Welcome to the tenth week of this read-with-me project. This week we read Chapter IX: The Gorgon’s Head. This section was first released in a magazine called All the Year Round on Saturday, July 2nd 1859.
The story so far…
The action has temporarily moved from London to France as we followed the Marquis from Paris to his country estate where he awaits the arrival of Monsieur Charles.
In this section…
Dickens takes his time in describing the large and elaborate estate of the Marquis. This contrast with the description is the previous chapter of the poverty of the common man. We will return to the description of the architecture at the end of the chapter, as it links into the final imagery.
Previously we were told that he was waiting for a man he called Charles, and we presumed it to be our Mr Darnay. This suspicion is confirmed officially with his arrival along with the fact that Mr Darnay is the nephew of the Marquis.
The majority of the chapter is taken up with a discussion between the two as Charles wished to renounce his inheritance on the basis that his family name is associated with ‘fear and slavery’. While the Marquis dismisses his concerns the dialogue between the two reinforces the belief that Charles is fundamentally a good person.
In the morning the marquis is found dead with the following note pinned to him:
“Drive him fast to his tomb. This, from Jacques.”
The reference to driving seems to refer back to the previous chapter where the Marquis caused the death of a child through his own callous carelessness. The violence of this acts as a precursor to the blood that will be shed during the revolution.
The chapter title refers to the mythological Gorgon, a creature which can turn man to stone with a single gaze. You may be more familiar with the character of Medusa, who is a Gorgon. The estate itself is decorated with numerous stone faces who look on at the Marquis’ actions with unseeing eyes. By the end, the Marquis’ own death mask seems to join them. This connection links the beginning of the chapter with the end to make it cyclical.
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:
Chapters X-XI on the 9th of July (Post: 11th of July)
Chapters XII-XIII on the 16th of July (Post: 18th of July)
Chapter XIV on the 23rd of July (Post: 25th of July)