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Free Study Guide-A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens-Free BookNotes
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Chapter Fifteen: Knitting


Two men enter the wine shop in St. Antoine. One is Monsieur Defarge; the other is the road-mender who had been questioned by the Marquis about the tall, thin man hanging from under his carriage. As they enter, one man drinks up his wine and departs; a second man does the same and is followed by a third. The road mender eats the coarse bread and wine offered to him by Defarge. They then make their way to the garret where Dr. Manette had once lived. The three men who had earlier left the wine shop are present. Defarge introduces the three men as Jacques One, Two, and Three. He introduces himself as Jacques Four and the road-mender as Jacques Five.

The road-mender relates how he had seen Gaspard hanging from under the carriage of the Marquis; he tells how Gaspard remained hidden for a year but is finally caught. The soldiers took him to a prison on top of a hill near the village. There were rumors circulating that Gaspard would be pardoned; other rumors suggested that he would be held prisoner and tortured for a long time. In truth, Gaspard was hanged, forty feet high, near the fountain in the center of the peasant village.

The road-mender departs, leaving the others in gloomy silence; their faces show their desire to seek revenge. They decide to exterminate the entire Evremonde family; their names will go into the "register." Defarge assures the three Jacques that there will be no mistake in deciphering the register, for Madame Defarge has knitted, using her own symbols, the names of every aristocrat that is to perish. No one would be able to erase even one letter from her knitting.

The road-mender is later taken to Versailles to cheer the lords and their ladies. Defarge feels that the cheering will make the aristocrats more arrogant, which in turn would result in their bringing about their own downfall in a rapid manner. Defarge also trusts that when the road-mender sees the opulence of Versailles, he will thirst for the blood of the aristocracy.


This chapter returns to the Defarges' wine-shop in Paris. The revolution is gaining momentum, as the "Jacques" begin to make definite plans. The road-mender's account of the hanging of Gaspard is important, for it serves to incite the revolutionaries to action. This incident also indicates the fate of Darnay. Since he is an Evremonde, he is destined to die at the hands of the revolutionaries. His name will be knitted into Madame Defarge's register. It is obvious that this calm and resolute woman is a key figure in the revolutionary movement. She controls everyone around her and binds them with hatred.

It is important to notice how tightly Dickens is weaving the plot of the novel through flashback, repetition, and foreshadowing. This chapter returns to St. Antoine and the wine shop of the Defarges. Not much has changed since it was viewed the first time. The garret is no longer used to house Dr. Manette, but it is still a place to fan the flames of revolutionary spirit. Mrs. Defarge remains her old, implacable self, always somber and knitting, as she observes everyone and directs all the activities. Her husband still serves as the revolutionary leader of the area.

In this chapter he is seen trying to make a convert out of the road-mender, who has been seen before; he is the man who told Evremonde that he had spied someone hanging underneath his carriage. He has been brought to St. Antoine to give news about Gaspard, who has been seen in the novel several times before. Now the road-mender clarifies that Gaspard was the man hanging under the carriage and has killed the Marquis Evremonde in revenge for his child's death. He has now been caught and hanged for the crime. Defarge uses Gaspard's death to incite the Jacquerie. The revolutionaries want their revenge. They promise to wipe out the entire Evremonde clan, Charles Darnay included.

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