A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other. A solemn consideration, when I enter a great city by night, that every one of those darkly clustered houses encloses its own secret; that every room in every one of them encloses its own secret; that every beating heart in the hundreds of thousands of breasts there, is, in some of its imagin-ings, a secret to the heart nearest it! Something of the awfulness, even of Death itself, is referable to this.

The narrator makes this reflection at the beginning of Book the First, Chapter 3, after Jerry Cruncher delivers a cryptic message to Jarvis Lorry in the darkened mail coach. Lorry’s mission—to recover the long-imprisoned Doctor Manette and “recall” him to life—establishes the essential dilemma that he and other characters face: namely, that human beings constitute perpetual mysteries to one another and always remain somewhat locked away, never fully reachable by outside minds. This fundamental inscrutability proves most evident in the case of Manette, whose private sufferings force him to relapse throughout the novel into bouts of cobbling, an occupation that he first took up in prison. Throughout the novel, Manette mentally returns to his prison, bound more by his own recollections than by any attempt of the other characters to “recall” him into the present. This passage’s reference to death also evokes the deep secret revealed in Carton’s self-sacrifice at the end of the novel. The exact profundity of his love and devotion for Lucie remains obscure until he commits to dying for her; the selflessness of his death leaves the reader to wonder at the ways in which he might have manifested this great love in life.