Here you will find a A Tale of Two Cities summary (Charles Dickens's book).
We begin with a summary of the entire book, and then you can read each individual chapter's summary by visiting the links on the "Chapters" section.
P.S.: As an Amazon Associate, we earn money from purchases made through links in this page. But the summaries are totally free!
Set in 1775, both France and England are experiencing societal distress. Jerry Cruncher, who is employed by Tellson’s Bank, intercepts the Dover mail-coach with a cryptic message for Jarvis Lorry regarding a young woman waiting at Dover. Lorry meets Lucie Manette, a young orphan, whose supposedly deceased father, a renowned doctor, has been found alive in France. Upon reaching Paris, they meet Defarge, who had been safeguarding Doctor Manette, driven to madness by his lengthy time in prison. Lucie's love and devotion manage to restore her father's sanity. Fast forward to 1780 where Charles Darnay is on trial for betraying the English crown. His trial is won with the help of Sydney Carton, who bears a striking resemblance to Darnay. This resemblance undermines the prosecution's claim of identifying Darnay as the spy they spotted. Carton harbors resentment towards Darnay for reminding him of what he could have been. Meanwhile, in France, the ruthless Marquis Evrémonde kills a commoner child with his carriage, showing no remorse. Darnay detests his uncle's callous treatment of the poor and disowns his identity as an Evrémonde. A year later, Darnay asks for Manette's approval to marry Lucie. He promises to reveal his real identity to Manette if Lucie accepts. That same night, Manette reverts to his old prison behavior of making shoes. Yet, after nine days, he regains his sanity and joins the newlyweds on their honeymoon. The French Revolution begins in 1789, with Darnay returning to France despite the danger, in response to a plea from Gabelle. Arrested upon his arrival, he remains in prison for over a year until Manette's influence secures his release. However, he is arrested again the same night. Sydney Carton arrives in Paris with a plan to rescue Darnay, tricking him into changing clothes with him, and awaiting execution in his place. Carton meets his death at the guillotine, finally finding some meaning in his life.
Dickens briefly acknowledges that his motivation for A Tale of Two Cities was sparked by his participation in his friend Wilkie Collins's play, The Frozen Deep. He hopes to enhance his readers’ perception of the French Revolution—a time he refers to as “that terrible time.” However, he humbly suggests that comprehending the event in full depth may be a feat only accomplished by Thomas Carlyle’s The French Revolution, released in 1837.
This short section grounds us in the time and place of the story: 1775 in England and France. The period is characterized by a mix of good and bad—"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times"—and mirrors the time when Dickens was writing. In England, people are concerned with religious prophecies, the supposed "Cock-lane ghost," and messages from British subjects in America to King George III. Contrastingly, France is dealing with extravagant spending and excessive violence, foreshadowing the use of the guillotine. Nevertheless, England's social peace and order also have flaws, with high crime rates and prevalent capital punishment.
In the latter part of November 1775, a mail coach is on a risky trip from London to Dover. The voyage is so perilous that its three occupants must walk next to it as it ascends a difficult incline. Amidst the thick fog, a courier on a horse emerges, seeking Jarvis Lorry from Tellson’s Bank. The group reacts with apprehension, suspecting a thief or bandit. Mr. Lorry, on the other hand, identifies the courier as Jerry Cruncher, a handyman from Tellson’s, and agrees to receive his note. Jerry hands him a message that states, “Wait at Dover for Mam’selle.” Lorry advises Jerry to relay this response to Tellson’s: “Recalled to Life.” Jerry, puzzled and disturbed by the cryptic command, proceeds to deliver the message.
The storyteller contemplates over the enigmas each person holds for another, exemplified by Lorry's journey in the mail coach with two unfamiliar faces. Slipping into a half-sleep state, he dreamily ponders over the operations of Tellson’s bank. Yet, one constant thought prevails—his mission to unearth someone from their grave. Lorry envisions repeated dialogues with a phantom, who mentions being buried for almost eighteen years. Lorry updates the ghost that he has been “recalled to life” and questions if it wishes to exist. He intriguingly questions, “Shall I show her to you? Will you come and see her?” The apparition reacts inconsistently—sometimes professing that the sight of the woman would kill him prematurely, while at other instances, he sobs and implores to meet her right away.
Lorry arrives at the Royal George Hotel in Dover the following day. He changes from his traveling attire and appears as a refined businessman in his sixties. Later that day, Lucie Manette, described as petite, attractive, and youthful, comes from London. She's received news from the bank about a recent finding related to her late father's modest estate. Lorry, maintaining his professional demeanor, discloses the genuine purpose of the bank's call to Lucie in Paris. Her father, a once reputable physician, is alive. Lorry tells her that her father has been brought to an old servant's home in Paris. Their mission is clear: Lorry has to recognize him, and Lucie's job is to revive him, instill love, duty, rest, and comfort in him. This revelation leaves Lucie in a state of shock, prompting her lively and caring servant, Miss Pross, to rush to her side.
