RWM: A Tale of Two Cities, Book III, Chapter IX

Previously: Book III, Chapter VIII| Coming Soon: Book III, Chapter X

Welcome to the twenty-sixth week of this read-with-me project. This week we read Chapter IX: The Game Made. This section was first released in a magazine called All the Year Round on Saturday, October 22nd 1859.

The story so far…
Charles is awaiting his second trial. Sydney is now in Paris and has a plan to help him with the assistance of the spy, Barsad.

In this section…
After a conversation we are not privy to Sydney arranges with Barsad to gain access to Charles in the even that his trial goes poorly. At this point it doesn’t sound like the rescue we were all hoping for, but it was the best that he could do given Barsad’s desire to save his neck.

Mr Lorry and Sydney have a long conversation that discusses age, time and love. I particularly enjoy this quote from Mr Lorry:

“For, as I draw closer and closer to the end, I travel in the circle, nearer and nearer to the beginning. It seems to be one of the kind smoothings and preparings of the way. My heart is touched now, by many remembrances that had long fallen asleep, of my pretty young mother (and I so old!), and by many associations of the days when what we call the World was not so real with me, and my faults were not confirmed in me.”

I am a big fan of the YA historical fantasy trilogy, The Infernal Devices, where the three main characters resemble Lucie, Sydney, and Charles. The final line of that book is ‘At last the wheel comes full circle’. I just think that the imagery of life as a circle is just gorgeous, as it plays with our notions of time, something Andre Aciman does with gusto.

Afterwards, Sydney reassures Mr Lorry that he will go walking till the morning, as he is as restless as always, and he embarks following Lucie’s path. This is notable not just because it’s a sweet notion that he wishes to be close to her, but also because it reminds us of the motif of footsteps which we have seen several times previously. This also leads us to some glorious Dickensian descriptions of the streets of Paris in the night time. It’s very different from the frantic revolutionary streets of daytime as, while we are reminded of violence with conversations about the guillotine, Sydney is very much alone. It is also interesting that deserted Parisian streets are seen though his gaze because he is such a lonely character within himself.

The chapter closes with Charles’ second trial, and we discover that the previously unknown third accuser is none other than Doctor Manette. I can so perfectly imagine reading this for the first time in 1859, maybe aloud to the family, and everyone’s jaws dropping. The Doctor, of course, claims a forgery. Monsieur Defarge turns the note he took from the Doctor’s cell at the Bastille over as evidence but the chapter ends before it is read aloud. This is the most dramatic of the trial scenes we have seen, and it reminds me of courtroom drama’s that we may see today. It was a lot of fun to read. The final line of the chapter is as such:

“In a dead silence and stillness—the prisoner under trial looking lovingly at his wife, his wife only looking from him to look with solicitude at her father, Doctor Manette keeping his eyes fixed on the reader, Madame Defarge never taking hers from the prisoner, Defarge never taking his from his feasting wife, and all the other eyes there intent upon the Doctor, who saw none of them—the paper was read, as follows.”

This perfectly encapsulates the heightening of tension within the court as everyone is looking at each other. It is also a very visual description so much so that I can feel myself watching the courtroom unfold as though I am another spectator. This is the sort of cliff-hanger than makes it very difficult for me, as a modern reader with the whole text as their fingertips, to put the book down and wait for next week.

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 X on the 29th of October (Post: 31st of October)
Chapters XI-XII on the 5th of November (Post: 7th of November)
Chapter XIII on the 12th of November (Post: 14th of November)

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