Themes of A Tale of Two Cities

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Charles Dickens gives the subtitles “Recalled to Life” and “The Golden Thread” to the first two books in A Tale of Two Cities. Throughout the novel, these two concepts become recurring themes.  The themes of being recalled to life and a golden thread apply to three main characters: Dr. Manette, Lucie Manette, and Charles Darnay.  The lives of these characters are renewed by the golden thread of hope and love that connects them to their past and gives them hope for the future.

First, When Dr. Manette is rescued from jail and reunited with his daughter, he is “recalled to life” by a “golden thread.” Dr. Manette spent eighteen years in prison. There, he became so accustomed to being alone and making shoes to calm his tortured mind that returning to his past life would seem impossible. Eventually, he is rescued and Mr. Lorry and Lucie Manette take care of him. He becomes “recalled to life” physically and in the sense that he returns to his life as a free man with duties, rest and comfort. Throughout the book, Dr. Manette’s progress is expressed as he adjusts to living normally again. For this reason, he is referred to as “the buried man who had been dug out.” When Dr. Manette took a dirty rag he “opened this carefully, on his knee, and it contained a very little quantity of hair.” By doing this he reveals that while in prison he held on to two locks of golden hair that belonged to his wife. They serve as the literal “golden thread” that keeps him attached to his past.  When he was in prison and began to feel his identity and his past slipping away, he took out these two locks of hair.  They were the only things that he had from his life before prison.  In this sense, it symbolizes the ties that he had before prison, which gradually faded away until only a thread of his former joy remained. If not for this thin thread, the last remnant of his past joys and pleasure would fade to nothingness, and all hope of his recovery would be gone forever. The use of the word “thread” symbolizes that it is the last connection to his past, as if all of his hope is hanging by a thread.  The degree of caution with which Manette deals with it demonstrates how fragile this thread is. It is said that “he opened this carefully, on his knee, and it contained a very little quantity of hair…” Symbolically, Lucie serves as a “golden thread” that restores Dr. Manette. Her hair resembled the locks of hair that he saved and connected him to the past that they represented.

Additionally, Lucie Manette is “recalled to life” when she is reunited with her long lost father; her golden hair is the “golden thread” that connects them. Since she was a child, she thought her father was dead.  When Mr. Lorry tells her “If your father had not died when he did- Don’t be frightened” and she is united with him, her life changed.  Since she went through a large portion of her life trying to get over the loss of her father, she almost fainted but “caught his wrist with both her hands.”  Her life was instantly turned around because she had a new sense of happiness and optimism. Hence, she was “recalled to life.” Lucie’s golden hair serves as the “golden thread” between her and her father because it was the basis of their new connection. Dr. Manette recognized his daughter because her hair resembled the locks of his wife’s hair which he saved. Because of the connection Lucie’s hair sparked, “he had sunk in her arms, and his face dropped on her breast: a sight so touching, yet so terrible in the tremendous wrong and suffering which had gone before it, that the two beholders covered their faces.” The new bond between them started with this “golden thread” that revived their original relationship, renewing Lucie’s life.

Lastly, Charles Darnay is “recalled to life” when he is acquitted in court, and Lucie, who has golden hair and he admits love for, is his “golden thread.” It was said that people “pay to see the play at Old Bailey... like in Bedlam.” Just like the ending is predetermined in a play, so was the case in court. Therefore, when Darnay is put on trial for treason, he is assigned an almost definite death. When he found out that “written on the paper was the word ‘Acquitted,’” his life was literally brought back to him. In that sense, he is “recalled to life.” This is expressed by Jerry Cruncher when he says, “If you had sent the message, ‘Recalled to Life,’ again, I should have known what you meant, this time.” Darnay wants to go even further and redeem his life. Later on, Darnay reveals that he has “fervent admiration, true homage, and deep love” for Lucie Manette. In this way, she is his “golden thread” that keeps him grounded and on the path he wants to be on. His love for Lucie Manette restrains him from straying from his goal of redeeming himself and keeps him focused and practical.

In conclusion, the subtitles and themes of “Recalled to Life” and “The Golden Thread” apply to Dr. Manette, Lucie Manette, and Charles Darnay. These subtitles intertwine because all three characters have their lives restored with the help of a certain connection to their roots. Without the help of their “golden thread,” they may not have been “restored to life.” In other words, the themes “restored to life” and “the golden thread” are dependent on one another.





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