The scene transitions from Dover, England to Saint Antoine, a poverty-stricken district in Paris. A barrel of wine breaks open on the street, causing a frenzy as people scramble to salvage the spilled wine. Men gather the wine from the street, while women soak up the wine with cloth to feed to their babies. A man writes the word 'blood' on a wall using the wine. The local wine shop is owned by Monsieur Defarge, a commanding man in his thirties. His wife, Madame Defarge, is a vigilant woman who oversees everything from behind the counter. She alerts her husband to the arrival of an elderly man and a young woman – Lorry and Lucie. Defarge discreetly observes them while engaging with three regular customers, who call each other “Jacques” – a secret code indicating their revolutionary affiliations. After guiding the men to a room on the fifth floor, Defarge is approached by Mr. Lorry for a private discussion. Following their brief exchange, Defarge escorts Lorry and Lucie up a perilous flight of stairs to a grimy room. Here, the three "Jacques" are peeping through gaps in the wall. Defarge justifies his unveiling of Doctor Manette to a select few, claiming it is likely to serve a good cause. He then introduces them to the sight of an old man engrossed in making shoes.
Manette, with a voice weakened from isolation, reveals that he's crafting a woman's shoe in the current style, without having seen the contemporary fashion. When asked his name, he replies, “One Hundred and Five, North Tower.” Lucie then approaches him. Observing her bright golden locks, Manette unties a cloth around his neck, revealing a bundle of similar golden hair. Initially, Manette confuses Lucie for his wife, reminiscing about the early days of his captivity, when he pleaded to keep some stray hairs from his wife as a spiritual respite. Lucie pleads with her father to express his emotions if her voice or hair revives memories of a dear one from his past. She subtly reminds him of the home waiting for him, assuring him that his “agony is over.” Overwhelmed with emotions, Manette crumbles; Lucie insists on immediate plans for their departure to England. Lorry objects due to concerns for Manette's health, but Lucie asserts that journeying poses less risk than remaining in Paris. Defarge concurs and leads them into a carriage.
The year is 1780. Tellson’s Bank, situated near Temple Bar in London, is a small, dark and unwelcoming establishment, an image it proudly maintains as a sign of its reputable standing. The spot, historically used to display the heads of executed criminals, underscores the prevailing theme of death in that era, used as a common punishment for crimes ranging from forgery to horse theft. Jerry Cruncher, a runner and messenger for the bank, lives in a lowly part of the city. He begins his day by reprimanding his wife for allegedly 'praying against' him, even flinging his muddy boot at her. By nine in the morning, he and his son are stationed outside Tellson’s Bank, awaiting orders. When called upon for an errand indoors, Cruncher leaves his son alone, who ponders over the recurring presence of rust on his father’s hands.
Cruncher is sent by the bank clerk to Old Bailey Courthouse to wait for Jarvis Lorry's directions. He finds Charles Darnay, an attractive, well-mannered man, being accused of treason. Cruncher barely comprehends the legal terms used but gathers that Darnay is charged with leaking confidential information to the French king (Louis XVI). This secret information is about England's plans to dispatch troops to the American colonies. Darnay glances at a young woman and a distinguished man, sparking whispers among the court attendees about their identities. Cruncher later learns that these two are to testify against Darnay.
The case against Darnay is presented by the Attorney-General, who urges the jury to declare him guilty of delivering English secrets to the French. John Barsad, brought forward by the Solicitor-General, gives evidence backing this argument. Yet during cross-questioning, Barsad's seemingly virtuous image is stained by revelations of past imprisonment for debt and gambling disputes. The prosecution's next witness, Roger Cly, is similarly shown by defense lawyer Mr. Stryver to be a dubious source. Subsequently, Mr. Lorry testifies, stating that he did not recognize his fellow travelers during a carriage ride with the accused due to their heavy clothing. The same queries are posed to Lucie, who Darnay had previously taken interest in. She acknowledges meeting Darnay on a return trip to England, and shares how he assisted her with her ailing father, seemingly supporting his defense. Her testimony takes a negative turn, however, when she discloses Darnay's comments praising George Washington - a potentially treasonous sentiment. Doctor Manette, Lucie's father, also testifies but pleads amnesia due to his sickness. During another unproductive cross-examination, Sydney Carton, a brash junior associate of Mr. Stryver, sends him a note. The contents of this note lead to a dramatic turn in the trial as it points out Carton's striking resemblance to the accused, Darnay. This lookalike situation confounds the court's confidence in positively identifying Darnay as the spy in question. After deliberation, the jury, now unsure, acquits Darnay.
