RWM: A Tale of Two Cities, Book III, Chapters II-III

Previously: Book III, Chapter I| Coming Soon: Book III, Chapters IV-V

Welcome to the twenty-second week of this read-with-me project. This week we read Chapter II: The Grindstone and Chapter III: The Shadow. This section was first released in a magazine called All the Year Round on Saturday, September 24th 1859.

The story so far…
Charles Darnay has rushed off to Paris to rescue another man from death, but in doing so he has damned himself and is now in prison.

In this section…
This chapter, ‘The Grindstone’, initially follows Mr Lorry in Paris. He is keenly aware of the violence and dangers of the Parisian streets amidst this revolution and is trying to keep his head down. He says:

“Thank God,” said Mr. Lorry, clasping his hands, “that no one near and dear to me is in this dreadful town to-night.”

I find entertaining because of the heaping of dramatic irony that is attached to the statement. Though Mr Lorry is unaware we, as readers, know the statement to be false. It created a tension where we are left to wonder when Mr Lorry will find out about Charles. It also acts as a reminder that as this point in the chapter he is utterly unaware of Charles’ presence in Paris. This is notable because it shows Dicken’s making sure that his readers recall the important facts of the previous week’s chapter.

Shortly after Lucie, Dr Manette, Miss Pross, and Little Lucie arrive on Mr Lorry’s doorstep and inform him of the latest development. As an ex-prisoner of the Bastille Dr Manette is somewhat highly regarded by the mob outside. It appears to be a simple thing for him to rile them up to go and help Charles in La Force prison. This shows how easily a mob mentality can be formed or swayed.

The last line of this chapter is particularly nice:

“The great grindstone, Earth, had turned when Mr. Lorry looked out again, and the sun was red on the courtyard. But, the lesser grindstone stood alone there in the calm morning air, with a red upon it that the sun had never given, and would never take away.”

Not only does the mention of the grindstone draw us back to the title of the chapter, but it also suggests a kind of relentlessness. The repetition of the colour red suggests danger and violence. It also draws forth the imagery of blood, and so repeats those earlier connotations through a more physical description.

The second chapter this week, ‘The Shadow’, shows Lucie meeting Monsieur and Madame Defarge. They have met before back in Book I, but this meeting is different because she is meeting them as representatives of the revolution rather than people.

The main focus of this chapter, I feel, is how it asks us to compare and contrast Madame Defarge and Lucie. These are our primary female characters of the novel and yet they could not be more different. Lucie’s emotive warmth as she begs for her husband’s safe return is pit against Madame D’s stony coolness, as she plays her part as a revolutionary. This contrasts with the typical stereotype of the English being distant and unemotional. The comparison between the two emphasised their individual qualities.

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, Chapters IV-V on the 1st of October (Post: 3rd of October).
Book III, Chapters VI-VII on the 8th of October (Post: 10th of October)
Book III, Chapter VIII on the 15th of October (Post: 17th of October)

1 thought on “RWM: A Tale of Two Cities, Book III, Chapters II-III”

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