One Joker and Two Idealists

I love it when a plan comes together and I love the way this plan is brought to life. From an angst ridden beginning in which Darnay comes to terms with the fact that he is soon to die to his slow awakening in a coach with something clutched in his hand is, for me, the most exciting  part of the story.

It is filled with heart-stopping moments which precurse Hitchcock’s films by a good eighty years and add fuel to Ben’s comments on Dickens’ use of psychology. Staging the action in three steps and using changes in the pace of time he has Darnay himself ‘recalled to life’ from the certain death he has accepted as being his lot.

Knowing that he will soon be one of Mme. Guillotine’s victims he gradually relaxes and dashes of three letters, sleeps and dreams two dreams, reflections of Manettes visions in the Bastille. With the advent of morning he waits the day out, pacing and counting the hours until his name will be called to mount a tumbril to journey to the slaughterhouse  in Place de la Concorde. Slowly his pacing turns into a strut and he folds his arms as if a stiff upper lip and becomes a true English man (shades of Newbolt and falling among thieves) As the deadline, literally, approaches, footsteps ring along the stone passageway and he stops pacing. A key turns in the lock, his time has come.

A low voiced conversation and the pace changes as Carton steps in. A very different Carton to the the man who gazed up at the courtroom ceiling, drank punch by the pint and couldn’t care less about anything, including himself. This Carton is full of energy and go, giving Darnay no time to resist or protest as he orders him to exchange clothes and write Carton’s love letter to his own wife.  Now we know why he purchased chemicals, wore a long distinctve white coat and took time to check his loose cravat and wild hair at a shop window. Changing places with Darnay is what we all knew he was destined to do. Having drugged Darnay the whole plot now rests on the Spy. Will he give away Carton, will he do what Carton wants? Edge of the seat stuff as Carton convinces him that his secret is safe with him and all will be well and Darnay is carried out to freedom by two of his jailers. In his game of poker Carton has played himself as a wild card Joker and the count remains at fifty two.

A few nailbiting minutes later and he knows his part in the plot has worked as “Keys turned, doors clashed, footsteps passed along distant passages: no cry was raised, or hurry made, that seemed unusual.” Then other doors are opened and Evremond is called to attend the altar of the Republic.

The nailbiting isn’t over. As he waits in a dark room he is embraced by a man “…as having knowledge of him.” Is this where the plot will fall apart; will it all have been in vain? No, the man moves on and we can share Carton’s releif for a breif moment until a young woman recognises him as Evremond whom she met on La Force and another ‘thrill of discovery’ rushes over him as he bluffs his way through. Tension falls away as she explains her innocence which she is willing to give up for the good of ‘….us poor’ which truly she doubts. Tho’ she is “Such a poor weak little creature.” she understands what Carton is about. So our two idealists are both content to die for love of one sort or the other and all she requires of him is that they hold hands when the tumbril bounces them away.

The change of style of writing as we pass from the Conciergerie to the North Barrier is nothing if not dramatic. From being informed we become part of the tale and sit there in the coach sweating as passports are slowly and thoroughly checked. It is scenes such as this that have Mrs. B leaning aggresively out of her chair screaming and threatening the TV. The journey to the coast can’t be hurried and like Lucie we are filled with apprehension and fear that something will go wrong and the carriage be stopped. She wants to go faster but Lorry is to wise for that.  The carriage rolls on through villages, passing fields and tanneries which are all the same, giving an impression that no matter how fast we go we wont get any further by going faster in any case and all we can do is sit quiet and sweat.

Arriving at a post house the fear and apprehension increases as the postillions take their time changing horses but at last we are off. Or are we? The carriage stops and with hearts in mouths we draw deep breath and prepare for the worst.

The question “How many did they say?” leaves us all perplexed. The situation is reminiscent of the guards on the Dover mail as they considered what ‘recalled to life’ might mean.