Following their exit from court, Doctor Manette, Lucie, Mr. Lorry, Mr. Stryver, and Darnay continue their day. Despite the occasional dark clouds of his past, Manette is well-respected in society. Lucie sees herself as the "golden thread" connecting her father to a life outside his past sorrows. Darnay expresses his gratitude to Stryver for his help in court and then shares a tender moment with Lucie. As the group disperses, Sydney Carton, inebriated, emerges from the background. Mr. Lorry reprimands him for his lack of professionalism. Together, Darnay and Carton head to a pub where Carton, with a smug grin, ponders if being tried for one's life is worth Lucie's compassion. Noticing his drunken state, Darnay questions Carton. Carton's response is one of disillusionment and loneliness: “I am a disappointed drudge, sir. I care for no man on earth, and no man on earth cares for me.” After Darnay’s departure, Carton scornfully regards his own reflection and his doppelgänger, reminders of his own failings.
Sydney Carton, described as the "idlest and most unpromising of men," strolls towards Mr. Stryver's dwelling after leaving the pub. The two friends share a drink, discussing the recent legal proceedings. Stryver, also known as "the lion," praises his companion, "the jackal," on the excellent point he raised in court about Darnay's identity. However, he criticizes Carton's unpredictable mood, which has been a constant since their school days - "now in spirits and now in despondency!" Carton dismisses Stryver's claim of his lack of life purpose. Unable to compete with Stryver's lofty goals, Carton justifies that his only option is to lead a life "in rust and repose." Stryver diverts the conversation to Lucie, admiring her attractiveness. Carton refers to her as a "golden-haired doll," but Stryver questions if Carton is hiding his real emotions for her.
Several months forward, Mr. Lorry pays a visit to the Manette household. With the doctor and his daughter absent, he engages in conversation with Miss Pross. Their discussion revolves around Doctor Manette's persistent possession of his cobbler's bench and Lucie's numerous suitors. Miss Pross expresses her annoyance at the constant stream of suitors, deeming them unworthy. She views her brother, Solomon, as the only suitable match for Lucie. However, she is aware of the unfortunate mistake that rules him out. Lorry, on the other hand, knows about Solomon's deceitful past, which left Miss Pross destitute. Lorry inquires if Doctor Manette has resumed his shoemaking practice, to which Pross responds negatively, stating that the doctor has moved on from his past traumatic incarceration. As Lucie and her father return home, Darnay joins them and recounts an odd incident. He tells them about a laborer who found a carving on a prison cell wall in the Tower of London. Initially, it seemed like random initials, but the worker soon decoded the word "dig". Upon following the instruction, he found burnt remnants of a note. The tale leaves Manette taken aback, but he quickly regains composure. Later, Carton joins the group and they gather near a window. The echo of footsteps from the street below is overwhelming. Lucie theorizes that the footsteps could belong to people destined to cross their paths in the future. Carton amusingly suggests that if this were the case, a large crowd must be in transit towards them.
A nobleman at the royal court, Monseigneur, entertains guests in Paris amidst grandeur and opulence. He requires four servants to assist him in drinking his chocolate, highlighting his extravagance. The narrator comments on the corrupting influence of Monseigneur's wealth. Monseigneur briefly interacts with his guests before retreating. Guest Marquis Evrémonde expresses his displeasure at Monseigneur's arrogance as he leaves. Marquis Evrémonde finds pleasure in recklessly speeding his carriage through city streets, narrowly avoiding pedestrians. Suddenly, his carriage stops abruptly having hit a child, who now lies lifeless under its wheels. The Marquis throws a few coins to the grieving father, Gaspard, and to Defarge, the local wine shop owner trying to console him. As the Marquis departs, a coin is flung back into his carriage, thrown in resentment. He reacts by cursing the common people, claiming he'd happily trample them underfoot. All throughout, Madame Defarge observes, ceaselessly knitting.
The Marquis reaches a poverty-stricken village under his dominion, where the oppressed and malnourished inhabitants dwell. He singles out a road-worker, disturbed by the man's unwavering gaze during his journey. The worker reveals that he was staring because someone was clinging to the undercarriage of the Marquis' carriage. Moving on, the Marquis encounters a grieving woman beside a simple grave, who pleads for some form of memorial for her deceased husband. The Marquis, unmoved, dismisses her and heads for his chateau. Upon arrival, he inquires about Monsieur Charles' arrival from England.
