A Tale of Two Cities

A Tale of Two Cities

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Imprisonment Theme Analysis

Themes and Colors
Tyranny and Revolution Theme Icon
Secrecy and Surveillance Theme Icon
Fate and History Theme Icon
Sacrifice Theme Icon
Resurrection Theme Icon
Imprisonment Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in A Tale of Two Cities, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Imprisonment Theme Icon

In the novel, the Bastille symbolizes the nobility's abuse of power, exemplified by the unjust imprisonment of Dr. Manette by Marquis St. Evrémonde. Yet the Bastille is not the only prison in A Tale of Two Cities. The revolutionaries also unjustly imprison Charles in La Force prison. Through this parallel, Dickens suggests that the French revolutionaries come to abuse their power just as much as the nobility did.

The theme of imprisonment also links to the theme of history and fate. For instance, when Charles is drawn back to Paris because of his own past actions, each checkpoint he passes seems to him like a prison door shutting behind him.

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Imprisonment Quotes in A Tale of Two Cities

Below you will find the important quotes in A Tale of Two Cities related to the theme of Imprisonment.
Book 1, Chapter 6 Quotes
If you hear in my voice … any resemblance to a voice that once was sweet music in your ears, weep for it, weep for it! If you touch, in touching my hair, anything that recalls a beloved head that lay on your breast when you were young and free, weep for it, weep for it! If, when I hint to you of a Home that is before us, where I will be true to you with all my duty and with all my faithful service, I bring back the remembrance of a Home long desolate, while your poor heart pined away, weep for it, weep for it!
Related Characters: Lucie Manette (speaker), Dr. Alexandre Manette
Page Number: 48
Explanation and Analysis:

In this scene of reunification between Manette and his daughter, the pathos of Manette's sorry condition joins with the bittersweet attitude of Lucie in finding her father, whom she long thought dead, alive but old and confused. Manette seems to have recognized something of his wife in Lucie, and Lucie clings to this possibility, suggesting that she has come, in a way, to replace her mother, and to offer her father a chance for a new life with her. By creating a correspondence between her own face and that of her mother, but also by making a contrast between Manette's former desolate home and the new, happy home that she hopes to make for him, Lucie stresses that it is possible to gain second chances.

For Lucie, it is as if her father had risen from the dead, since she never knew him to be alive. Learning of his presence is such a powerful feeling for her that it seems to be almost a miracle, spurring her to want to sacrifice anything for the sake of her father. This sentiment is only further prompted by her recognition of his prison-like environment, from which she hopes to rescue him.


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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.

Book 2, Chapter 10 Quotes
He had loved Lucie Manette from the hour of his danger. He had never heard a sound so sweet and dear as the sound of her compassionate voice; he had never seen a face so tenderly beautiful, as hers when it was confronted with his own on the edge of the grave that had been dug for him.
Related Characters: Charles Darnay (a.k.a. Charles Evrémonde), Lucie Manette
Page Number: 135
Explanation and Analysis:

Charles, having abandoned his aristocratic heritage, now lives in London and continues to be in love with Lucie, even going as far as to proclaim his love for her to her father. Here, we once again see the power that Lucie can hold over people. Charles is described as emerging out of a grave thanks to Lucie's beautiful face. Like Lucie's father, he feels that he is in some way raised from the dead thanks to the goodness that emanates from her. While Charles had all the riches he could have wanted thanks to his aristocratic family, for him such a heritage is confining far more than it is liberating – it is his love for Lucie that is freeing.

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.

Book 2, Chapter 20 Quotes
My husband, it is so. I fear he is not to be reclaimed; there is scarcely a hope that anything in his character or fortunes is reparable now. But, I am sure that he is capable of good things, gentle things, even magnanimous things.
Related Characters: Lucie Manette (speaker), Charles Darnay (a.k.a. Charles Evrémonde), Dr. Alexandre Manette
Page Number: 217
Explanation and Analysis:

Charles has spoken critically about Sydney Carton at dinner with the entire household that evening, and now, later at night and in private, Lucie gently reproves him for being overly harsh towards the man. Unlike Charles, Lucie is convinced that Carton may yet prove himself redeemable – he may yet have another, new life ahead of him.

Lucie is not overly naive or idealistic; she does, after all, acknowledge that Carton's past character and fortunes count a great deal against him. In that sense, he has created his own situation, and cannot be liberated from the choices he has made. At the same time, however, Lucie may well be thinking of the conversation she had with Carton, one that helped to convince her of his good intentions and possibility for redemption. It is also worth noting that in many cases in the novel it is Lucie's belief that someone can redeem themselves that allows that gives that person the strength to actually achieve redemption.

Book 3, Chapter 1 Quotes
Not a mean village closed upon him, not a common barrier dropped across the road behind him, but he knew it to be another iron door in the series that was barred between him and England. The universal watchfulness so encompassed him, that if he had been taken in a net, or were being forwarded to his destination in a cage, he could not have felt his freedom more completely gone.
Related Characters: Charles Darnay (a.k.a. Charles Evrémonde)
Page Number: 255
Explanation and Analysis:

As Charles makes his way from London to Paris, he is increasingly aghast by how the values of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity that were supposed to have motivated the revolution have been distorted out of all recognition. He is suspicious of everything and everyone around him, not knowing whom he can trust, and unsure of the course history will take next.

At the same time, his journey to France, though undertaken of his own will, begins to seem more and more like a prison sentence, as with each step Charles's path seems to become more irrevocable. The further he goes into revolutionary France, the less able he is to turn back, to change course. Instead it seems that he is walking into his own fate – not in a positive, optimistic way, as if he were choosing his own destiny, but rather as though he is willingly walking into a trap of inevitability and will be able to find no way out.

Book 3, Chapter 6 Quotes
Looking at the Jury and the turbulent audience, he might have thought that the usual order of things was reversed, and that the felons were trying the honest men.
Related Characters: Charles Darnay (a.k.a. Charles Evrémonde)
Page Number: 292
Explanation and Analysis:

As Charles faces the crowd and the jury at his trial, he is struck by the sense that the supposed institutions of justice have been hollowed out of their significance: in their place is a bloodthirsty crowd whose sense of justice is twisted – so much so that it might formerly have been thought of as injustice.

Once again, the novel stresses that those suffering under tyranny have become tyrants themselves, in a tragic revolutionary cycle that is portrayed as more inevitable that actively chosen. Violence leads, always, to more violence; tyranny leads to new tyranny. In such a world, everything seems inside out, including the status of the felons and the honest, the judged and the judges.

Book 3, Chapter 9 Quotes
Before that unjust Tribunal, there was little or no order of procedure, ensuring to any accused person any reasonable hearing. There could have been no such Revolution, if all laws, forms, and ceremonies, had not first been so monstrously abused, that the suicidal vengeance of the Revolution was to scatter them all to the winds.
Page Number: 327
Explanation and Analysis:

As yet another trial of Charles begins, the narrator describes the procedure, or rather lack thereof, of the tribunal condemning him. Once again the revolutionaries are shown to have little regard for justice, only a twisted sense of revenge and anger characterizing how they enact judgments. However, here the narrator also wants to make clear that the revolutionaries' disregard for justice and goodness hasn't come out of nowhere. Instead, it ultimately stems from the fact that the aristocrats who oppressed them for so long had an equally low regard for "laws" and "forms" that were supposed to guide and direct their actions.

As a result, the actions of the revolutionaries are not excused, but rather explained, shown as taking part in a longer history of tragic injustice that has denied liberty to so many.