This time the debate is about the number who have been sent to the Guillotine today, a harsh reminder that Samson’s work still goes on. Lorry answers with the words “Fifty two.” The coach moves on as the postillion cries out “… I love it. Hi forward, whoops.” At least two on the coach are happy and we can mentally fall back on our seats for a moment before straining to look back through the dark for any signs of pursuit feeling only the breath of the wind, seeing nothing but cloud and moon as the wheels grind round and carry us away from a city of pain to one where hope can thrive.

I love it.

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22 thoughts on “One Joker and Two Idealists

  1. Wonderful observations as ever, Mr Booley, which have given me plenty of food for thought. The Hitchcock reference is spot on, I think, and other scholars have argued for Dickens’s ‘cinematic’ style and his ‘dream’ of cinema. This week’s instalment is almost irresistibly suitable for film.

    I had forgotten that Dickens loves a good condemned cell scene, the most famous surely being Fagin’s haunting descent into madness as he awaits the gallows. Hugh, the rioter, is given a marvellous speech in Barnaby Rudge in which he rails against his aristocratic lineage and the neglect, cruelty and selfishness of the upper classes. No such speech here from Charles, who is altogether more calm – and curiously lacking in anger against either his family or the revolutionaries. It struck me that Charles’s life was supposed to be an ongoing sacrifice, instigated by his mother, to amend for the cruelty and violence of his father and uncle against the family of Madame Defarge. This sense of self-abnegation makes him very similar to Sidney and perhaps explains his resignation to his fate.

    • At the time Dickens was writing. prison, as a punishment, was a relatively new idea. Hugh and Fagin were not imprisoned as such but were being temporarily housed until execution could be arranged. The reaction to such a sentence can take many forms; from madness and rage down to quiet acceptance and each of these reactions contain its own drama which Dickens explored as you say.
      Charles has had a long period ‘on remand’ (15 months?) during which time he has been supported by the people around him and has had chance to reflect on his situation. Perhaps he regrets his washing his hands of all things Evremond and not really fulfilling his mother’s wishes, a fact brought vividly to him at his second trial, and has come to the conclusion that it is best that he dies and make an end of the curse (….the peace of mind enjoyed by the dear ones depended on his quiet fortitude.) His real prison lies in his name.
      Carton I think is caught in a similar prison, whether of his own making or that of his family’s doesn’t really matter, and acceptance of death in a ‘good cause’ is a road to whatever salvation he seeks.
      Manette’s imprisonment is different. Dickens has seized on the idea of a prisoner’s career in which rage/disbeleif gives way to self harm (Manette beats his head on the walls) and on to visions of escape and miraculous breakthroughs and finally acceptance and a need to shut out the past by keeping occupied, a sort of self-defence against oneself, which he does by making shoes, a pyschological state which Dickens appears to understand.

  2. I’d like to pose a question. in Charles’ letter to Lucie he writes: “He [Charles] had already explained to her that his concealment from herself of the name he had relinquished, was the one condition–fully intelligible now–that her father had attached to their betrothal, and was the one promise he had still exacted on the morning of their marriage.” We discussed in our meeting on Friday at University of Leicester the difficulty of “recalling to life” (or rather memory) the previously read chapters. The question was posed as to if the readers of the journal as it was being published would actually remember what Dickens had intended them to. I think it was decided that as a community, many would have probably discussed the happenings in the serialized story, reminding each other of things long past. Now I find myself struggling to remember why it was that Dr. Manette asked for Charles to drop the name Evremonde. The impression I got of Dr. Manette during the reading of the found letter from the Bastille is that he had genuinely forgotten writing that condemnation letter of the Evremonde family. But, his asking Charles to not mention his given name of Evremonde, would imply that he knew it was connected with something horrible, perhaps something that would make a union between Lucie Manette and Charles unthinkable for the elder Manette. I pose this question to you, as my community of readers, to please jog my memory.

