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A Tale of Two Cities

A Tale of Two Cities

by Charles Dickens

Charles Darnay Timeline and Summary

  • Charles Darnay’s about twenty-five. He appears to be a gentleman.
  • He’s pretty good looking. Oh, and he’s on trial for treason.
  • Mr. Attorney-General thinks that the prisoner (that’s Charles) has been engaging in a very long and treasonous correspondence with the French.
  • Moreover, he’s been plotting with the Americans.
  • Lucie Manette gets called to testify against him.
  • He stares at her the whole time. Apparently, they were flirting earlier.
  • Luckily, Charles is acquitted (thanks to the fact that he looks so much like Sydney Carton).
  • Doctor Manette and Lucie stick around to congratulate Charles Darnay on his close escape.
  • After the trial, Carton asks Darnay to come out to dinner with him.
  • Darnay can’t seem to break through Carton’s cynicism. And Carton’s already seen how Darnay looks at Lucie.
  • In fact, just because Carton seems to like rubbing salt in his own wounds, he gets Darnay to propose a toast to "Miss Manette!"
  • After sharing a drink or two together, Carton’s pretty sure he doesn’t like Darnay.
  • Darnay sure doesn’t like Carton.
  • Perhaps they might even get into blows over a girl…until, of course, Darnay realizes that Carton has just saved his life.
  • Before they part, however, Darnay wants to know why Carton seems so angry and depressed.
  • Muttering that he’s a "disappointed drudge," Carton says that he’s been worth nothing all this life.
  • Charles travels to France to visit his uncle, the Marquis St. Evrémonde.
  • The two greet each other, but they don’t exactly seem happy to be reunited.
  • Charles apologizes for being late. He’s been detained by…business.
  • Ever the gentleman, the Marquis accepts his apology.
  • Charles says that his task carried him into great danger – even possible death.
  • We’re guessing that he’s referring to the trial for treason here.
  • Moreover, he suspects that the Marquis was actually trying to support the accusations against him.
  • The Marquis doesn’t say anything.
  • Charles suspects that the only reason he wasn’t locked up forever in France is that the Marquis has been out of favor with the court for a while.
  • In other words, his meddling in Charles's business probably wouldn’t have worked out the way that he intended.
  • Lamenting that the family name has fallen into such low regard, the Marquis suggests that people hate him because he’s so much better than they are.
  • Charles doesn’t exactly agree.
  • Declaring that he’s renounced his relationship with the Evrémonde family, Charles begs his uncle to repair some of the damage that the family has done to those around them.
  • Charles says that his mother’s dying wish was that the family would right some of the wrongs they’ve caused.
  • The Marquis laughs at this folly.
  • Angry, Charles declares that he gives up his rights to the Evrémonde land.
  • He’s got a life in England now.
  • The Marquis asks if Charles has ever met a former patriot in England – a doctor with a young daughter.
  • Charles says he has.
  • As Charles leaves for the night, the Marquis mutters that he’d like to see him burned in his bed.
  • Back in England, Charles Darnay, ex-French aristocrat, is making a decent living as a tutor.
  • Sure, it’s not as lucrative as a decades-old title, but he’s making honest pay for an honest day’s work.
  • Also, he’s madly in love with Lucie.
  • That’s what’s top on his mind as he heads over to Soho to the Manette’s house.
  • Doctor Manette is at home.
  • Charles walks into the room, and the doctor greets him happily.
  • They haven’t seen each other in a few days: Charles has been busy working with his students, and the doctor has his patients.
  • The doctor remarks that it’s unfortunate that Lucy isn’t around to greet him, as well.
  • Charles cuts him short. He knew that Lucie wasn’t in.
  • Sensing that this will be a conversation that he won’t like, Dr. Manette asks Charles to remember how essential Lucie is to his well-being.
  • Charles says he understands. He wouldn’t mention her name – but he loves her too much to keep quiet any longer.
  • Doctor Manette already knows this.
  • He asks Charles if Charles has said anything about his love to Lucie.
  • Charles says that he’ll never approach Lucie without telling Doctor Manette first. In fact, that’s why he’s here.
  • Explaining that he understands how important Lucie is in Doctor Manette’s life, Charles says that he’ll never do anything that would jeopardize their relationship. In fact, if he married Lucie, he’d want to move in with them.
  • That way, their house would be disrupted as little as possible.
  • Doctor Manette asks if Charles wants him to say anything to Lucie about this conversation.
  • Charles immediately refuses.
  • He knows how much Doctor Manette’s opinion matters to Lucie.
  • But if he told her to think about Charles, she’d marry him – without thinking about whether or not she loved him.
  • Charles doesn’t want this. He asks Doctor Manette not to say anything.
  • What he does ask, however, is that Doctor Manette will agree to tell Lucie of this conversation if she comes to her father to talk about Charles.
  • In the interests of full disclosure, Charles also wants to tell Doctor Manette about his past…in France.
  • Doctor Manette seems startled. He immediately shuts Charles down.
  • He doesn’t want to know about Charles's history.
  • OK, OK: if Lucie and Charles get married, then Charles can tell him about his past. But that’s a big if.
  • Charles leaves, happy with their conversation.
  • Charles and Lucie get married.
  • On the day of the wedding, Charles tells Dr. Manette about his family history.
  • They live happily in Soho for several years.
  • One day, Charles heads to Tellson’s.
