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A Tale of Two Cities

Charles Dickens

Book the First: Recalled to Life Chapters 5–6

Book the First: Recalled to Life Chapters 1–4

Book the First: Recalled to Life Chapters 5–6, page 2

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Summary: Chapter 5: The Wine-shop

The wine was red wine, and had stained the ground of the narrow street. . . .

(See Important Quotations Explained)

The setting shifts from Dover, England to Saint Antoine, a poor suburb of Paris. A wine cask falls to the pavement in the street and everyone rushes to it. Men kneel and scoop up the wine that has pooled in the paving stones, while women sop up the liquid with handkerchiefs and wring them into the mouths of their babies. One man dips his finger into the “muddy wine-lees” and scrawls the word blood on a wall.

The wine shop is owned by Monsieur Defarge, a “bull-necked, martial-looking man of thirty.” His wife, Madame Defarge, sits solemnly behind the counter, watchful of everything that goes on around her. She signals to her husband as he enters the wine shop, alerting him to the presence of an elderly gentleman and a young lady. Defarge eyes the strangers (they are Lorry and Lucie) but pretends not to notice them, speaking instead with three familiar customers, each of whom refers to the other two as “Jacques” (a code name that identifies themselves to one another as revolutionaries). After Defarge directs the men to a chamber on the fifth floor and sends them out, Mr. Lorry approaches from the corner and begs a word with Defarge. The men have a brief conversation, and soon Defarge leads Lorry and Lucie up a steep, dangerous rise of stairs. They come to a filthy landing, where the three men from the wine shop stand staring through chinks in the wall. Stating that he makes a show of Doctor Manette to a chosen few “to whom the sight is likely to do good,” Defarge opens the door to reveal a white-haired man busily making shoes.

Chapter 6: The Shoemaker

Manette reports, in a voice gone faint with “solitude and disuse,” that he is making a lady’s shoe in the “present mode,” or fashion, even though he has never seen the present fashion. When asked his name, he responds, “One Hundred and Five, North Tower.” Lucie approaches. Noticing her radiant golden hair, Manette opens a knot of rag that he wears around his neck, in which he keeps a strand of similarly golden curls.

At first, Manette mistakes Lucie for his wife and recalls that, on the first day of his imprisonment, he begged to be allowed to keep these few stray hairs of his wife’s as a means of escaping his circumstances “in the spirit.” Lucie delivers an impassioned speech, imploring her father to weep if her voice or her hair recalls a loved one whom he once knew. She hints to him of the home that awaits him and assures him that his “agony is over.” Manette collapses under a storm of emotion; Lucie urges that arrangements be made for his immediate departure for England. Fearing for Manette’s health, Lorry protests, but Lucie insists that travel guarantees more safety than a continued stay in Paris. Defarge agrees and ushers the group into a coach.

Analysis: Chapters 5–6

In Chapters 5 and 6, Dickens introduces the reader to the first of the novel’s two principal cities: Paris. The scramble for the leaking wine that opens “The Wine-shop” remains one of the most remembered (and frequently referenced) passages in the novel. In it, Dickens prepares the sweeping historical backdrop against which the tale of Lucie and Doctor Manette plays out. Although the French Revolution will not erupt for another fourteen years, the broken wine cask conveys the suffering and rage that will lead the French peasantry to revolt. The scene surrounding the wine cask contains a nightmarish quality. In clambering to feed on the dregs, the members of the mob stain themselves with wine. The liquid smears the peasants’ hands, feet, and faces, foreshadowing the approaching chaos during which the blood of aristocrats and political dissidents will run as freely. The ominous scrawling of the word blood on the wall similarly prefigures the violence. Dickens here betrays his conflicted ideas regarding the revolution. While he acknowledges, throughout the novel, the horrible conditions that led the peasantry to violence, he never condones the peasants’ actions. In his text the mob remains a frightening beast, manifesting a threat of danger rather than the promise of freedom: “Those who had been greedy with the staves of the cask, had acquired a tigerish smear about the mouth.”

Dickens uses several techniques to criticize the corrupt circumstances of the peasants’ oppression. He proves a master of irony and sarcasm, as becomes clear in his many biting commentaries; thus we read, “[France] entertained herself . . . with such humane achievements as sentencing a youth to have . . . his body burned alive”(Book the First, Chapter 1). Dickens also makes great use of anaphora, a rhetorical device wherein a word or phrase appears repeated in successive clauses or sentences. His meditation on hunger, which he cites as a defining impetus behind the peasants’ imminent uprising, serves as a perfect example of how the author uses repetition to emphasize his point:

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by whathastheworldcometo, March 25, 2013

I found a great summary trailer of A Tale of Two Cities on Youtube! >>


6 out of 12 people found this helpful

Perfect :)

by mahelah1, December 12, 2013

I just love this Novel


by 16jpaule, January 30, 2014

The paragraph about the theme that sacrifice is necessary is written like the writer believes the violence of the French Revolution (like the guillotine) was necessary, but to me it seemed like Dickens was clearly condemning the violence, if not the revolution itself. It also uses what Mrs. Defarge said to her husband, but she's a villain in the story, and I don't think we should be taking her word for it.

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