    • Charles had already dropped the name. Even in the trial at the beginning, he’s assumed his mother’s maiden name of Darnay. He’s taken her name as part of fulfilling her wishes to escape the family name. My assumption had always been that while Dr. Manette might not have remembered the letter written in one of his less sane moments, he certainly remembered who had put him in the Bastille for 18 years, but for Lucie’s sake he decides to try to force himself to deal with it. The fallout from this repression is the 9 days he spends making shoes during their honeymoon, which I view as his coming to grips with the fact that his worst enemy is now his son in law.
      I think Manette remembers quite a bit but represses it–when he can’t put his past out of his mind is when he has his breakdowns–in a way he can’t remember because he really, really doesn’t want to remember. It’s interesting that Carton seems to be damaged by the opposite problem. He can’t forget any of the indiscretions he’s made, as he admits to Charles in the chapter An Opinion when he apologizes for being a drunken lout. He also can’t forget faces. In The Jackal, Stryver even calls him by the nickname “Memory.”

      • Manette never asked Charles to drop the name Evremond. In Two Promises when Charles was trying to frank with the doctor he was about to use the name but Manette covered up his ears and covered Charles lips and Tell me whn I ask you, not now………..you shall tell me on your marriage morning.”

    • Week 11 is where all the action takes place – this is where Darnay asks Manette for his daughter’s hand in marriage, and this is how dickens describes the moment:

      His constraint was so manifest, and it was so manifest, too, that it originated in an unwillingness to approach the subject, that Charles Darnay hesitated.
      “Shall I go on, sir?”
      Another blank.
      “Yes, go on.”
      “You anticipate what I would say, though you cannot know how earnestly I say it, how earnestly I feel it, without knowing my secret heart, and the hopes and fears and anxieties with which it has long been laden. Dear Doctor Manette, I love your daughter fondly, dearly, disinterestedly, devotedly. If ever there were love in the world, I love her. You have loved yourself; let your old love speak for me!”
      The Doctor sat with his face turned away, and his eyes bent on the ground. At the last words, he stretched out his hand again, hurriedly, and cried: “Not that, sir! Let that be! I adjure you, do not recal that!”

      Soooo….clearly Manette is aware on some level that his past hurts are in driect conflict to his daughter’s future with Darnay. The last thing he wants is for his old love to speak for Darnay – is this because to recal the past is to damn Darnay, or is that to use the love of his family to actively support the son of his enemy is one step too far for him? Manette goes on to say “I do not doubt your loving Lucie; you may be satisfied of it”, so cleary he has accepted Darnay is right for his daughter and presumably is wrestling within himself to how he can accept this – a battle between his own grievances and his Lucie’s happieness. then -and this is the really interesting bit (but only retrospectively – how infuriating!) – Manette says to Darnay:

      “If there were —Charles Darnay, if there were———any fancies, any reasons, any apprehensions, anything whatsoever, new or old, against the man she really loved—the direct responsibility thereof not lying on his head—they should all be obliterated for her sake. She is everything to me; more to me than suffering, more to me than wrong, more to me——Well! This is idle talk.”

      Idle talk! Not any more. Words that were once obscure now become crystal clear, but only in the wake of week 27: sixteen weeks after this was published! So either Dickens expected his readers to remember much more than we have or he was anticipating his readers reading the story again – perhaps buying the complete volume after final publication? One point more – Darnay tries to tell Manette his real name at this point of asking permission to marry Lucie, but Manette shouts “Stop!” and “For an instant, the Doctor even had his two hands at his ears; for another instant, even had his two hands laid on Darnay’s lips.” It’s a very staged moment (I’m reminded of Manette tearing his hair out at the court in France) and yet another example of theatrical action within the text.

