Summary and Analysis
Book 3: Chapter 15
As the carts carrying the fifty-two prisoners roll through the Paris streets, people crowd to see Evrémonde go to his death. In his cart, Carton ignores the yelling crowds, focusing instead on the seamstress. When they reach the guillotine, they discuss the afterlife, taking no notice of prisoners steadily being executed ahead of them. They exchange a kiss before she ascends the guillotine, and he then follows her in a tranquil mood, remembering the resurrection passage from the Bible. Meanwhile, The Vengeance wonders why Madame Defarge is not there to witness Evrémonde's execution.
Before he dies, Carton has a vision of the future in which many of the revolutionaries go to the guillotine and the evil of the Revolution gives way to goodness and true freedom. In his vision, he foresees long and happy lives for Mr. Lorry, Doctor Alexandre Manette, and the Darnay family, all of whom remember him lovingly. He also pictures Lucie and Darnay having a son, whom they name after him and who will become the man Carton always wanted to be. With this vision in mind, Carton goes to his death thinking, "It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known."
Dickens concludes his book with the reiteration of several important themes. First, he emphasizes that the French Revolution is the natural result of years of oppression and extravagance on the part of the aristocracy. The carts carrying the fifty-two prisoners to their deaths parallel "the carriages of absolute monarchs, the equipages of feudal nobles."Additionally, Dickens describes the wheels of the carts as "ploughing up a long crooked furrow among the populace in the streets."This imagery recalls the personification of Death as a farmer in the first chapter of the book. In A Tale of Two Cities, however, death often leads to resurrection, and Dickens uses this theme to conclude the book in a tone of hope. Carton's final vision indicates that the evil inherent in the previous regime and the current Revolution will eventually wear itself out and Paris and the people of France will be resurrected, "rising from this abyss."For those dying in the Revolution, Carton assures the seamstress that they will find everlasting life "in the better land"of heaven and will reunite with their loved ones there. Finally, Carton himself finds both resurrection and redemption through his death. He not only has the comfort of being reborn into the afterlife, but is also uplifted at the thought of being resurrected, in a sense, through his namesake. In dying, Carton restores meaning to his life and the lives of those he loves.
the seers people with the supposed power to foretell events or a person's destiny; prophets.
expiation a making amends or reparation for guilt or a wrongdoing.