Study Guide

A Tale of Two Cities Volume II, Chapter Nineteen – An Opinion

By Charles Dickens

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Volume II, Chapter Nineteen – An Opinion

  • It’s the tenth day after Lucie’s wedding.
  • 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.
  • When Miss Pross arrives, she’s equally astonished.
  • Dr. Manette seems to have healed himself completely overnight.
  • Because the doctor doesn’t make any reference to his scary relapse, Miss Pross and Mr. Lorry decide not to mention it immediately, either.
  • They all head down to breakfast.
  • While they’re sitting down, Mr. Lorry tells Dr. Manette that he needs an expert’s opinion for a hypothetical case.
  • We all know how much Mr. Lorry loves "hypothetical" cases.
  • 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.
  • He quickly catches on to Mr. Lorry’s ruse; finally, he asks if the daughter of this hypothetical man has been told of his illness.
  • When Mr. Lorry says that the daughter hasn’t been told of her father’s condition, Dr. Manette breathes a huge sigh of relief.
  • Actually, he says, the man probably has been expecting a relapse of this sort for some time.
  • Puzzled, Mr. Lorry asks why.
  • Dr. Manette pauses for a bit before replying.
  • He finally says that the man had probably been anticipating some information from someone he knew well.
  • Actually, anticipating is too nice a word. He’d been dreading the information.
  • 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.
  • He does reassure Mr. Lorry that another relapse seems highly unlikely.
  • After all, there are no more big shocks in store. Thank goodness.
  • Now comes the tricky part: Mr. Lorry and Miss Pross have come up with a plan.
  • They’re pretty sure that the doctor won’t like it at all.
  • Nevertheless, they decide to give it a go.
  • Mr. Lorry gently tells the doctor that the case they’d been discussing also involved some tools: the man who relapsed began working again at shoemaking.
  • The doctor seems more disturbed than before.
  • Mr. Lorry asks if it wouldn’t be best for the friends of the man to take the shoemaking bench away.
  • After all, couldn’t the very presence of the bench in the man’s room help to incite another relapse?
  • 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 okay.
  • Accordingly, a few days later the doctor heads out to the country to meet up with Darnay and Lucie.
  • As soon as he leaves, Miss Pross and Mr. Lorry dismantle his workbench and bury the tools in the yard.

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