      So, in conclusion of all of that (sorry, so much of week 11 seems relevant in retrospect that I nearly copied out the whole thing!), Mr Booley is right – Manette doesn’t go so far as to ask Darnay to drop the name of Ervremond, but he does get him to suppress it from Lucie, and to treat it still as a secret name. In doing so, and in his general reactions, he shows a clear awareness of the significance of Evremonde to the Manette family as well as some remembrance of his own curses upon that family and its subsequent relevance to Darnay – I don’t think at this stage he could anticipate a revolution, a crazed knitting lady married to his former servant who prises his letter out of his old cell while storming the prison, or his son-in-law being imprisoned ina post-revolutionary country where said crazed knitting woman uses said letter found by said former husband to condemn said son-in-law (frankly, who on earth could anticipate that?!?) – I do, however, think that he has an awareness of having rained curses down upon the family of Evremonde, and this curse in turn being on Darnay.

      • Thanks, all, for these useful clarifications. I must confess that I found all this ‘who-knows-what’ very confusing! However, I am still a little confused – or, rather, unconvinced by Dickens’s convoluted plot machinations. In the instament just passed, Charles writes, from his prison cell, to Lucie and her father, claiming, ‘he had known nothing of her father’s imprisonment until he had heard of it from herself, and that he had been as ignorant as she of his father’s and uncle’s responsibility for that misery, until the paper had been read’. So, are we meant to believe that Darnay ‘accidentally’ came across the Manette family? Also, I was rather under the impression that Charles’s mother had made everything clear to him and stressed upon him the necessity of making amends. I assumed, wrongly it seems, that he had tracked down the Doctor and Lucie to try and make amends. Furthermore, was Charles not in the least confused or, at leas, made curious by the Doctor’s weird discussion with him, cited above by Pete?

      • We’ve talked several times about Dickens expecting readers to remember things. I wonder if maybe people just had better attention spans and memories in those days. 🙂 I mean, the format he was writing in pretty much required them to have good memories. You can’t just fill half of every installment with flashbacks and reminders; you wouldn’t have much room left to tell more of the actual story.

      • It’s really interesting to consider, as Gina does, the ability of Victorian readers to remember all these minor details weeks after they occurred and, thus, whether the Victorians had better memories that us. I know that Dickensians citing The Wire is becoming a little irritating, but I wonder if people will watch such TV serials in 150 years time and marvel at *our* ability to keep up with ferociously complicated plots! The creative team behind The Wire have proudly trumpeted their determination to make a ‘grown-up’ show with complex storylines, characters and dialogue and perhaps Dickens felt the same. It’s interesting how he uses the archetypes of melodrama alongside and overlapping with a complex plot. More recently, there has been a fairly intense online debate (amongst nerds such as myself) about the most recent series of Dr Who, which has included a long and fiendishly complicated story arc, with many saying that the show has become too complex and esoteric for its core audience. Our culture is producing similarly complicated serial fiction (albeit on TV), but I’m not sure if understanding every minute detail is necessarily a requirement. Perhaps some Victorians were up on every plot detail of TOTC, while others (like me) skimmed through some of the plot intricacies, content with a fairly rough and ready understanding of what is happening and why.

      • “I wonder if people will watch such TV serials in 150 years time and marvel at *our* ability to keep up with ferociously complicated plots!”

        You know, I wouldn’t be surprised!