Charles Darnay, the Marquis' nephew, arrives at his uncle's chateau one evening. He expresses his desire to abandon the family's title and wealth, which he'll acquire when the Marquis passes away. Darnay believes the family's name symbolizes "fear and slavery." He argues that the family has consistently behaved poorly, "injuring every human creature who came between us and our pleasure." Despite his nephew's objections, the Marquis advises Darnay to embrace his "natural destiny." The following day, the Marquis is discovered dead, stabbed in the heart. The murder weapon has a note attached, stating: "Drive him fast to his tomb. This, from Jacques."
One year on, Darnay earns a modest income teaching French in London. He pays a visit to Doctor Manette, confessing his feelings for Lucie. He respects Manette's unique bond with his daughter, ensuring him that his affections for Lucie won't disrupt their relationship. Impressed by Darnay's sincerity, Manette inquires if Darnay wants a pledge from him. Darnay requests Manette to confirm his genuine love for Lucie, if she ever questions it. Manette agrees. Desiring to be completely open, Darnay tries to disclose his true identity, admitting Darnay isn't his real name. However, Manette interrupts him, making him pledge to unveil his real name only if he wins Lucie's heart. He will learn Darnay's secret on his wedding day. Several hours after Darnay's departure, Lucie finds her father working on his shoemaking. Her concern grows upon his regression and she vigilantly watches over him as he sleeps that evening.
In the late hours, Carton and Stryver are busy in Stryver’s office. Displaying his inflated ego, Stryver reveals his plans to wed Lucie. Carton, resorting to alcohol, reassures Stryver that the declaration doesn't bother him. Stryver proposes that Carton should consider marrying a "some respectable woman with a little property" to avoid a future of sickness and poverty.
Stryver has his heart set on proposing to Lucie at the Vauxhall Gardens the following day. He shares his plans with Mr. Lorry at Tellson's Bank, who advises him to delay the proposal until he's certain Lucie would say yes. This advice agitates Stryver, causing him to nearly call Lucie a "mincing Fool." Lorry, however, cautions him not to disrespect Lucie and requests for more time to discuss with the family where Stryver actually stands in their view. Later that evening, Lorry relays to Stryver that his suspicions were correct; the Manettes would not approve of his proposal. Stryver brushes off the rejection, attributing it to the "vanities" of "empty-headed girls," and tells Lorry to disregard the entire situation.
Carton, often seen loitering near the Manettes' residence, surprises Lucie one August day with a visit. A noticeable change in his demeanor catches her attention. He expresses his regret over his misspent years and the bleak outlook he has on his future. However, Lucie reassures him, expressing her belief that he can improve and rebuild himself. Despite Carton's negative self-view and his belief that he is beyond redemption, he confesses to Lucie that she is "the last dream of [his] soul." She has inspired him to contemplate starting afresh, even though he doubts the feasibility of this. Sharing this with Lucie gives him a sense of happiness, knowing that he is still capable of eliciting sympathy. Carton concludes his admission by vowing that he would sacrifice his life for Lucie if necessary.
Jerry Cruncher spots a funeral procession outside Tellson's Bank one morning. He finds out they're about to inter Roger Cly, a spy who testified against Darnay in his trial. Cruncher joins the diverse crowd, involving a chimney-sweep, bear-leader with his decrepit bear, and a pieman. Post a rowdy funeral service and a few drinks, they bury Cly. For entertainment, they decide to blame random people for spying, with the intention of exacting "vengeance on them". That evening, Cruncher chastises his wife again for praying, before declaring he's off "fishing". However, he truly plans to exhume Cly's body to sell to scientists. His son, unknown to Cruncher, trails him to the graveyard, but frightens and flees, thinking the coffin is pursuing him. The following day, he inquires his father about what a "Resurrection-Man" does—basically, people like Cruncher who disinter bodies for science. He discloses his aspiration of pursuing this line of work when he grows up.
In the French capital, Defarge brings a road mender, referred to as “Jacques,” into his shop. Following his entry, three men leave the shop separately. Both Defarge and the road mender ascend to the attic, a past hiding spot of Doctor Manette. The three men, also referred to as “Jacques” by Defarge, join them there. The road mender retells an event from a year before. He saw a man chained under the Marquis’ carriage, who, months later, was escorted by soldiers to jail. The man was charged with the Marquis' murder and faced execution as a parricide (a relative's killer). Despite pleas to spare his life reaching Paris, he was publicly hanged as a gallows was built in the town center. After the road mender concludes his story, Defarge asks him to step outside briefly. The other "Jacques" demand the aristocracy's eradication. One highlights Madame Defarge's knitting, a coded list of the would-be victims of their revolution. He questions if she will always be able to interpret the coded names. Later, the Defarges escort the road mender to Versailles to witness King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette. Upon seeing the royals, the road mender yells “Long live the King!” and becomes overly enthusiastic, forcing Defarge to prevent him from attacking the royals. The Defarges find this act satisfying, realizing their plans would be easier if the aristocrats continue to trust the peasants.
