A Tale of Two Cities

A Tale of Two Cities

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Knitting and the Golden Thread Symbol Analysis

Knitting and the Golden Thread Symbol Icon
In classical mythology, three sister gods called the Fates controlled the threads of human lives. A Tale of Two Cities adapts the classical Fates in two ways. As she knits the names of her enemies, Madame Defarge is effectively condemning people to a deadly fate. On the other hand, as Lucie weaves her "golden thread" through people's lives, she binds them into a better destiny: a tightly-knit community of family and close friends. In each case, Dickens suggests that human destinies are either predetermined by the force of history or they are tied into a larger pattern than we as individuals realize.

Knitting and the Golden Thread Quotes in A Tale of Two Cities

The A Tale of Two Cities quotes below all refer to the symbol of Knitting and the Golden Thread. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Tyranny and Revolution Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Classics edition of A Tale of Two Cities published in 2003.
Book 2, Chapter 4 Quotes
Only his daughter had the power of charming this black brooding from his mind. She was the golden thread that united him to a Past beyond his misery, and to a Present beyond his misery: and the sound of her voice, the light of her face, the touch of her hand, had a strong beneficial influence with him almost always.
Related Characters: Dr. Alexandre Manette, Lucie Manette
Related Symbols: Knitting and the Golden Thread
Page Number: 83
Explanation and Analysis:

Although Dr. Manette has been "resurrected" into new life by the care of his daughter Lucie, not all of the frightening power of his imprisonment has left him. He still tends to be brooding and gloomy, unable to entirely shake himself of the madness that had once enveloped his life. Still, he is clearly aware of and grateful for Lucie's strong-willed direction.

As a "golden thread," a charmed version of the threads woven by the Fates that direct our lives and the course of history, Lucie seems to possess the power to turn at least individual lives for the better, based only on her own love and commitment. Nonetheless, it is not yet clear whether or not Lucie's golden thread will prove more powerful than the Fates or history, or whether it is just one part of a greater universal plan, one in which her small actions ultimately cannot undo the all-powerful workings of Fate or history.

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Book 2, Chapter 16 Quotes
Another darkness was closing in as surely, when the church bells, then ringing pleasantly in many an airy steeple over France, should be melted into thundering cannon; when the military drums should be beating to drown a wretched voice, that night all potent as the voice of Power and Plenty, Freedom and Life. So much was closing in about the women who sat knitting, knitting, that they their very selves were closing in around a structure yet unbuilt, where they were to sit knitting, knitting, counting dropping heads.
Related Symbols: Knitting and the Golden Thread
Page Number: 193-194
Explanation and Analysis:

The would-be revolutionaries have failed to save the life of the Marquis d'Evrémonde's murderer, Jacques, and now they are beginning to plot in revenge – in what will turn out to be a tragic and violent cycle in which many of the revolutionaries become no better than the tyrants they hope to depose. Here, the narrator steps back from the immediate plot at hand to suggest larger historical processes at work across all of France. Describing the darkness "closing in," the narrator suggests that these processes are or have become inevitable – there is no turning back from the process of revolution now. 

Another way to describe this inevitability is through the workings of fate, which is here, as elsewhere, linked to the image of women knitting – in particular, Madame Defarge stitching the names of those to be killed, but also the classical Fates threading out the plot of mortal lives. The way these knitters "close around" a structure being built creates a mental image of a kind of prison, which emerges as a metaphor for the coming revolution, the impossibility of stopping it, and the cycle of violence it unleashes that no one can escape.

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Knitting and the Golden Thread Symbol Timeline in A Tale of Two Cities

The timeline below shows where the symbol Knitting and the Golden Thread appears in A Tale of Two Cities. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Book 2, Chapter 4
Fate and History Theme Icon
Imprisonment Theme Icon
...can still become gloomy, but this occurs only occasionally because Lucie serves as a "golden thread" linking him to his life before and after his imprisonment. Stryver, Dr. Manette, and Lucie... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 7
Tyranny and Revolution Theme Icon
Secrecy and Surveillance Theme Icon
Fate and History Theme Icon
...will "exterminate [the commoners] from the earth." He drives away while Madame Defarge looks on, knitting. (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 15
Tyranny and Revolution Theme Icon
...castle and the entire Evrémonde race should be exterminated. Another Jacques points to Madame Defarge's knitting, which lists in its stitching the names of everyone the revolutionaries mean to kill. (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 16
Tyranny and Revolution Theme Icon
Secrecy and Surveillance Theme Icon
Fate and History Theme Icon
...been sent to spy on them. Madame Defarge promises to add his name to her knitting. Defarge admits to his wife that he's tired and doubts the Revolution will come during... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 21
Fate and History Theme Icon
Years pass. Lucie weaves her "golden thread" of positive influence through the family. She often sits by the parlor window and ponders... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 3
Tyranny and Revolution Theme Icon
Secrecy and Surveillance Theme Icon
Fate and History Theme Icon
...way to the apartment, Mr. Lorry and Defarge are joined by Madame Defarge, who is knitting, and The Vengeance. Defarge tells Lorry that, in order to be able to protect Lucie,... (full context)
Tyranny and Revolution Theme Icon
Fate and History Theme Icon
...She gratefully kisses one of Madame Defarge's hands, but Madame Defarge coldly withdraws to her knitting. Lucie pleads for Madame Defarge to help Charles, to use her influence as a "sister-woman."... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 6
Tyranny and Revolution Theme Icon
Fate and History Theme Icon
Imprisonment Theme Icon
...Evrémonde, called Darnay." Defarge and Madame Defarge sit in the front row. Madame Defarge is knitting away. Charles is sentenced to death as an emigrant, despite the fact that the law... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 15
Tyranny and Revolution Theme Icon
Fate and History Theme Icon
...the crowd. She has been saving a front-row seat for Madame Defarge and holding her knitting. She bitterly regrets that her friend will miss the festivities. (full context)