  3. First a small apology for my last comment which wasn’t completedas intended. I was disturbed.. no I fell asleep over my machine woke up with a start and foolishly tried to finish whilst still comatose.
    Since then there has been a bit of a glut of comments some raising questions which have also bothered me. To start with Manette and the letter, where, and when, did Manette remember the letter and Charles? A beguiling question to which Dickens laid down a series of clues in answer between weeks five and seventeen. By following the Kings advice ‘Start at the beginning, work through the middle and when you come to the end, stop.’ it is possible to conclude he knew Darnay in week five, if not before, and had remembered all by week eight then spent the rest of his time trying hard not to let it out.
    Week five, ‘A Sight’ is set in a gloomy 18th century court (not much better than 105 North Tower?) where Charles is in the dock and standing under a mirror which reflects light down on him (the 1700’s version of a super trooper.) The light gets into his eyes and he tilts the mirror away and turns to the left looking straight at two witnesses one of whom has “….a certain indescribable intensity of face: not of an active kind, but pondering and self-communing.”
    Moving on through ‘A Disappointment’ week six, Manette says he did not see Charles on the mail-boat but had seen him at his house three and half years ago. He is then questioned why he cannot recall the incident and is reminded that he was a long term prisoner who had just been released.
    Carton at this time has been staring up at the ceiling, in prominent profile before he removes his wig and displays himself as Charles’s doppelganger. Think about it. Full face, profile, a Picasso drawing. Manette remembering prison, seeing Charles as he appeared with his mother full faced in the carriage and then profiled against her arms as she kissed him. I would suggest that this was the time he remembered who Charles was.
    Evidence? Week seven ‘Congratulatory’ where Mr Lorry has been pushed out of the group by Stryver and pushes himself back in and glances at Manette. “His face had become frozen, as it were, in a very curious look at Darnay: an intent look, deepening into a frown of dislike and distrust, not even unmixed with fear. With this strange expression on him his thoughts had wandered away.”
    The combination of images and observation leads me to conclude that during the court proceedings Manette knew who Darnay was. Dickens wanted his readers to know that so they would want to read on to unravel the connection, a sort of internal cliff-hanger if you will, certainly indicative of an understanding of reader psychology.
    At this stage Manette does not seem to have remembered his letter: that comes in week eight ‘Hundreds of People’. Set under the plane tree, with the doctor “…. in his best condition, …….” the conversation turns to the Tower where Darnay was held before his trial. When Charles explains the discovery of the ashes of a paper and a wallet that contained it, presumably, Manette responds by suddenly starting up “….with his hand to his head. His manner and look quite terrified them all.” Not only that but “…the business eye of Mr Lorry either detected, or fancied it detected, on his face, as it turned toward Charles Darnay, the same singular look that had been upon it when it turned to him in the passages of the Court House.
    He recovered himself so quickly, however, that Mr Lorry had doubts of his business eye.”
    What I had not sufficiently recognized before is that Mr Lorry, the ‘mechanical man,’ is always there at crunch points, seeing, if possibly not understanding, what is happening. Here he is seeing Manette remembering, and reacting to, the letter. From this point on Manette has a problem. He wants to forget or at least put to the back of his mind any remembrance of what he has been through but Darnay is a continual reminder of how he lost his wife and eighteen years of life, a painful situation for anyone.
    Thankfully I don’t have to fly too far to week eleven, ‘Two Promises’, thanks to Peter who has saved me an awful chunk of typing. Looking at the section on fancies and reasons Manette is trying hard to be even handed and accepting that if Lucie should want Darnay she will have him no matter what the cost might be to himself. In return Darnay must never tell Lucie of his own part in his past. In fact Manette also tries to protect himself by insisting that Darnay should not tell him about himself until the morning of his marriage. He is using a piece of simple self-delusion to give himself peace of mind so that he can give Lucie his blessing should she want to marry Darnay. By not ‘officially’ hearing the name Evremond he hopes to be able to tell Lucie he is happy with a marriage which at heart he does not want to see happen.
    The delusion however is not a success, he spends the night hammering shoes.
    Peter is right, Manette can have no precognition of the revolution or the complex threads attached to it, he is only hoping for a happy future for his daughter and if that means taking his feelings about the Evremonds and what they did to him and burying them deep in a box he will do it out of an overwhelming love for her. Carton is not the only one to sacrifice all for Lucie’s sake.
    Just how far this self-abnegation goes is found in week 16 ‘One Night’ during the last father/daughter talk between them when she tells him that Charles is the only man who could tempt her from him to which he replies; “If it had not been Charles it would have been another. Or, if it had been no other; I should have been the cause, and then the dark part of my life would have cast its shadow beyond myself, and fallen on you.” He then goes on to describe his prison life for the first time and Lucie realizes that it was the thought of her and the images of her that Manette kept in his mind which had enabled him to endure his fate.
    The following chapter, ‘Nine Nights’ Darnay and Manette have their pre-wedding meeting. We don’t know what transpired but it is not difficult to glean an Idea. Darnay has poured out his family ‘s wrong doing and he has given up all his claims on whatever estate there was and left it to the peasants. They leave the room Manette white faced and again it is Lorry who sees “ … some shadowy indication that the old air of avoidance and dread had lately passed over him, like a cold wind.”
    The ‘cold wind’ blows harder after the wedding and Manette goes back to making shoes.
    Rokujolady is right inher judgement of this i am sure. Manette is not catatonic he is keeping himself continually ocupied maybe because he is on tenterhooks about whether Darnay will accidentally or otherwise spill the beans on who he is which will distress Lucie and possibly end their marriage. The thought that this might happen is something he doesnot want to contemplate and his shoemaking is a displacemeny behaviour which gradually disperses as time passes and he returns to his normal self after sufficient time haas passed for his worry not to have come true.
    Yje Victorians were not the same as we are. Today we expext high speed communication and instantaneous information, the Victorians did not have these and were more dependent on memory for many of the aspects of their daily lives and they depende on rote learning in which memorising whole sections of the bible , poetry et al. I would imagine they could carry a complex plot with many characters from week to week as Gina thinks.

