Study Guide

A Tale of Two Cities Volume II, Chapter Twenty-One – Echoing Footsteps

By Charles Dickens

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Volume II, Chapter Twenty-One – Echoing Footsteps

  • The years pass.
  • Lucie has a baby girl. She’s also named Lucie.
  • She also has a small baby boy who dies when he’s just a few years old.
  • Surprisingly, Sydney Carton has become a much-loved uncle to the children.
  • His footsteps continually sound on the Manettes’ doorstep.
  • Even more frequently, they’re heard pacing in the streets and alleys around the Manettes’ house.
  • Get it? Footsteps? It’s just like the title of the chapter.
  • When Lucie’s son dies, his last words are about Carton. He asks his mother and sister to give Carton a kiss for him.
  • Mr. Stryver, our least favorite lawyer, has gotten richer and fatter as the years have passed.
  • He marries a rich, pudgy wife. They have three chubby, annoying children.
  • Okay, so Dickens isn’t so nice about people’s weight. Nonetheless, the Stryvers aren’t that great.
  • Stryver, in his extreme beneficence, wants Darnay to tutor his kids.
  • Unsurprisingly, Darnay declines to do so.
  • Stryver’s a bit peeved. He contents himself, however, with telling his wife stories about how Lucie once was desperate to marry him.
  • Ah, memory can play funny tricks on us, eh?
  • Throughout this whole time, Lucie’s been the angel in the Manette house. (See Lucie’s "Character Analysis" for more on this.)
  • She manages to be everywhere all the time and helps everybody all the time.
  • It’s pretty amazing, actually. Maybe even impossible.
  • By the time little Lucie gets to be six, things in the Manette house have adjusted into smooth, well-ordered happiness.
  • Things in France, however, aren’t going so swimmingly.
  • The footsteps that sound in Saint Antoine are fast and furious.
  • They race through the night, gathering weapons and spreading news.
  • The Defarges' wine-shop remains the center of all the revolutionary activity.
  • As all the Jacqueses get ready to go to war, Madame Defarge rallies the women.
  • Together, they storm the Bastille.
  • The Bastille, you remember, is the prison where the French government kept its political prisoners.
  • It’s also the place where Dr. Manette spent a good bit of his life.
  • On July 14, 1789, the revolutionaries take over the fortress. (FYI: this actually happened. Head to our "Setting" page for more information.)
  • Our narrator goes a little crazy describing the sights, sounds, and noises of the attack on the Bastille.
  • Cannons boom, women shriek, and blood runs everywhere.
  • Soon, the revolutionaries are running through the halls of the Bastille, crying out for the prisoners and the records that the Bastille still stores.
  • Defarge grabs a man in the prison and demands to be shown to the North Tower.
  • Why is he so insistent? Well, for one thing, Dr. Manette was a prisoner in the North Tower.
  • Taking Jacques Three along with him, he heads up the stairs to cell One Hundred and Five.
  • Once in the cell, he asks Jacques Three to run a torch along the wall.
  • Sure enough, he eventually finds the initials "A.M." etched in the wall.
  • A.M. stands for Alexandre Manette.
  • That’s Dr. Manette to us.
  • Defarge suddenly orders the men with him to rip apart the room.
  • He’s looking for something….
  • Eventually, he orders the men to set all the fragments of furniture on fire.
  • Delighted to have more to destroy, they immediately follow orders.
  • Outside, the crowd has captured the governor who defended the Bastille.
  • They’re supposed to wait for Defarge to emerge so they can march the governor back to the wine-shop.
  • As the guy passes through the crowd, however, he gets beaten and knifed.
  • Soon he falls over, dead of his wounds.
  • Madame Defarge, shouting triumphantly, steps on him and cuts off his head.
  • Looks like he’s not going back to the wine-shop, after all.
  • The mobs from Saint Antoine decide to behead some guards and hoist their heads onto pikes.
  • So that’s exactly what they do.
  • Seven prisoners were released; seven other men’s heads stand on pikes.
  • Fair’s fair, right?

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