Welcome to the twentieth week of this read-with-me project. This week we read Chapter XXIV: Down to the Loadstone Rock. This section was first released in a magazine called All the Year Round on Saturday, September 10th 1859.
The story so far…
The situation in Paris has gotten a lot worse as the revolutionaries have turned to violence to get their message across. France is currently in a situation of instability as nobility flee, and the revolutionaries gain ground.
In this section…
From the first line of the chapter, and then mentions of fire and sea, we are reminded of the previous two chapters. This link reminds us that while it will be revealed that three years have passed the events of those chapters are as fresh to the characters as they are to the reader. There’s also mention of echoing footsteps which we have spoken about a couple of times. Already it’s nice that the chapter begins like this because it ties up the end of the second book nicely.
With the flight of French Aristocrats, Mr Lorry is being dispatched to Paris to secure the books of Tellson’s Bank. He informs Charles and we are reminded that while it’s dangerous for Mr Lorry to go, it would be akin to suicide for Charles to go.
Charles considers the danger of his going to Paris which acts as foreshadowing for the fact that he does, by the close of the chapter and this book, go to Paris. Those around him do not know, as we do, that Charles is the missing Marquis and he manages to procure a letter addressed to him. He discovers that Gabelle is imprisoned for the upkeep of Charles’ property and Charles journey’s to Paris intending to save him.
While I do not find this chapter overly compelling, I do think that it does a good job of reminding us of some of the key themes in this book. The first being the confusion of identity, and of dual identities, such as Charles Darnay and the missing Marquis being one. The other theme is the thread of fate which marks our way in the world. Thus far Charles has avoided returning to Paris but now he feels he has no choice. The loadstone rock that this chapter is named for is a sort of magnetised rock which suggests that Charles is being pulled back to Paris by this natural force.
It might also be interesting to examine the structure of these two books so far. The first book begins with a journey to Paris and ends in London. The second book begins in London and is leading towards a journey to Paris. I think this is worth bearing in mind as we read Book III.
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:
Book III, Chapter I on the 17th of September (Post: 19th of September)
Book III, Chapters II-III on the 24th of September (Post: 26th of September)
Book III, Chapters IV-V on the 1st of October (Post: 3rd of October).