September 26, 2008

TBR3: A Tale of Two Cities

III. The Track of the Storm, Chapters 9-12
Are you reading?

Chapter 9 ~The Game Made
While the real tense stuff is going on in another room, Mr. Lorry has asked the fatal question of the reluctant Jeremiah Cruncher, that is, what else he might do for a living, besides working as a messenger for Tellson's. One has to wonder if Mr. Lorry has ever actually spoken to Jerry Cruncher, other than to order him to take a message somewhere. Has he actually looked at him, thought of him as a real person? Does he understand one word in four of the gibberish about flopping and whatnot that he's now saying to him? Somehow, I doubt it.

Jerry's reply to Mr. Lorry is that one can't blame the goose without the gander -- a Resurrection Man doesn't work without the doctors who bank at Tellson's -- ! It's maybe time to change careers anyway, and become a real gravedigger. I like that he suggests that his son keep his job so that he can take care of his mother. Maybe he doesn't mean it, but it sounds good.

Meanwhile, we spend a melancholy time with Sydney Carton. He has arranged...something with the sheep of the prisons for the morrow, and then takes poor sad Mr. Lorry to the Manette's house to look after Her. I hate that Lucie is still the obsession of so many people. Gak.

Sydney walks the night away through the dangerous city, which seems to have no power to hurt him. He buys the makings of some kind of incendiary device from the chemist. Is this Plan B? Sydney walks, remembering what was read out at his father's funeral. I am the resurrection and the life... Not sure if this is more meant to be thoughtful than hopeful or what. I can't figure out Sydney Carton's frame of mind at all... can't say I like that.

Meanwhile, the morning of the trial. Lucie's brow is, of course, looking its best. There's the usual sham of justice, with charges being read and false witnesses being produced, but then -- the twist -- Doctor Manette is said to have been the one who accused Charles. The DeFarges are the other two, and I think bloodthirsty Jacques III is counting on the fact that a.) the cell has burned and b.) that the doctor doesn't remember anything from that time in his life. I remember them looking for something in that cell!!! But they didn't find anything... did they!?

Chapter 10 ~ The Substance of the Shadow
The writings of Doctor Manette -- truly the writings of Doctor Manette?? -- tell an horrible story of Charles Darnay's ...father, and uncle, and the evil that they did to peasants when he was a tiny child. Finally readers see the reason Doctor Manette was originally put away for eighteen years in prison, and the rabble determines that Charles will go back to Concierge and be guillotined in twenty four hours.

This was such arresting reading that I couldn't come up to comment.

Chapter 11 ~ Dusk
Lucie swoons, but for once, she pops back up and asks to embrace Charles, all nonsense set aside, now that she's heard that he is doomed. Amazingly, the two guards present let them embrace, and the family is able to mourn together for awhile. Lucie is able to see Charles away with a positive expression (although, what expression could one really give?), and then, then she faints. Unfortunately, her father is collapsing too. Sydney and Mr. Lorry are them to gather them and take them to a carriage.

At the house, Lucie Junior animates long enough to prevail upon Sydney to save her parents. He briefly kisses the fainted Lucie, says something to her, then goes out, telling Doctor Manette to try and prevail upon the revolutionaries to save his son-in-law. And then, he has one last conversation with Mr. Lorry, where they agree that nothing can save Charles... and Sydney walks out with "a settled step." Which means he has a plan to save him, and sacrifice himself.

Oh, I'm sick.

Chapter 11 ~ Darkness
Shadow. Darkness. Dusk. These chapter titles are so evocative. Darkness we know indeed, as Sydney goes about in Saint Antoine to be seen -- as an Englishman who resembles Charles. Because of his perambulations to the wine shop, we now have evidence of the root of Madame DeFarge's twisted mind. It was her family against whom the Marquis first transgressed so horribly; the Marquis put the Doctor in prison because he knew of what had been done to her sister, her brother, and her brother in law. Her denouncing the family of the Marquis makes some sense... but the bloodbath of others uninvolved assures us that she is quite, quite unhinged. And who on earth is The Vengeance? She just has popped up as a continuing faceless character -- is she the mother of the child who was run over, and the widow of the man hung at the fountain? An editor nowadays would have taken Dickens to task for that randomness, but for now, The Vengeance really is more a word than a character; The Vengeance always follows Madame DeFarge.

Poor Monsieur DeFarge. He's beginning to worry that the bloodshed will not end until his wife has managed to exterminate everyone.

Poor Doctor Manette. I have to say that I expected this, and almost wondered if Sydney had pushed him to bring him to this place, so that he could seem pitiful, and not as dangerous or apt to be denounced.

"I cannot find it," said he, "and I must have it. Where is it?"

His head and throat were bare, and, as he spoke with a helpless look straying all around, he took his coat off, and let it drop on the floor.

"Where is my bench? I have been looking everywhere for my bench, and I can't find it. What have they done with my work? Time presses: I must finish those shoes."

They looked at one another, and their hearts died within them.

"Come, come!" said he, in a whimpering miserable way; "Let me get to work. Give me my work."

Receiving no answer, he tore his hair, and beat his feet upon the ground, like a distracted child.

"Don't torture a poor forlorn wretch," he implored them, with a dreadful cry; "but give me my work! What is to become of us, if those shoes are not done to-night?"

Lost, utterly lost!

Their hearts died, how tragically apt. Doctor Manette is once again a prisoner in his mind, and Sydney and Mr. Lorry are the only ones left who can act to save anyone. Sydney knows all too well that Madame DeFarge has made up her mind that the Manettes are no longer friends of the Republic, no matter their histories. As it is a capital crime to mourn for a victim of the guillotine, Lucie is next on the list, and then her child, and then her father.... But Sydney Carton has a plan. He and Mr. Lorry take Doctor Manette up to Lucie, and he says... farewell.

I don't see a way around it. SOMEONE is going to die...

1 comment:

a. fortis said...

I am so freaking behind that I can't even read this for fear of spoilers...but I'm still reading! This morning the Bastille was stormed! Le roi est mort - vive le roi! Or something. :)