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Free Study Guide-A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens-Free BookNotes
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Chapter Five: The Wood-Sawyer

Summary

One year and three months have passed since Darnay's initial imprisonment. Lucie arranges her Parisian household as if her husband were there in hopes that he will soon appear. She also lives in fear. Every day she sees the tumbrels loaded with the condemned on their way to the guillotine and prays that Darnay is not included.

Every day she and little Lucie would walk to the prison, hoping to catch a glimpse of Darnay. She is informed by her father that Darnay sometimes catches a glimpse of her standing outside. Next to the prison is a woodcutter's shop, and the road-mender from earlier in the novel is the wood sawyer. Lucie is at first scared of him, but she still talks to him and offers him drinking money.

One day, there is a crowd rejoicing, as if there were a festival. A mob wildly rushes around the prison in a Revolution Dance called the Carmagnole. Lucie is frightened as the mob passes and is relieved to see her father standing protectively over her. He tells her that Darnay is to be brought to trial the next day. He also says that because of the activity it will be safe for her to signal Darnay. As Lucie gives her signal, Madame Defarge walks by; it is a bad omen.


Lucie and her father go to give Mr. Lorry the good news about Darnay. Mr. Lorry has a visitor that he does not want them to see, so he hurries the person into the next room before receiving the Manettes.

Notes

The reappearance of the road-mender as the wood-sawyer later becomes significant to the plot. Throughout the novel, he has been a symbolic figure who sends people to their doom, especially those that belong to the Evremonde clan. He has now been posted outside his wood shop to specifically spy on and report the nature of Lucie's actions by the prison. He looks forward to the day when her husband and all the Evremondes will be eliminated. Lucie is bothered by this smiling, friendly villain and senses something is not right with him. In order to try and win his favor, she talks to him and gives him drinking money.

Dickens presents another, very different, mob scene in this chapter. The revolutionaries wildly dance about the prison in a feverish, bloodthirsty pitch. Dickens' prose catches the rhythm of the dancers, as they gnash their teeth and frantically whirl. He clearly indicates that this dance of devilry can only lead to destruction. In many ways, the dance, called the Carmagnole, is more threatening than a rioting mob, for it shows that a healthy pastime has turned into an arousing dance of impending death. Appropriately, Madame Defarge emerges from the confusion to greet Dr. Manette. It is the second time Lucie has seen her, and again she feels repulsed and threatened by her presence.

Amidst the wild behavior of the revolutionaries, there is a piece of wonderful news. Darnay's trial is scheduled for the next day. Lucie and her father rush off to share the good news with Mr. Lorry. The chapter ends with an element of suspense. The identity of the mysterious person who is closeted with Mr. Lorry, and who has visibly upset him, is not revealed.

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