Read With Me: A Tale of Two Cities, Book II, Chapters VII-VIII.

Previously: Book II, Chapter VI| Coming Soon: Book II, Chapter IX

Welcome to the ninth week of this read-with-me project. This week we read Chapter VII: Monseigneur in Town, and Chapter VIII: Monseigneur in the Country. This section was first released in a magazine called All the Year Round on Saturday, June 17th 1859.

The story so far…

Charles Darnay has been found not guilty of treason, thanks to the visual similarities between him and Sydney Carton. Both men have a soft spot for Lucie Darnay, though Mr Carton is somewhat in denial of this fact. 

In this section… 

‘Monseigneur in Town’ moves the narrative to Paris. Unlike previous trips to Paris, we’re not following our main cast of characters. Dicks puts a lot of effort in describing the Monseigneur’s intimate surroundings as lavish and opulent. This is so that the contrast between his life and the life of the common Parisian is in stark contrast. A lot of attention is given to his love of chocolate, and his consumption of it, in addition to the importance of dressing for one’s station. 

We are introduced to the Marquis, who orders his carriage to be raced around the streets, which ends up killing a child. He gives some coin to Gaspard, the boy’s father who is being comforted by Defarge. As he leaves the coin is tossed back into the carriage, suggesting that the child’s life does not have a price. As this happens Madame Defarge watches it all as she knits away. 

The chapter ends as such: 

“The water of the fountain ran, the swift river ran, the day ran into evening, so much life in the city ran into death according to rule, time and tide waited for no man, the rats were sleeping close together in their dark holes again, the Fancy Ball was lighted up at supper, all things ran their course.”

I like this line because it encompasses the chapter as a whole. Dickens says that the river runs it’s coursed no matter the circumstances. In this analogy, the river represents the upper echelons of society, such as the Marquis. However, with the knowledge that France is on the verge of a revolution, there is something ominous about this analogy. It will be interesting to see if Dickens returns to it at a later point. 

The following chapter, ‘Monseigneur in the Country’ is quite similar in terms of structure. Dicken’s takes a lot of time and care to illustrate the scene, which is also contrasted with the Marquis. The adjective ‘poor’ is used repeatedly to emphasises the life that these people are living. It can also be seen as a metaphor in the sense that they are unable to afford any lavish description, such as was seen in the previous chapter. 

A woman approaches the Marquis to tell the story of her husband, who worked himself to the bone to provide for his family but ultimately died of want. They cannot even afford a marker for his grave, to differentiate it from the hundreds of others who have succumbed to the same fate. 

The chapter ends by revealing that the Marquis has arranged to meet a man who has yet to arrive. He is named as Monsieur Charles, which we would assume to mean our Mr Charles Darnay. 

What about you… Are you reading along with A Tale of Two Cities, and if so, what did you think of this section?

Dates for your diary: 

Chapter IX on the 2nd of July (Post: 4th of July)

Chapters X-XI on the 9th of July (Post: 11th of July) 

Chapters XII-XIII on the 16th of July (Post: 18th of July)

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