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Free Study Guide-A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens-Free BookNotes
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Chapter Ten: The Substance of the Shadow


One day in 1767, Dr. Manette walks down a street when he is stopped by a carriage. Inside are two men, apparently twins, who need his service. They do not disclose who they are and merely reveal that they are of high birth. The Doctor is taken by them to a solitary house in the countryside. Upstairs he finds a delirious woman in her twenties; she is rambling on about her family who has been killed. Her arms are bound to her sides with sashes. The doctor notices a fringed scarf with the crest of nobility and the initial "E."

After Dr. Manette sedates her, he is led to another patient. He is a young, handsome, peasant boy dying from a fatal would. The Doctor finds out that he has been stabbed by one of the brothers. The boy tells the Doctor that the woman is his sister, and they are tenants of one of the brothers. He informs the Doctor about his sister's abduction by the other brother and how he was stabbed when he tried to rescue her. He discloses that the youngest sister managed to sneak away safely. Both the boy and his sister die shortly afterward. The doctor is commanded not to reveal what he has seen. The noblemen offer him money, which he refuses to take. The next morning another attempt is made to bribe him. He, however, decides to notify the Minister of this ghastly incident.

Later he is visited by the Marquis St. Evremonde's wife and comes to know the identity of the brothers. She has found out the facts about the two deaths and wishes to help the surviving sister, if the Doctor will reveal her name and whereabouts. She wishes to make amends for the sake of her three-year-old son, Charles, who has accompanied her. The Doctor then adds the Evremonde name to the letter. However, the wicked brothers capture him, burn the letter, and imprison him in the Bastille.

After the manuscript about this incident has been read, a terrible sound erupts from the crowd. They want vengeance. The jury then unanimously votes that Darnay is to be executed within twenty-four hours.


The story of the manuscript and the cruel imprisonment of the Doctor have all the sensational elements of a Gothic novel. Dickens, however, tells Dr. Manette's story in clear and vigorous prose style that holds the reader spellbound. The final pieces of the puzzle finally fall into place when the connection of Dr. Manette to the Evremondes is revealed. It is no wonder he was shocked and upset when he learned that his son-in-law was an Evremonde.

Dickens is a master storyteller and builds up his plot in a methodical, interesting, and captivating manner. No incident in the novel is irrelevant to his complex plot, and as the novel rushes to a conclusion, Dickens tries to tie up all the loose ends. The reader now understands that part of the reason for Darnays trips to France were to search for the surviving sister, as his mother obviously commanded him to do.

Dickens' use of coincidence and fate becomes very important in this chapter. It is ironic that Dr. Manette's hatred of the Evremondes has turned in to a love for one of them, his son-in law Darnay. It is also ironic that Dr. Manette's manuscript is to be the evidence that pronounces the death knell for that same Evremonde. It appears that the innocent Darnay will have to pay with his life for the sins of his fathers; there is no escape from his family history. Dickens seems to be saying that divine providence rules over all, and evil action must be punished.

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