A Tale of Two Cities


Book 1, Chapter 6

This chapter shows the reunion between Dr. Manette and Lucie Manette.  It presents Dr. Manette as a broken man who has been fundamentally damaged by his time in prison.  Apparently, while in prison he learned shoemaking, and that is what he continues to do when Mr. Lorry, Lucie, and Monsieur Defarge enter into the room.  The initial image of Dr. Manette is not a hopeful one.  He does not seem to be aware that he is no longer in prison, and cannot even identify himself when asked his name.  He does react when Lucie comes near him, however.  The reader is led to the understanding that Lucie resembles her mother, Dr. Manette’s wife, who has since passed.  Dr. Manette does not recognize Lucie or mistake her for her mother, but he does find her familiar.  Her hair matches the strands of his wife’s hair that he has kept with him.  Furthermore, she sounds like her mother, which Dr. Manette finds difficult to understand.  Dr. Manette reacts with agitation and concern to Lucie’s voice.  However, rather than drawing away from her father, Lucie hugs him and attempts to comfort him.  Monsieur Defarge, Lucie, and Mr. Lorry manage to get Dr. Manette on a coach heading toward a boat to England.  At the end of the chapter, Mr. Lorry questions his own earlier statement and wonders whether the broken man he sees before him can actually be “recalled to life.” 

This chapter is significant because it helps the reader personalize the cruelties that the aristocracy has inflicted upon people in France.  Rather than making a blanket statement about some of the bad things that have been done to French citizens, Dickens goes into a detailed description of a particular person and how he has been impacted by his false imprisonment.  At this point in time, the reader still does not understand the circumstances that led to Dr. Manette’s imprisonment, but the reader does get the opportunity to see how that imprisonment has impacted not only Dr. Manette, but also his daughter. 


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