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Free Study Guide-A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens-Free BookNotes
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Chapter Fourteen: The Knitting Done

Summary

While Darnay is being rescued, Madame Defarge sits in conference with The Vengeance and Jacques Three in the wood- sawyer's shop. She has decided to go ahead with the prosecution of Darnay's family without her husband's knowledge. She declares her intention of strengthening her case against Lucie by visiting her immediately. She is sure to catch Lucie mourning over her husband's execution; she may even get Lucie to denounce the Republic in her miserable and vulnerable state. Madame Defarge can then uses her words to convict her. Madame Defarge instructs The Vengeance to take her knitting and wait for her at the guillotine.

Miss Pross and Jerry Cruncher have been left behind and plan to leave by the three o'clock coach. They have seen the carriage with Darnay in it speed safely away and are making the final preparations for their own departure. Miss Pross instructs Jerry Cruncher to go and get the carriage and wait for her outside Notre Dame Cathedral.


Madame Defarge arrives ten minutes after Jerry's departure. She demands to know where Lucie is. Miss Pross places herself in front of the door to Lucie's chamber and attempts some explanation. Neither woman understands the other, for they speak in their own language. Miss Pross, however, clearly senses Madame Defarge's evil intentions. Madame Defarge, realizing that the other rooms are vacant, suspects that the family has escaped. She attempts to open the door behind Miss Pross to have proof of her suspicions. Miss Pross knows that the longer she keeps Madame Defarge from discovering that the room is empty, the greater the chance for the fugitives to escape. As a result, she struggles with Madame Defarge, who reaches for her knife. Miss Pross' arms encircle Defarge's waist and do not allow her access to the knife. She then reaches for the gun hidden in her blouse, but Miss Pross hits it away. The gun goes off with a crash and instantly kills Madame Defarge. The sound of the gunfire deafens Miss Pross for life.

Notes

Madame Defarge meets her end in this chapter, and the reader is made to feel that Dickens is almost too kind to her in the end, for she dies without pain or punishment. The fight between Miss Pross and Madame Defarge can be described as the clash of Titans. Both women are very strong and determined to get their way. Ironically, they fight over Lucie; but Miss Pross fights out of love for Lucie, and Madame Defarge fights out of hatred for her. When Miss Pross identifies her enemy as the wife of Lucifer, she is close to correct.

Dickens' faith in divine providence and the goodness of life is exemplified in the outcome of this struggle. In the end, love triumphs in the battle, and hatred is put to death in the figure of Madame Defarge. The outcome of this fight is parallel to the escape of Darnay. Because of Carton's love of Lucie and his willingness to sacrifice himself to make her happy, love again triumphs over the hatred of the revolutionaries.

The pace in this penultimate chapter of the book is frenetic, and the atmosphere is charged with great apprehension. Up until the preceding chapter, evil has reigned supreme, with no victories for the innocents. In addition, the reader has been made to fear Madame Defarge throughout the novel. She comes to Lucie's lodging with hatred in her heart and death on her mind; she is armed with a knife and a gun. It would seem that Miss Pross has little hope to succeed against this demon. The only way for Dickens to handle the struggle positively is to end it with irony.

It is Madame Defarges own gun, used to kill many innocents, that accidentally goes off and leads to her sudden and melodramatic death.

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