    • Gina’s right. I’d add that we often forget that there *was* a time before the sports page and the 24 hour political opinion channel. Before widely-disseminated sports news and TV, this serial would have been social lubricant, and if you didn’t remember part of it, someone at the dinner table probably would and would probably remind you. To an extent, reading these wasn’t a solitary experience like it is now, and because of this readers back them might have expected their stories to have more bits that actually tied together so there was something to discuss.

  4. Sorry Ben I missed your first bit. Darnay couldn’t know anything of Manette unless as a two year old child, sitting in his mother’s carriage, he had a prodigious memory. The countess only visited Manette to find the address of the dead girl’s sister. She was not long for this life as Manette observed and there was no reason for her to pass on to her son anything relevant to Manette at all.

    • Thanks for helping iron out the details in my head, Mr Booley, although I’m still a little fuzzy on the details, truth be told! I’m really keen to find out if contemporaries felt similarly baffled by such complex plot devices. It’s interesting that the Victorians felt as baffled, discombobulated and anxious about their increasingly visual, increasingly urban and increasingly speedy culture in the same way that we angst about the internet. Lots of Victorians thought they’d lost the ability to concentrate — just like us!

      I suppose, according to the logic of melodrama, it was entirely possible for your daughter to ‘accidentally’ marry the grown son of the enemy who falsely imprisoned you for 18 years! It is a little silly though. It’s interesting that, in his journalism, Dickens was sometimes a little satirical about the convoluted plots of melodramas and yet he gleefully reproduced them in his own work.

  5. Don’t look for details Ben, ‘cos if you do the thing will drive you to mending shoes. There are too many unexplained actions and scenes which don’t make sense and make the whole story a trifle silly. For instance, to risk youir mental health, why did Darnay visit the Manettes eighteen months after they had come to England or how come Lorry had charge of Lucie as a baby and did not know the name Evremond and the story behind it?

