Study Guide

A Tale of Two Cities Loyalty

By Charles Dickens

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Volume I, Chapter Six – The Shoemaker
Lucie Manette

"If, when I hint to you of a Home that is before us, where I will be true to you with all my duty and with all my faithful service, I bring back the remembrance of a Home long desolate, while your poor heart pined away, weep for it, weep for it!" (1.6.77)

Lucie’s immediate devotion to a father that she’s never met becomes the first of many opportunities for Dickens to demonstrate the almost incredible bond that unites the two.

Book the Second: The Golden Thread
Volume II, Chapter One – Five Years Later

"It's enough for you," retorted Mr. Cruncher, "to be the wife of a honest tradesman, and not to occupy your female mind with calculations when he took to his trade or when he didn't. A honouring and obeying wife would let his trade alone altogether. Call yourself a religious woman? If you're a religious woman, give me a irreligious one!" (2.14.64)

Mr. Cruncher’s irrational assumption that his wife’s "flopping" ruins his success as a grave-digger allows Dickens to throw some of his characteristic humor into an otherwise serious novel.

Volume II, Chapter Six – Hundreds of People
Miss Pross

"Do you imagine—" Mr. Lorry had begun, when Miss Pross took him up short with:

"Never imagine anything. Have no imagination at all." (2.6.54-5)

Miss Pross attributes her unquestioning loyalty to Lucie to her lack of imagination: she doesn’t have to imagine how Lucie or Doctor Manette would feel, she just does what she can to shield them from the rest of the world.

Book the Third: The Track of a Storm
Volume III, Chapter One – In Secret
Miss Pross

"I am desperate. I don't care an English Twopence for myself. I know that the longer I keep you here, the greater hope there is for my Ladybird." (3.14.85)

Miss Pross faces off with Madame Defarge, an interesting sidestepping of the supposedly inevitable confrontation of the two female centers of the novel: Lucie and Madame Defarge. Why does Lucie manage to miss out on all of the climactic moments of the novel?

Lucie Manette

"Are you dying for him?" she whispered.

"And his wife and child. Hush! Yes." (3.13.91-2)

Sydney’s love for Lucie becomes a form of loyalty that eventually leads to his own murder. As he makes clear, however, his execution becomes a testimony to the love he has for her family.

Sydney Carton

"I see that I hold a sanctuary in their hearts, and in the hearts of their descendants, generations hence." (3.15.48)

Sydney Carton, unable to gain Lucie’s love in this lifetime, settles for the epic loyalties that he imagines her family bestowing upon him in the future.

"I see him winning it so well, that my name is made illustrious there by the light of his. I see the blots I threw upon it, faded away." (3.15.49)

Sydney’s loyalties seem to be for everyone but himself. Even his name will be better when it belongs to someone else.

Sometimes, we strike into the skirting mud, to avoid the stones that clatter us and shake us; sometimes, we stick in ruts and sloughs there. The agony of our impatience is then so great, that in our wild alarm and hurry we are for getting out and running—hiding—doing anything but stopping. (3.13.103)

The narrator of Dickens’s novel is so committed to Lucie, Charles, and Doctor Manette that their escape is narrated as if he himself were a part of it. Note the "we" that the narrator begins using at this moment.

Madame Defarge

"My husband, fellow-citizen, is a good Republican and a bold man; he has deserved well of the Republic, and possesses its confidence. But my husband has his weaknesses, and he is so weak as to relent towards this Doctor." (3.14.4)

Madame Defarge’s loyalties are more complicated than the sort of family-centered loyalties we see in the Manettes. Sure, she likes her husband and the revolution. She cares more, however, about her own revenge.

Volume III, Chapter Seven – A Knock at the Door
Miss Pross

"[…] the short and the long of it is, that I am a subject of His Most Gracious Majesty King George the Third"; Miss Pross curtseyed at the name; "and as such, my maxim is, Confound their politics, Frustrate their knavish tricks, On him our hopes we fix, God save the King!" (3.7.18)

Miss Pross’s sudden jump into a mantra upholding the English monarchy demonstrates a kind of unthinking loyalty that Dickens might just be mocking.

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