Study Guide

A Tale of Two Cities Volume II, Chapter Fifteen – Knitting

By Charles Dickens

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Volume II, Chapter Fifteen – Knitting

  • Folks are coming into the Defarges’ wine-shop as early as six in the morning today.
  • Our narrator reflects that it can’t be because of the wine (which is watered down and sour).
  • There must be something else going on.
  • In fact, there is. Monsieur Defarge walks into his shop, where everyone is drinking quietly.
  • Once he greets his customers, however, the entire shop erupts into conversations.
  • Defarge saunters over to a table where a man from the country sits silently.
  • Pulling his wife over to the table, he announces that the man is a mender of roads from the country.
  • Defarge calls the man "Jacques." We all know what that means.
  • Soon the man is headed out toward the back of the shop, ostensibly to visit an apartment that the Defarges can lease to him.
  • Once he’s outside, Defarge calls the other three Jacques. They all follow the mender of roads into the garret where Dr. Manette stayed when he was in Paris.
  • Nervous, the mender of roads asks Defarge where he should begin his tale.
  • Defarge tells him to start at the very beginning. It’s a very good place to start.
  • The mender of roads tells the assembled men that, a year ago, he was working on the road when he saw the Marquis’ carriage pass by.
  • That wasn’t too unusual. What was unusual, however, was that a man was hanging off of the bottom of the carriage.
  • Later, the Marquis asked the mender of roads what the man looked like. The mender recounts that he answered truthfully, saying that the man was tall as a ghost.
  • The Jacques group scoffs at the honesty of the mender of roads.
  • They would have lied to the Marquis.
  • Enough interruptions already. Back to the mender’s story:
  • Later the next day, the mender of roads was working on roads again.
  • (His title’s pretty descriptive, huh?)
  • While he was working, he saw the same stowaway.
  • This time, however, the tall man was a prisoner. Six guards hauled him down the road in chains.
  • Describing the way that the soldiers tortured the prisoner, the mender of roads finally says that the prisoner was sent to the jail.
  • He didn’t remain there long, though.
  • Before the mender of roads continues with the story of the prisoner, he spends some time discussing the way that rumors about the prisoner’s fate circulated through the village.
  • Execution? An official stay of execution? Life imprisonment? No one knew what his fate was going to be.
  • After a few days, the prisoner was dragged into the village.
  • The guards hanged him at midday.
  • The gallows was erected over the town well. Because official orders insisted that the body remain where it was hanged, the town well is now polluted.
  • Telling his tale, the mender of roads seems to get disgusted and angered all over again.
  • He erupts in a violent declaration of anger at the injustice of this hanging and the injustice of polluting the well.
  • Defarge pauses for a second, then asks the multiple Jacques what they think.
  • They agree that the perpetrators of this crime should be "registered" in their records as people who should be destroyed.
  • Jacques Two pauses to ask if anyone will ever be able to steal the group’s register.
  • Defarge scoffs. Madame Defarge keeps the register in her knitting.
  • No one could decipher it, even if they knew what it was supposed to be.
  • Defarge announces that the mender of roads plans to stay in Paris for a few days.
  • Apparently he wants to see the King and Queen.
  • The rest of the group is aghast. The mender of roads is a fan of royalty? How can he be trusted?
  • Defarge calms the group down. Give the man a little taste of the way the royals behave, he reminds the Jacques group, and he’ll be a fierce soldier against them in the future.
  • The next day, the mender of roads and the Defarges head over to the royal procession.
  • The mender cheers wildly as the King and Queen pass.
  • Defarge mutters in Madame Defarge’s ear that this man is exactly the sort of peasant they need around.
  • He’ll convince the King and Queen that their reign will last forever.
  • That way, they’ll be all the more surprised when revolution comes.

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