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Free Study Guide-A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens-Free BookNotes
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Chapter Twelve: Darkness


Sydney Carton enters the wine-shop of the Defarges and deliberately speaks in bad, broken French. They notice his resemblance to Darnay and assume that he cannot understand them. They continue their argument. Madame Defarge wants the Doctor, Lucie, and the child to be guillotined. Defarge, however, draws the line with Darnay. She tells the Vengeance and Jacques Three how on the day that the Bastille fell, Defarge discovered the letter in Dr. Manette's cell. She had then revealed to her husband that the family mentioned in the letter is her own and that she is the surviving sister. She wants revenge and has doomed in her register the entire Evremonde family. She is not to be stopped.

From this conversation and from what the spy Barsad tells him, Carton realizes that Madame Defarge will not stop until she kills Lucie and her child. Since she has seen Lucie signaling to Darnay in prison, she will use this as evidence of a plot to rescue her husband. Furthermore, Lucie will surely mourn for her husband and it is a capital offense for anyone to mourn for or sympathize with a victim of the guillotine.

Carton relates his fears to Mr. Lorry and asks him to keep in his possession all their passports including his. He plans to visit Darnay and explains that he should not carry his papers as it would be dangerous. He instructs Mr. Lorry to make arrangements for the homeward journey and to have the carriage waiting for him at Tellson's Bank until two o'clock.

In the meantime, the Doctor has tried, in vain, to save his son-in- law. He returns home demented and asks for his shoemaker's bench.


All of Carton's actions reflect the thorough way in which he has laid his plan to save Darnay. The visit to the wine-shop, the broken French, and the deliberate manner in which he draws attention to himself and his resemblance to Darnay is important. He is far-sighted and realizes that if the revolutionaries have seen him they will not suspect a thing when Darnay escapes, for he will be carrying Carton's papers. He gives very specific instructions to Mr. Lorry about the escape plan for Lucie and her family. He tells Mr. Lorry to hold the carriage at Tellson's Bank until he returns and takes his place inside. No one but Carton knows that Darnay will be the one to fill the place in the carriage.

Dickens uses coincidence when he has Carton overhear Madame Defarge's plot to kill Darnay's family. Defarge's attempts to stop his wife are in vain. His voice of reason is drowned by the clamor of his wife, the Vengeance, and Jacques Three. The reason for Madame's extreme hatred of the Evremondes is finally revealed. She is the lost sister that Darnay has never been able to locate. As a result, her desire for revenge cannot be quenched until the last Evremonde, including little Lucie, has been killed.

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