Later that night, the Defarges return to Saint Antoine. A friend in the police force alerts Defarge about a spy, John Barsad, in their vicinity. Madame Defarge decides to weave Barsad's name into her knitting register. Defarge, fearing the revolution may not happen within his lifetime, shares his concerns with his wife. Madame Defarge reassures him, comparing the revolution to a lightning bolt or an earthquake - unpredictable but powerful. The next day, Barsad shows up at their wine shop, pretending to support the revolutionaries. He talks about the unjust treatment of peasants. Aware of Defarge's past as Doctor Manette’s servant, Barsad informs him that Lucie Manette is getting married to Darnay, the Marquis’ nephew. Once Barsad leaves, Madame Defarge weaves Darnay’s name into her register, causing some unease in Defarge, considering his past loyalties to the Manette family.
On the brink of Lucie's nuptials with Darnay, she and her father, Dr. Manette, have basked in many blissful days together. Manette has finally started to overcome the trauma of his incarceration. He opens up about his time in the Bastille for the first time since his release, reflecting on his thoughts of what Lucie might become. Lucie has brought him immense joy and has been his source of "consolation and restoration." Later that evening, Lucie quietly visits her father's room and finds him in a peaceful slumber.
Before heading to their wedding ceremony, Darnay has a discussion with Doctor Manette, who appears extremely pale after their conversation. Once Darnay and Lucie are wed, they leave for their honeymoon and a noticeable shift occurs in Manette's demeanor; he appears frightened and confused. Later in the day, Miss Pross and Mr. Lorry find him in a confused state at his shoemaker’s bench. They worry he might not recover in time to join the newlyweds on their honeymoon as expected. For the following nine days, they watch over him attentively.
Lorry awakens on the tenth day to see the shoemaker's bench put away and Dr. Manette engrossed in a book. Lorry gently questions Manette about the possible trigger for his recent relapse, framing it as if it happened to someone else. Manette thinks that the relapse was likely due to a powerful memory being stimulated. He assures Lorry and Miss Pross that a similar episode is unlikely as the circumstances that led to it probably won't reoccur. Lorry, still speaking hypothetically about the situation, brings up the example of a blacksmith. He questions if the blacksmith should be deprived of his tools if they are associated with distressing memories. Manette believes that the man uses the tools to soothe his tormented mind and should be allowed to keep them. But in the end, Manette agrees to let Lorry get rid of his tools for Lucie's peace of mind while he is away. When Manette leaves to join Lucie and Darnay a few days later, Lorry and Miss Pross take the opportunity to destroy the shoemaker's bench and dispose of the tools.
Following Lucie and Darnay's return from their honeymoon, Sydney Carton pays them a visit. He admits his past drunken behavior during the trial, and humbly seeks Darnay's friendship. He pleads, “If you could endure to have such a worthless fellow . . . coming and going at odd times, I should ask that I might be permitted to come and go as a privileged person [in the household]. . . .” After Carton departs, Darnay remarks on his careless and impulsive nature. However, Lucie takes issue with this harsh assessment, arguing that Carton has a good heart, albeit a hurt one. Touched by Lucie's empathy, Darnay pledges to look upon Carton's flaws with understanding.
Time passes, and Lucie's family leads a peaceful life. She has a daughter, named little Lucie, and a son who unfortunately doesn't survive long. Lucie still has a tendency to sit in a corner of the living room, listening to the footsteps echoing from the street. By 1789, these echoes seem to resonate "from a distance" and sound "as of a great storm in France with a dreadful sea rising". On a July day, Lorry stops by the Darnays', sharing that an increasing number of French folks are shifting their wealth and assets to England. We then move to the violent siege of the Bastille in Paris. The Defarges play key roles in the crowd. Once within the Bastille, Defarge seizes a guard and insists on being led to 105 North Tower. He performs a thorough search of the cell. Once done, he re-joins the crowd that is in the process of killing and disfiguring the governor who had attempted to protect the fortress. Madame Defarge ends up severing the man’s head.