    • I never had a problem with any of those details. Maybe Darnay came to check up on the Manettes because he met them on their crossing and hit it off with Lucie as was revealed in the trial. Lorry was the banker. He didn’t have to know who sent the letter to get Manette thrown in jail. You can know someone pretty well and not know intimate details of their life like that.
      (╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻

      • Let me tell you how Lorry’s conversation with his boss went:

        Boss: Hey Jarvis, Find something to do with this kid. She’s an orphan but she’s been left a small trust by her father, a client.
        Lorry: But I can’t take care of her without knowing the detailed story of her family!
        Boss: SERIOUSLY? That information’s on a need to know basis and you don’t need to know. LESS TALKING, MOAR DOING!
        Lorry: <> OK

  6. I admire your enthusiasm in defence of Mr Lorry, however in week two ‘The Preparation’ we have this statement from him:-
    “I speak, miss, of twenty years ago. He married—an English lady—and I was one of the trustees. His affairs, like the affairs of many other French gentlemen and French families, were entirely in Tellson’s hands. In a similar way, I am, or I have been, trustee of one kind or other for scores of our customers. These are mere business relations, miss; there is no friendship in them, no particular interest, nothing like sentiment. I have passed from one to another, in the course of my business life, just as I pass from one of our customers to another in the course of my business day; in short, I have no feelings; I am a mere machine. To go on——”
    As a trustee in charge of Manette’s affairs he was responsible, as a mere man of business, to know exactly how Manette’s estate was managed and he would have to know Manette was imprisoned and make arrangements with Mme. Manette who was desperately searching for her husband’s release. The bank, ie Mr Lorry as trustee, would have to investigate as a matter of law There is no way Lorry could not have known the name Evremond at the very least Mme Manette would have mentioned him.
    That Lorry didn’t associate Darnay with the name Evremond until week twenty two ‘The Grindstone’ when Manette confronted the crowd in the courtyard.is reasonable but it does beg the question, why did he not query much further when Gabelle’s letter was directed to Tellson’s bank in
    week twenty one ‘In Secret’?

  7. Are you projecting modern law onto a fiction about the 18th century? Citation needed. Lorry didn’t need to know anything but the state of the man’s finances and if he was in debt, if that. He even admits he has many customers…why would he remember the financial details and family-workings of this one, anyway? Perhaps Madame Manette herself didn’t know who had imprisoned her husband. That’s entirely possible, too, Doctor Manette was kind of kidnapped and thrown in the Bastille, and it doesn’t say anywhere that he told his wife about the letter at all. I presume he didn’t.
    This and Darnay’s visit aren’t really mistakes, they’re details that are left to the reader. I don’t consider Dickens decision not to spell out every single small plot facet to be a flaw in the story. I also don’t consider the reliance on coincidence to be a problem. Both are a feature, not a bug.

    • I’ve been enjoying the tennis match here between Mr Booley and Rokujolady, but now that I’ve finished my straberries and cream I’d like to throw in a couple of ideas. Isn’t the Evremonde’s name suppressed during Manette’s visit to them – he pieces it together for himself does he not? Is it therefore possible that his wife does not know the name, nor the details of where he has been, and therefore when he is arrested, and the key thrown away, and there is no means of communication from Manette to the outside world, thast his wife, Lorry and whoever else doe not know who has done this to him, therefore leaving the Evremond’s connection as something only Manette himself knows. One point for Rokujolady. But…if that is the case, then how does anyone even know he has been locked up in the first place? How does Lorry – or anyone else – know anything of Manette’s story to tell Lucie, when ‘his wife had implored the king, the queen, the court, the clergy, for any tidings of him, and all quite in vain?’ In other words, there must be some way Manette got word out – another letter perhaps (in which case why has no-one produced that beforehand)? Or, alternatively, it is a gaping plot hole that Dickens has left for us to find our way out of, not so much a detail as an entire chapter.

      Story-telling is like a magic trick – it’s all about sleight of hand, with the author keeping our attention focused where they want it so we don’t pick apart the trick and ruin it for ourselves and others. The trouble with a good book, like a good trick, is we watch/read/listen to it again, we think back over it, we discuss it, and the more we reflect, the more opportunity we have to shift our gaze away from where we are supposed to be looking and instead notice the hidden trapdoors and concealed mirrors. To enjoy the trick we need to suspend our disbelief and look over the bits we’re not shown to instead enjoy the moments we are: plotholes can be forgiven depending on the quality of the story.

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