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A Tale of Two Cities
by Charles Dickens
Doctor Manette Timeline and Summary
1757: It’s late at night. The doctor is out walking near his residence by the medical college. Suddenly, a carriage races by. The driver calls Doctor Manette’s name and the carriage screeches to a halt. Inside the carriage, two men sit in the dark. They inform him that he needs to come with them to see to some patients. Doctor Manette has misgivings, but he gets in the carriage. Soon the carriage arrives at a country house. As they go in the gate, one of the men strikes the gate-keeper with his glove. Inside the house, he finds a patient who appears to be suffering from brain fever. She’s a beautiful young woman, and she seems to see about twenty. As the doctor approaches her, she moans, "My husband, my father, and my brother!" and then counts to twelve and whispers, "Hush!" Puzzled, Doctor Manette listens as she repeats the same phrases over and over. When he asks the brothers how long this has lasted, they say she’s been screaming since last night. After a few hours, the elder brother says that there’s actually another patient in the house, as well. Surprised, the doctor follows the brothers out into the barn. A young man lies in the hay. He’s been stabbed. Astonished, Doctor Manette asks to see the wound. The young man refuses. He’s dying. He doesn’t want to be treated. As Doctor Manette looks at the man, he realizes that he’s been stabbed with a sword. Suddenly they can all hear the young girl screaming again. The boy asks if Doctor Manette has seen her. He tells the doctor that the girl is his sister. She was kidnapped and raped by one of the brothers. Gasping for breath, the young boy curses the nobles and all of their family. Then he dies. Doctor Manette returns to the young woman. After sitting with her for days, he slowly realizes that she’s pregnant. At that point, he realizes that she’s given up any desire to live at all. When the Marquis asks Doctor Manette how his patient is doing, he says that she’s almost dead. The Marquis says something slighting about the amazing strength of the poor. Doctor Manette replies that there’s often great strength in despair. That’s when the nobles realize that they can’t trust Manette. Once the girl dies, the Marquis offers Doctor Manette gold. He turns it down. Troubled by all of this, Doctor Manette writes a letter to the Minister of State explaining the situation. The brothers intercept the letter and lock Doctor Manette in prison for eighteen years. During that time, he writes a document that relates this history and buries it in the prison wall. 1775: Doctor Manette has been released from prison, but his mind is broken. He’s staying with the Defarges. Defarge introduces Mr. Lorry, but Doctor Manette seems to have forgotten him completely. In fact, when he’s asked what his own name is, Doctor Manette replies, "One Hundred and Five, North Tower." After an awkward pause, Mr. Lorry asks if Doctor Manette has been a shoemaker all his life. The doctor replies that he actually learned how to make shoes in prison. Flustered, Mr. Lorry asks if he remembers nothing about a banker from long ago. For a moment, Doctor Manette thinks he remembers something… but it’s too far off, too long ago. Lucie approaches him. He recognizes her hair. Slowly, he begins to remember. Lucie puts her arms around him and promises to tell him some other time who her mother and father were. For now, though, she promises to take care of him. As they leave the room, Lucie asks her father if he remembers coming to this place. He doesn’t. In fact, he doesn’t remember anything but being in prison. Everything after that is a blank. 1780: Lucie and Doctor Manette have moved into a lovely house in Soho. The doctor has started up a new practice, and he’s returning to his old self. In many ways, he’s completely dependent on Lucie for his happiness. Doctor Manette and Lucie are called to testify at Charles Darnay’s trial. The doctor says that he can’t positively identify Charles. A few months later, Charles comes to visit Doctor Manette. The doctor’s life has only continued to improve. He’s working all the time, which makes him pretty happy. He hasn’t relapsed into depression or memory loss in a long time. Charles walks into the room and Doctor Manette 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, Doctor 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. He wants the doctor’s permission to see how Lucie feels about him. 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 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. The doctor seems startled. He immediately shuts Charles down. He doesn’t want to know about Charles's history. Charles and Lucie get married. On the morning of their wedding, Charles tells Doctor Manette about his past. After the wedding, Lucie and Charles leave for their honeymoon. Doctor Manette helps Lucie into the carriage. Mr. Lorry glances worriedly at the doctor. The old scared look has returned to his face. Mr. Lorry decides that he’ll return later in the night to check on the doctor. Sure enough, when he comes back later that evening, Doctor Manette is holed up in his room, working furiously at making shoes. When Mr. Lorry tries to call out to him, the doctor doesn’t even recognize his old friend. He stays that way for ten days. On the tenth day, Mr. Lorry enters the doctor’s bedroom and finds the doctor sitting by his window, reading. He’s a bit pale, sure, but otherwise he seems to be completely back to normal. The change is so drastic, in fact, that Mr. Lorry begins to doubt his own eyes. Mr. Lorry tells Doctor Manette that he needs an expert’s opinion in a hypothetical case. Asking the doctor how good friends should deal with the case of a man who relapsed for nine days, Mr. Lorry tries to gauge how much the doctor actually remembers of his relapse. As it turns out, the doctor doesn’t remember anything. Actually, he says, the man probably has been expecting a relapse of this sort for some time. He finally says that the man had probably been anticipating some information from someone he knew well. When it finally came, his mind crumbled entirely. Surprised, Mr. Lorry asks what the information was. The doctor, of course, can’t say. After all, it’s a hypothetical case. Mr. Lorry gently tells the doctor that the case they’d been discussing also involved some tools: the man who relapse began working again at shoemaking. The doctor seems more disturbed than before. Mr. Lorry asks if it wouldn’t be best for friends of the man to take the shoemaking bench away. Pained by this thought, the doctor explains that the bench was once the only thing that kept him sane. He worked with his hands (making shoes) so that he wouldn’t go crazy while he was in prison. In some ways, then, the bench symbolizes his strength, not his weakness. Mr. Lorry understands this, but he still presses the doctor to get rid of the bench. Finally, the doctor agrees that if the bench could be taken away while the man was out of the house, it might be OK. As soon as he leaves, Miss Pross and Mr. Lorry dismantle his workbench and bury the tools in the yard. 1792: The years have passed happily. Suddenly, Charles goes to France. Doctor Manette and Lucie follow. They think he may be in danger. Doctor Manette, you see, is something of a hero for the patriots. As a former prisoner of the Bastille, he’s untouchable. In fact, he might even have some leverage in getting Charles out of prison. That’s why he and Lucie come to Paris. He decides to use all the influence he has to save Charles. In fact, for the first time since he was released from prison, he seems like a socially powerful man. The doctor becomes the head medical inspector of three prisons. In that position, he’s able to bring back occasional news of Charles. Strangely enough, Mr. Lorry observes that the doctor begins to take pride in his ability to do things for his family. For a long time, Lucie took care of him. Now he’s able to return the favor. He actually gets Charles out of his first trial—but then Charles is arrested later that night. Doctor Manette spends the day trying to free him, but he returns a broken man. He asks again for his workbench and shoes. Doctor Manette finally leaves Paris with his daughter and son-in-law.