Defarge comes to Saint Antoine a week later with news that Foulon, a rich man who once suggested that the hungry should eat grass, had been captured. Foulon had pretended to be dead to escape the wrath of the peasants but was found hidden in the countryside. Madame Defarge and a woman called The Vengeance lead the revolutionaries to find Foulon. The crowd tries to hang Foulon, but the rope snaps and it takes three attempts for him to die. Afterward, his head is placed on a spike and grass is stuffed in his mouth. The peasants then go about their lives, eating their meager meals, parents indulging with their kids, and lovers expressing their affection.
The French rural landscape is in ruins. A weary traveller comes across a road repairer. Both men use the name "Jacques", a code indicating they are part of the revolution. The road mender guides the man to the demolished Marquis' mansion. That night, the man sets the mansion ablaze. A messenger from the mansion implores the village warriors to help douse the fire and rescue the treasures, but they decline. The villagers retreat to their houses and place "candles in every dull little pane of glass". Gabelle, the tax collector, narrowly escapes death at the hands of the peasants and retreats to his rooftop, where he witnesses the mansion's destruction. The narration reveals that similar scenes are unfolding across France.
Over a span of three years, political unrest continues to plague France, forcing aristocrats to seek asylum in England. Tellson’s Bank in London becomes an important hub for such aristocrats. Mr. Lorry is selected by Tellson's for a crucial mission to its Paris branch to secure important documents from potential damage. Despite Darnay's attempts to deter him, Lorry remains resolute in his decision, picking Jerry Cruncher as his security. Lorry then comes into possession of an urgent missive meant for the elusive Marquis St. Evrémonde. The task of delivering the letter is fraught with difficulty as the Marquis has deserted his inherited estate. Darnay, ever careful not to disclose his hidden identity as the absent Marquis, assures Lorry that he is familiar with the Marquis. Taking the letter from Lorry, he promises to see it safely delivered. On reading the letter, Darnay discovers an impassioned plea from Gabelle, who is imprisoned by the revolutionaries for his role in managing the Marquis' estate. Gabelle implores the new Marquis to return to France and rescue him. Inspired by a "glorious vision of doing good," Darnay decides to go to Paris. He pens a farewell letter to Lucie and Doctor Manette and sets off on his journey.
Darnay's journey to France is fraught with obstacles; he's interrogated by hostile rebels frequently. Upon reaching Paris, he's arrested by the revolutionaries and imprisoned in La Force. Despite Darnay's assertion of his rights, the guard dismisses him, claiming as an emigrant, he has none. Identified as Evrémonde, he's handed over to Defarge under the strict orders of "In secret." As he is taken away, a conversation ensues between him and the wine merchant Defarge. Defarge questions Darnay's decision to come back in the era of the feared "La Guillotine." Darnay seeks help from Defarge, but receives none. Inside La Force, Darnay feels like he's entered a realm of the deceased. Another inmate greets him and hopes that he won't be kept "in secret"- a term for solitary confinement. However, Darnay is indeed sentenced to solitary confinement, and he is soon locked up in a small cell of "five paces by four and a half."
Lucie and Doctor Manette frantically seek Mr. Lorry at the Paris division of Tellson’s Bank, revealing Darnay's incarceration in La Force. Despite the grim situation, Manette believes his past as a Bastille prisoner might aid in freeing his son-in-law. Lorry ushers Lucie to the bank's back room for a confidential conversation with Manette. They watch a crowd outside, sharpening weaponry on a grindstone, and Lorry reveals their intent to slaughter the captives. Hearing this, Manette throws himself into the mob, causing a shout to erupt: “Help for the Bastille prisoner’s kindred in La Force!”
Concerned for the bank's interests, Lorry quickly secures a nearby dwelling for Lucie, her child, and Miss Pross. He assigns Jerry Cruncher as their protector. Soon, Defarge visits Lorry at Tellson’s with a message from Manette. Acting on Manette's directions, Lorry introduces Defarge to Lucie. Defarge insists Madame Defarge must meet Lucie, her daughter, and Miss Pross to safeguard them in the future. The Vengeance, another woman, joins them too. At the temporary accommodation, Defarge hands Lucie a letter from the captive Darnay, encouraging her to stay strong. Desperate, Lucie pleads to Madame Defarge for Darnay's leniency. But Madame Defarge sternly retorts that the revolution will not halt for Lucie or her kin.
Manette comes back from La Force four days later, appearing more robust and powerful, a stark contrast to his prior frail state. He reveals to Lorry that he managed to convince the Tribunal, the group overseeing the judgement of the revolution's captives, to spare Darnay's life. He also landed a role as the examining doctor of three penitentiaries, including La Force, allowing him to keep a protective eye on Darnay. As time flows, France enters a tumultuous era; the monarchs are executed and the guillotine turns into a permanent sight in the city. Despite these events, Darnay survives in jail for one year and three months.
