Study Guide

A Tale of Two Cities Volume III, Chapter Fifteen – The Footsteps Die Out for Ever

By Charles Dickens

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Volume III, Chapter Fifteen – The Footsteps Die Out for Ever

  • Six carts carry fifty-two people to the guillotine.
  • Crowds of people gather to see the faces of the soon-to-be-dead.
  • Out narrator pauses to explore the different looks on the various faces.
  • Some seem bewildered, some angry, some absolutely hopeless.
  • One in particular stares out into the crowd without any apparent interest in his surroundings. He shakes his hair to cover his face a bit more.
  • Anxiously, the crowd cries out to discern which of the prisoners is Evrémonde.
  • Meanwhile, The Vengeance pushes through the crowd, crying out for Madame Defarge.
  • She’s saved her a seat right by La Guillotine, but she can’t find her friend anywhere.
  • As the guillotine begins to crash, the audience counts the number of heads that roll to the ground.
  • Scared, the little seamstress clings to Carton.
  • She thinks that he’s an angel sent to be with her in her time of trouble.
  • He comforts her, telling her that she’s going to a place with no suffering. She’ll be able to be with her family there.
  • They kiss, and she steps up onto the guillotine before Carton.
  • The audience counts to twenty-two.
  • Carton murmurs the words of Christ, "I am the Resurrection and the Life…" as he steps onto the platform.
  • The audience counts to twenty-three.
  • It's revealed that, afterwards, witnesses said his face was the most peaceful face they saw on the guillotine.
  • The narrator reflects that, if Carton had a chance to write down his thoughts before his death, they would have been something like this:
  • He foresees a time when vengeance in France will end.
  • He sees a nation rising out of the blood and ashes of this time, a nation stronger and better for the struggles it has had to endure.
  • He sees the Manettes in the future, with a child that bears his name.
  • He imagines the stories that they’ll tell of the man who gave his life for their happiness.
  • He sees his own name cleared of all the stains he’s placed on it, living again through Lucie’s son.
  • He reflects that this action is perhaps the best one that he’s ever taken.

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