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A Tale of Two Cities

A Tale of Two Cities

by Charles Dickens

A Tale of Two Cities Volume I, Chapter Three – The Night Shadows Summary

  • Let’s all start with some philosophical reflections, shall we?
  • If you really think about it, do you actually know the people around you? Do you really?
  • If not, where does that leave you? Sad and lonely? Exactly.
  • Our narrator starts out this chapter with some cheerful reflections.
  • You don’t know the people you love. Not really. Heck, we don’t know the people we love. Every man is an island. It’s all very existential.
  • Actually, it’s all very good writing, as well. We totally recommend that you check it out. It’s only about a paragraph long.
  • The Shmoop synopsis, though, is this: death sucks so badly because it forces us to realize how much we don’t know about the people around us.
  • Meanwhile, Jerry (the deliverer of the message from the last chapter) is sitting in an alehouse, puzzling over the meaning of his latest assignment.
  • He can’t figure out the message that he’s supposed to deliver, at all. Nonetheless, he decides to set off to London to deliver it.
  • Meanwhile, the mail coach rattles its way down the road to Dover.
  • Inside, Mr. Lorry dozes as he thinks. All of the sounds in the mail coach begin to sound like the sounds he knows so well – the sounds of Tellson's bank.
  • Despite the comforting sounds of the bank, however, Mr. Lorry remains uneasy.
  • He’s uneasy because he’s been given a difficult task: he’s about to dig up the dead.
  • Ugh!
  • Isn’t that illegal?
  • Well, yes. But that’s not the sort of digging we’re talking about. We’ll get to that later.
  • For now, though, Mr. Lorry imagines a conversation that he has with the dead.
  • He asks the dead man if he’s been recalled to life; the dead man says that he doesn’t know.
  • He asks the dead man if he’d like to see "her."
  • The man has a different answer for each time Mr. Lorry imagines the conversation. Sometimes he’s very happy, other times he’s almost angry.
  • Playing the conversation out in his head over and over again, Mr. Lorry finally asks the dead man how long he’s been buried.
  • The answer, "eighteen years," terrifies Mr. Lorry.

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