While awaiting Darnay's court date, Manette advises Lucie of a specific window in the jail where Darnay might spot her. Daily, for a duo of hours, Lucie situates herself in a spot that Darnay can see from within. A local wood-sawyer chats with Lucie during her wait, jesting that his saw is a guillotine (marked as “Little Sainte Guillotine”) and every chunk of wood he chops represents a captive's head. Suddenly, a crowd of people recklessly dancing the fierce Carmagnole floods the street. Once the dancers dissipate, a shaken Lucie is met by her father. As he consoles her, they encounter Madame Defarge. Following a formal exchange with Madame Defarge, Manette informs Lucie of Darnay's looming trial, promising her that her spouse will manage well.
Charles Darnay's trial brings together a mixed and violent audience. The crowd is elated when it's revealed that Doctor Manette is Darnay’s father-in-law. The court listens to Darnay, Manette, and Gabelle, providing evidence that Darnay discarded his nobility title as a sign of his disdain for the nobles' mistreatment of the poor. Added to this, being the son-in-law of the much-respected martyr Manette helps convince the jury to let him go. Following his acquittal, the crowd jubilantly lifts Darnay onto their shoulders and carries him home.
Despite Dr. Manette's joy over sparing Darnay from death, Lucie continues to fear for her husband's safety. That very afternoon, she grows anxious at the sound of unknown footsteps and a knock at their door. Darnay is taken into custody once more by four soldiers. Dr. Manette objects, but a soldier retorts that if the Republic requires a sacrifice, it is his duty to comply. Dr. Manette queries about the person who accused Darnay. Despite it being unlawful to reveal such details, it's disclosed that the arrest is based on claims made by the Defarges and a third, anonymous individual. The soldier promises that the name of the third accuser will be disclosed the following day.
Jerry Cruncher and Miss Pross unexpectedly stumble upon Miss Pross's long-lost brother, Solomon, who is in disguise as a spy for the Republic. He chides his sister for drawing attention to their reunion. Cruncher identifies Solomon as the same man who testified against Darnay in his England trial more than a decade ago. Sydney Carton, appearing out of nowhere, reminds Cruncher of the man's alias: Barsad. Carton confesses that he's been in Paris for a day, waiting for the right moment. He warns Barsad that he'll disclose his true identity to the mobs unless Barsad joins him at Tellson’s. When they reach Tellson’s, Carton reveals to Mr. Lorry and Cruncher that Darnay is under arrest again. Carton learned this from overhearing Barsad's bar conversation. Carton has formulated a rescue plan for Darnay should he be found guilty, and he threatens Barsad with exposure of being an English spy if he doesn't play along. Carton mentions that he observed Barsad talking to Roger Cly, another suspected English spy. As Barsad insists Cly is dead, even producing a burial record, Cruncher refutes his claim saying Cly's coffin was filled with stones and dirt, not Cly. Carton accepts Cruncher’s cryptic details and reiterates his threat to Barsad. With no other choice, Barsad concedes and agrees to assist Carton with his covert operation.
Lorry chastises Cruncher for his undisclosed activities (grave-digging) beyond his Tellson's employment. Cruncher insinuates that many doctors who are Tellson's clients might be involved in similar activities. To make amends, Cruncher offers to officially become a gravedigger and allow his son to take over his tasks at the bank, if Lorry allows it. Once Barsad departs, Carton reveals to Lorry and Cruncher his plan to visit Darnay prior to his execution. He shares his belief that a life without love is a wasted life, to which Lorry concurs. Wandering Paris streets at night, Carton's mind is filled with thoughts of Lucie. He purchases an enigmatic substance from a chemist. As he does, he recalls a phrase from his father's funeral: "I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me, shall never die." After helping a little girl across the street, who rewards him with a kiss, the priest's words resonate in his mind once more. He meanders until dawn, then heads to the courtroom for Darnay's hearing. The judge identifies Darnay's accusers: the Defarges and Doctor Manette. Manette, shocked, denies ever accusing Darnay. Defarge then presents a letter he discovered at the Bastille's 105 North Tower.
Defarge discloses a letter by Manette, penned during his Bastille confinement. It chronicles Manette's past. In 1757, Manette was summoned by two siblings, one being the Marquis Evrémonde (Darnay's father) while the other was destined to be the next Marquis (Darnay's uncle, who had previously run over a child with his carriage), to attend a seriously ill young peasant woman and her fatally wounded brother. The woman had been sexually assaulted by the Marquis' brother, leading to her husband's death and her brother's stabbing. Despite Manette's efforts, the woman did not survive. A day later, a compassionate woman, the Marquis' wife and Darnay's mother, approached Manette. Upon learning about the tragic fate of the peasant girl and her family, she decides to assist the girl's concealed sister, whom the Marquis had been unsuccessful in locating. However, Manette was unaware of the sister's location. The very next day, Manette was whisked away to Bastille, imprisoned by Marquis Evrémonde's command. After discovering this narrative, the jury condemns Darnay to death, to atone for his father's and uncle's crimes.
