Study Guide

A Tale of Two Cities Volume II, Chapter Seven – Monseigneur in Town

By Charles Dickens

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Volume II, Chapter Seven – Monseigneur in Town

  • We’re back in France. Getting whiplash yet? Just wait…
  • Our narrator describes the way that Monseigneur, a member of the French aristocracy, makes his hot chocolate in the morning.
  • Actually, Monseigneur would never dream of making his own chocolate.
  • He has servants to do that for him. Four servants, to be precise.
  • Mocking the excess that this sort of lifestyle needs, our narrator talks about Monseigneur’s life in very broad strokes.
  • Monseigneur remains convinced that the world has been created for Monseigneur and his pleasures.
  • Anything that doesn’t concern Monseigneur’s pleasure is something Monseigneur will never be interested in.
  • Wait, who is this Monseigneur guy, exactly?
  • Well, he’s sort of a conglomerate of all the aristocrats. See, the more we read, the less he seems like a real guy.
  • For one thing, he doesn’t have any other name than Monseigneur.
  • For another, he’s absolutely detestable…and he’s described in such vague terms that he seems to be standing in for an entire class, not a single person.
  • Okay, he is also an individual character, but we don’t learn that until later. For now, just think of him as Aristocrat X.
  • In Monseigneur’s house, everyone dresses exquisitely. Gold and masques and wigs and silk stockings abound.
  • That’s all well and good, but when you compare all that shiny, fancy, expensive stuff with the rags that the poor people wear...well, you get the picture.
  • Also, everyone seems to be pandering to Monseigneur all the time. Doctors, lawyers, government officials, and other forms of "high society" meet in his house to tell him how wonderful he is.
  • Tonight Monseigneur heads to the opera.
  • While he’s there, a man appears.
  • No one seems to like the man very much. He’s cold, with a face "like a fine mask."
  • Even Monseigneur seems to want to ignore him.
  • He leaves the opera and gets into his carriage, where he orders his driver to speed through the streets.
  • The driver is as ruthless as Monsieur le Marquis (that’s the guy). They fly through Paris.
  • Suddenly, however, they come to a lurching halt.
  • The Marquis’ carriage has run over a small child.
  • The father of the child, wild with grief, charges at the carriage.
  • Some people pull him back in time.
  • Monsieur le Marquis looks at him in disgust. He can’t figure out what all the trouble is about.
  • He throws the man a coin to pay for his dead child.
  • One of the men in the crowd comforts the grieving father by saying that, had the child lived, he wouldn’t have had a very good life anyway.
  • Monsieur le Marquis asks the name of this "philosopher."
  • Defarge (the owner of the wine-shop, remember?) tells him his name.
  • As the Marquis’ carriage drives off, he throws Defarge another coin.
  • Defarge throws it back.
  • Furious, the Marquis calls the poor people dogs. He’d run over all of them if he had his choice in the matter.

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