RWM: A Tale of Two Cities, Book II, Chapter XV

Previously: Book II, Chapter XIV | Coming Soon: Book II, Chapter XVI

Welcome to the fourteenth week of this read-with-me project. This week we read Chapter XV: Knitting. This section was first released in a magazine called All the Year Round on Saturday, July 30th 1859.

The story so far…
We spent more time with Mr Cruncher who, in his spare time, is a graverobber and sells corpses to medical men.

In this chapter…
We return to Paris, more specifically the wine shop owned by Monsieur Defarge. Defarge arrived back and brings a new friend with him. After some refreshment, he takes his new friend to the apartment, presumably the very same one which Dr Manette once occupied.

Waiting for them are three men, and together they form the five Jacques’, with Mr Defarge as Jacques Four. Jacques Five, the new friend, is instructed to tell the story of the ‘tall man’. It becomes apparent that the tall man is the murderer of the Monseigneur, from the Chapter ‘The Monseigneur in the Country’. After being convicted of the crime he is imprisoned in an iron cage. Eventually, he is hanged, and his body is left hanging there which poisons the water underneath, making it dangerous to drink from. Because of this, it is not just one murderer who is being punished but the whole village. This also implies that the treatment of the common man does not reflect is status as innocent or criminal. Perhaps you may even go so far as to say that the fate of the criminal is preferable to the long, drawn-out death by poisoning.

Given the title of the chapter is should come as no surprise that knitting is a big theme. Monsieur Defarge, or Jacques Four, reveals that Madame Defarge’s knitting is coded.

“It would be easier for the weakest poltroon that lives, to erase himself from existence, than to erase one letter of his name or crimes from the knitted register of Madame Defarge.”

Within the stitches lie the names of the individuals that the revolutionaries aim to kill. The presence of this list shows that the revolutionaries are not blind to the crimes and misdeeds of the ruling class. It also signifies retribution for their actions.

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 XVI on the 6th of August (Post: 8th of August)
Chapters XXVII-XXVIII on the 13th of August (Post: 15th of August)
Chapters XIX-XX on the 20th of August (Post 22nd of August)

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