Following Darnay's sentencing, the audience spills onto the streets in jubilation. John Barsad, in charge of leading Darnay to his cell, permits Lucie a final embrace with her spouse. Darnay urges Doctor Manette not to harbor guilt for the trial's result. Subsequently, Darnay is led away to his cell to meet his fate the next day, while Carton accompanies the mourning Lucie home. He suggests Manette to utilize his influence once more with the prosecutors and then rendezvous with him at Tellson’s. Lorry, however, sees no hope for Darnay, a sentiment shared by Carton.
Carton visits Defarge’s liquor store, shocking the Defarges with his striking resemblance to the sentenced Darnay. Eavesdropping, Carton learns of Madame Defarge’s intent to charge Lucie, Manette, and Lucie’s child as spies. Despite Defarge's reluctance, his wife insists due to her personal vendetta against the Evrémonde lineage, as she's the last surviving kin of the duo murdered by the Marquis and his sibling. She demands the termination of their descendants. Carton settles his bill and heads back to Tellson’s. When the clock strikes midnight, Manette gets home in a state of mental disarray, frantically searching for his cobbler’s bench. Post soothing Manette, Carton extracts the necessary papers for Lucie, the doctor, and the child’s escape from the doctor’s jacket. He hands these to Lorry. Subsequently, he provides Lorry his personal papers without any explanation. Fearing that the permits may be revoked due to Madame Defarge's plot to condemn the entire family, Carton urges Lorry to hurry; the family must evacuate the next day. Left alone on the streets that night, Carton whispers a heartfelt final adieu and blessing to Lucie.
The fate of fifty-two individuals is decided - execution awaits them the following day. Darnay decides to face his impending death with courage. Unexpectedly, Carton arrives at Darnay's prison cell, his visage somehow brighter. Deceptively, Carton persuades Darnay to swap clothes with him, concocts a note explaining the situation, and then incapacitates him with a chemist's potion. He instructs Barsad to transport the unresponsive Darnay to a carriage parked by Tellson's. By two in the morning, jailers escort who they believe is Darnay—now Carton—from the cell. Carton becomes one amongst the long queue of those condemned. A wrongly convicted seamstress recognizes that Carton is not Darnay and questions, “Are you dying for him?” Carton replies, “And his wife and child.” Between time, Barsad delivers the true Darnay to Manette, Lorry, and Lucie, and the carriage departs hastily. As they exit the city, Lorry presents the necessary documents at the city gates. They make a hurried escape into the countryside, constantly worrying about being chased.
Madame Defarge sets off to Lucie's home, hoping to find her engaged in the unlawful act of prisoner grieving. She thinks this will help indict the family. At the residence, Miss Pross and Jerry Cruncher are readying to leave Paris. To sidestep any suspicion, Miss Pross instructs Cruncher to await at the cathedral with their carriage. Once Cruncher is gone, Madame Defarge storms in, eager to learn Lucie's location. The ladies clash, and Madame Defarge pulls out a gun. In the ensuing dispute, Miss Pross ends up shooting her. She later rendezvous with Cruncher at the cathedral and conveys that she's lost her hearing due to the gunfire.
As Carton and the young seamstress approach the guillotine, the revolutionary women, including The Vengeance, fret over the potential absence of Madame Defarge at Charles Darnay's execution. The seamstress, however, muses about the future, hoping the Republic may improve conditions for the impoverished like her and her surviving kin. She bids Carton goodbye with a kiss before bravely meeting her end, followed shortly by Carton. The narrator describes Carton's final moments, with onlookers noting a serene and almost visionary countenance. The narrator strongly suggests Carton's final contemplations were about the rebuilding of Paris post-revolution and the prosperity of the crowd gathered, despite their current role as tormentors. In his envisaged last moments, he sees domestic bliss for Lucie, Darnay, and their child who shares his name. He also sees a contented Manette and a long, tranquil life for Lorry. He envisions a future where he is remembered fondly by these loved ones and by future generations. Carton's name shines bright as past misdeeds are forgotten. The narrator believes Carton's final understanding is that, "It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known." Lastly, the narrator imagines a radiant city and its inhabitants rising from the depths of despair. Amidst their fight for genuine freedom, the evils of the current era are slowly being paid for and diminished.