  • Our good old friend, Mr. Stryver, has brought a letter to the bank. It’s addressed to the Marquis St. Evrémonde, care of Tellson’s Bank.
  • Our narrator quickly informs us that Doctor Manette made Charles promise never to reveal his real identity.
  • Perhaps that’s why Charles starts when he sees the letter – but he doesn’t say a word.
  • Luckily, Stryver has more than enough words for the entire office.
  • He explains that the new Marquis is a craven coward. He abandoned his lands before the old Marquis died.
  • Charles steps into the conversation and says that he knows the Marquis. He can deliver the letter.
  • Puzzled, Mr. Lorry hands it to him.
  • Charles quickly leaves. As he walks out, he opens the letter.
  • It’s from Monsieur Gabelle, the steward of his uncle’s lands.
  • Gabelle has been taken prisoner, merely because he did what the Marquis ordered him to do.
  • Now he begs the new Marquis to come back and take responsibility for his own lands.
  • Charles puts down the letter and begins some serious thinking.
  • Quickly, Charles comes to a conclusion: he must return to France.
  • With this decided, Charles sets about planning a "business" trip. He tells Lucie that he’ll be gone for a few days.
  • Then he writes a letter explaining his real situation and leaves it for her to find once he’s left.
  • He also writes to the doctor, asking him to take care of the family until he returns.
  • In the dead of the night, Charles sets out for Paris.
  • In France, he’s detained as an emigrant.
  • By the time he arrives in Paris, he’s arrested and thrown in La Force.
  • Defarge is there. He identifies Charles as "Citizen Evrémonde."
  • The officer holding Charles's papers looks at him, nods, and condemns him to prison.
  • Aghast, Charles wants to know why.
  • He’s done nothing wrong – nothing against the law.
  • The man smiles grimly. He informs Charles that there are new laws now.
  • In fact, under these laws, emigrants have no rights at all.
  • As they walk away, Defarge quietly asks Charles if he’s Doctor Manette’s son-in-law.
  • Charles says he is.
  • Desperate, Charles turns to Defarge and begs for help.
  • Defarge refuses. It’s not in his power.
  • Charles asks if he’ll be imprisoned without trial or any attention to justice.
  • Sniffing a bit, Defarge says that many people have been unfairly imprisoned before.
  • Charles responds, "But not by me."
  • Defarge looks darkly at him for a minute, then walks in silence.
  • Charles asks for one favor: that Defarge would tell Mr. Lorry that Charles has been imprisoned in La Force.
  • Within the prison, Charles is greeted by faded aristocrats who crowd against him in the small rooms.
  • They’re almost ghostly; their courtly manners are…just a bit creepy in this dismal location.
  • Charles ends up in a small tower. He begs the gaoler to sell him a pen and paper.
  • The gaoler refuses. At present, the only thing Charles can buy is food.
  • Left alone in his cell, Charles begins to pace frantically.
  • Charles remains in prison for a year and three months. He’s able to see Lucie sometimes through a window.
  • Finally, his case comes to trial.
  • Charles's charges are read: he’s an emigrant, and all emigrants are subject to death.
  • It doesn’t matter, of course, that this law was instituted after Charles came to France.
  • The crowd seems to agree. They immediately call for his death.
  • Charles testifies that he’s been living in England and earning his own money there. He’s even married a woman in England.
  • When asked, Charles announces that his wife is Lucie, the daughter of Doctor Manette.
  • The president asks why Charles chose to return to France.
  • Charles explains that he felt a moral obligation to return, even though he’d given up any claim to his own lands long ago.
  • He’d come back to save a citizen’s life. How could this be criminal?
  • The audience now agrees with Charles. They shout pretty loudly to save him.
  • The Jury adds its voices to the choir: Charles is set free!
  • Crying "Long Live the Republic!," the crowd hoists Charles on people’s shoulders and carries him out of the courtroom.
  • Later that night, however, Charles is re-arrested.
  • At his trial, a document written by Dr. Manette in prison is read. It links Charles's family to Dr. Manette’s own imprisonment.
  • Charles is sentenced to death.
  • In his room in the prison, Charles counts off the hours until his death.
  • He thinks constantly of Lucie. Finally, he writes letters to Lucie, her father, and Mr. Lorry.
  • Then he paces the room, counting off the last hours of his life.
  • He knows that at three he’ll be summoned to the carriage which will take him to the guillotine.
  • At one, however, Charles hears footsteps approaching.
  • Sydney walks into the room.
  • He’s got a pressing request for Charles: he doesn’t have time to explain why he’s asking for the things he needs.
  • Startled, Charles does what Sydney asks. They change boots, hair-ties and shirts.
  • Charles begins to understand Sydney’s plan, but he’s certain that it won’t work.
  • Speaking rapidly, Sydney asks Charles to sit down and write a letter that he’ll dictate.
  • Charles complies.
  • Sydney tells him to write an unaddressed letter saying that the time has come for him to make good on the promise he once gave.
  • He knows that the reader won’t forget the promise. He wants her to be assured that he’s glad that his time has come.
  • Puzzled, Charles stops writing. He thinks he smells a strange vapor.
  • He starts up to rip the bottle out of Sydney’s hand, but Sydney’s too quick for him.
  • Charles slumps to the ground, drugged.
  • Sydney calls Barsad, who drags Charles out of the jail.
  • They place Charles on a stretcher, and Barsad carries him away.
  • Charles is given Sydney’s papers and travels out of Paris with his family.

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