Summary of A Tale of Two Cities

Summary of A Tale of Two Cities

A Summary of the Tale of Two Cities

 A Tale of Two Cities is an 1859 novel by Charles Dickens that was set in Paris and London before and during the French Revolution. The book is considered one of the best-selling novels ranked 63rd on BBC's The Big Read poll. The Tale of Two Cities is focused on the narrative of a French Doctor Manette during his eighteen-year imprisonment in Paris and his release to stay with a daughter he had not met in his life (Dickens, 2017). The author has based this story against circumstances that influenced the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror. During the late 18th century, this period was characterized by the horrors of the French Revolution. In this regard, the novel The Tale of Two cities captures the aspects of terror and idealism during this revolutionary time.

In 1775, England and France were characterized by various social issues. Jerry Cruncher, who works for Tellson's Bank, stops at the Dover mail-coach with an urgent message for Jarvis Lorry. The message had instructions for Lorry to wait at Dover for a young lady, which he replied with the cryptic words, "Recalled to Life." At the meeting point, he meets Lucie Manette, a young orphan whose father, who was allegedly dead, was found in France. Lorry escorts Lucie to Paris, where they meet Defarge, who kept Doctor Manette safe in a tower.

The story progresses to 1780, where Charles Darnay stands accused of treason against the English royalty. It is not until Sydney Carton assists Darnay in the case that the court acquits him. Carton based his argument by stating that he bears a resemblance to the defendant, a factor that undermines the prosecution's case (Dickens, 2017). In France, Marquis Evremonde runs down a child with the carriage. A symbol of the attitude of aristocracy concerning the poor, he shows no remorse for his actions. Instead, he curses the commoners and goes home to his chateau as he waits for his nephew Darnay, from England. Upon arrival, Darnay disapproves of his uncle's actions and that of the French aristocracy for its poor treatment. Later that night, Marquis was murdered, and the murderer leaves a note signed with the nickname "Jacques" adopted by the French revolutionaries.

Darnay, after several years, asks Manette for permission to marry Lucie. He mentions that if Lucie accepts the proposal, he will reveal his true identity to Manette. On the other hand, Carton also assures Lucie of his love by saying that she helps him dream of a better and meaningful existence. Meanwhile, in London, English spy John Barsad goes into Defarge's wine shop. The objective is to find evidence concerning the revolution. Darnay, on the morning of his wedding, reveals his true identity to Manette, who later relapses to his old prison habit of making shoes. Upon Darnay's return from their honeymoon, Carton visits him to ensure they remain friends. He assures Carton that he is always welcome in their house.

In the year 1789, the French revolution began when the peasants in Paris storm the Bastille. These revolutionaries murder the aristocrats and Gabelle; a man who maintains the Evremonde estate is incarcerated. According to Dickens (2017), Gabelle writes to Darnay three years later, requesting to be rescued. Notwithstanding the danger ahead, Darnay leaves for France immediately. He was arrested as an emigrant soon as he arrived in Paris. Darnay stays in prison for a year and three months before he secures a trial. Due to Doctor Manette's influence with the revolutionaries, Darnay receives an acquittal but is arrested again that night. This time, the charges are from Defarge and his wife. Carton comes to Paris intending to save Darnay and obtain the help of John Barsad.

During Darnay's trial, Defarge provides a letter found in Manette's old cell in Bastille. The letter highlights the cause of Manette's imprisonment. The brothers Evremonde were outsourcing Manette's medical assistance for a woman one of the brothers had raped and her brother, who was stabbed. With the fear that Manette will report the case, the Evremonde had him jailed. Based on this story, the jury condemns Darnay for his ancestors' misdeeds and sentences him to death within twenty-four hours. At the Defarge's wine shop, Carton overhears Madame Defarge plotting Lucie's killing and her daughter. Seemingly Madame Defarge is the surviving sibling of the man and woman killed by the Evremondes.

Carton plans for Manette's departure from France. Later he visits Darnay in prison and tricks him into changing clothes. Carton writes a letter of explanation, and he drugs his friend. On the other hand, Barsad carries Darnay, disguised as Carton to a getaway coach, and Carton, who was impersonating Darnay, waits for the execution. As Darnay and his family leave France, Madame Defarge goes to Lucie's house to arrest her. She finds Miss Pross, and after a disagreement, Madame Defarge dies by the bullets of her gun. Following his decision, Sydney Carton dies at the guillotine. The novel ends as the narrator states that Carton dies with certainty that his life was meaningful.


Dickens, C. D. (2017). A tale of two cities. 


Published on: 21 Aug 2020

Academic Level:
Writer Category
Delivery Period:
Service Type
Pages / Slides
Words: 275    $ 17.82 Order