A Tale of Two Cities tells the story of Mr. Jarvis Lorry, an official of Tellson's Bank in London who accompanies Lucie Manette to Paris. He has information that her father, Dr. Alexandre Manette, who had disappeared eighteen years ago, is alive. He had been wrongfully imprisoned in the Bastille and left there to die. Lucie is shaken when she learns that her father is still living. On reaching Paris, they go to the house of Monsieur Defarge, a wine-seller. He had been Dr. Manette's servant and has taken care of him after his release from prison. Both Mr. Lorry and Lucie are shocked to see the terrible state Doctor Manette is in. He has aged prematurely, having lost both his memory and his sense. He spends his time cobbling shoes. The revolutionary ardor and hatred against oppression are fanned every time Defarge and his associates look at this wreck of a man, who has been a victim of the aristocracy. Mr. Lorry and Lucie take her father back to London. With love and compassion, Lucie plans to nurse her father back to health and sanity.
Five years later, in 1780, a young Frenchman, named Charles Darnay, is accused of being a traitor and a spy. Lucie and her father are reluctant witnesses for the prosecution, as they had met him while travelling from Calais to Dover. Lucie stresses the good qualities of the accused while imparting her testimony. The evidence against him is overwhelming as the prosecution produces a number of witnesses who swear that he is a spy. The onlookers, too, mentally condemn him and are waiting for the death sentence to be pronounced. However, it is Sydney Carton, an advocate present in the courtroom, who points out the resemblance between the prisoner and himself to the defense lawyer Mr. Stryver. The jury thus realizes that it could be a case of mistaken identity, and Darnay is acquitted.
Years pass, and both Darnay and Carton fall in love with Lucie Manette. Carton is a lawyer who wastes his life in drinking and idling. Lucie has no interest in him; instead, she marries Darnay. He is a French aristocrat who has renounced his inheritance and now lives in London under an assumed name and works as a tutor. His uncle, the Marquis St. Evremonde, is a notorious man renowned for his cruelty and callousness; he has lived the life of a profligate and has no respect for human life. This is emphasized in two incidents that take place while he drives home from a royal reception. He kills a child on the streets and refuses to help a poor widow in need of a tombstone to mark her husband's grave. That very night he is murdered in bed.
The French Revolution breaks out in all its fury with the storming of the Bastille. In London, Darnay has been happily married to Lucie for eleven years, and they have a beautiful daughter. On hearing that Gabelle, his steward in France, has been erroneously arrested, Darnay secretly returns to Paris to save his faithful servant. He is caught and imprisoned. On hearing of her husband's capture, Lucie, her daughter, Dr. Manette, and Mr. Lorry rush to Paris to save him. Dr. Manette, himself a victim of oppression, convinces the people of his son-in-law's innocence, and Darnay is discharged. Madame Defarge, however, seeks personal revenge against the Evremonde family, for the cruel Marquis had molested her sister and killed her brother. Largely because of her, Darnay is re-arrested, tried, and sentenced to death. There is no hope of saving him. Even the lives of Lucie and her daughter are in danger as the hard-core revolutionaries, like the Defarges, would like to eliminate anyone who has a connection with aristocracy.
The story ends dramatically when Sydney Carton decides to save Darnay's life by taking his place. He gains entry into the prison, drugs Darnay, and with the help of Mr. Lorry gets him out of danger. The Darnay family flees back to England while Carton sacrifices his life for Darnay, his look-alike. The sacrifice is made to fulfill a promise to Lucie whom he loves. Carton feels noble about his action and knows that he will live in the hearts of the Darnays forever.
About the Author
The story of 'A Tale of Two Cities' is set in the late 18th Century in London and Paris, before and during the French Revolution. It was a time when injustice was met by a lust for vengeance, and rarely was a distinction made between the innocent and the guilty. It was published in weekly installments from April 1859 to November 1859 in Dickens's new literary periodical titled 'All the Year Round'. This novel is regarded as one of Dickens's most popular and most innovative works.After eighteen years as a political prisoner in the Bastille the aging Dr Manette is finally released and reunited with his daughter in England. There, two very different men, Charles Darnay, an exiled French aristocrat, and Sydney Carton, a disreputable but brilliant English lawyer, become enmeshed through their love for Lucie Manette. From the tranquil lanes of London, they are all drawn against their will to the vengeful, bloodstained streets of Paris at the height of the Reign of Terror and soon fall under the lethal shadow of La Guillotine.The book is perhaps best known for its opening lines, It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, and for Carton's last speech, in which he says of his replacing Darnay in a prison cell, 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.About the AuthorCharles John Huffam Dickens (7 February 1812 - 9 June 1870) was an English writer and social critic. He created some of the world's best-known fictional characters and is regarded as the greatest novelist of the Victorian era. His works enjoyed unprecedented popularity during his lifetime, and by the twentieth century critics and scholars had recognised him as a literary genius. His novels and short stories enjoy lasting popularity. Born in Portsmouth, Dickens left school to work in a factory when his father was incarcerated in a debtors' prison. Despite his lack of formal education, he edited a weekly journal for 20 years, wrote 15 novels, five novellas, hundreds of short stories and non-fiction articles, lectured and performed extensively, was an indefatigable letter writer, and campaigned vigorously for children's rights, education, and other social reforms.