all seem like ghosts to him. The other prisoners express their pity that he is "in secret"(Darnay doesn't know what this means). Darnay is taken to a small cell where he is locked up alone. He cannot help being reminded of Doctor Alexandre Manette and thinking of Lucie.
One thing on which the critics agree is that A Tale of Two Cities is masterfully plotted and structured. Dickens' genius becomes more and more apparent in the novel's third book, as the various story lines merge and the characters' lives intersect. Dickens gives the novel a circular feel as Darnay's journey and imprisonment seem to repeat events that have taken place before. His journey, for instance, parallels Mr. Lorry's trip to France in Book I. In both cases, each man travels secretly from England to release an innocent man from prison. However, where Defarge assisted Mr. Lorry, he imprisons Darnay.
Like Doctor Manette, Darnay has been locked away "in secret,"with no chance of contacting family or friends and no hope of a trial. Additionally, as Darnay enters the prison and momentarily mingles with the other prisoners, he seems to be buried alive, as the Doctor once was. To him, the other prisoners appear as ghosts "all turning on him eyes that were changed by the death they had died in coming there."When he is taken to his cell, confined alone, he thinks, "Now I am left, as if I were dead."Darnay is now like a dead man, whose only hope is to be recalled to life somehow.
dragoon trot the pace of a mounted military unit.
farrier a person who shoes horses.
La Force a prison in Paris.
wicket a grated window in a door.