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Free Study Guide-A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens-Free BookNotes
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Chapter Fourteen: The Honest Tradesman

Summary

Jerry Cruncher sits on a stool outside Tellson's Bank watching the heavy traffic go by. He can make out some kind of funeral coming down the street. There is a great uproar, for a mob seems to object to the funeral. He tries to discover whose funeral it is and learns that it is for the police spy, Roger Cly, who had testified against Charles Darnay. There is only one mourner, who is scared by the mob and runs away. The mob wants to remove the coffin from the hearse, but decide, instead, to accompany it to the churchyard, celebrating all the way. Jerry Cruncher, along with a number of other people, crowd into the hearse and take the body to the churchyard. Now, since the mob has nothing better to do, they start rioting. Jerry Cruncher stays in the cemetery to confer with the undertakers.

After work, Jerry Cruncher and his son go home, where he accuses his wife of praying against him again. Later that night he gathers a spade, crowbar, sack, and rope and heads to the churchyard. He is joined by two companions. Young Jerry has only made a pretense of going to bed and follows the trio. Through the gates of the churchyard, he sees his father and the two men dig up a grave, bring the coffin up, and begin to pry it open. Afraid of this sight, young Jerry runs back home imagining that he is being chased by a giant coffin.


In the cemetery, the men find that the coffin is empty. This upsets Jerry Cruncher a great deal. When he returns home, he again accuses his wife of praying against him. The next day Jerry's son informs his father that he would like to be a body snatcher just like him.

Notes

Jeremy Cruncher's nocturnal forays are revealed in this chapter. He is a body snatcher, a man who digs up graves, steals the corpses, and sells them to doctors who need them to study human anatomy. He calls himself an honest tradesman, trying to make a shady business appear very respectable. It is no wonder that this despicable man denounces the prayers of his wife.

The mob scene is important; it is a chance for Dickens to point out the senseless and irresponsible behavior of the incited crowd. In this case, they interrupt a funeral and think about preventing the burial of the coffin. The police spy, Roger Cly, will later be "resurrected", seemingly brought back to life from the dead in a manner similar to Dr. Manette and Charles Darnay.

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