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Free Study Guide-A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens-Free BookNotes
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Chapter Twenty-three: Fires Rise

The road-mender's village sees a great deal of change, with frequent visits from the patriots; but the villagers remain poor and hungry. One night a patriot meets with the road-mender. Later, the two of them, joined by two others, travel out of the village and burn down the Evremonde chateau.

A village mob assembles and watches the burning image in grim satisfaction; the town officials, such as Gabelle the tax collector, stand by helpless against this mob. The assembled villagers imprison Gabelle and threaten his life since he was a faithful friend of the Evremondes. Since daylight approaches fast, the mob disperses, and Gabelle's life is spared.


Notes

In Chapters 21 through 23, Dickens presents a revolutionary mob in a series of uprisings. After the storming of the Bastille, the mood of the patriots for vengeance and retribution increases. Led by bloodthirsty women, like Madame Defarge and The Vengeance, they lose sight of the goals of the revolution and become a band of howling demons. Now that they have power they feel they are unstoppable, but much of their destruction is quite senseless. The burning down of the hated Evremonde chateau only gives a grim satisfaction, for it does not alleviate their plight of poverty and hunger.

The historical events related to the Revolution are not allowed to overshadow the continuation of the main plot. The imprisonment of Gabelle will be instrumental in luring Darnay back to France, like a magnet.

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