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Euripide

The setting of the book shifts to inside Darnay’s prison cell, where he prepares himself for death.  He writes letters to his friends and family, and then tries to sleep.  The next afternoon, Carton comes into his cell and convinces him to switch clothing with him.  Then, Carton drugs him.  With Darnay drugged, Carton can assume his identity and pretend that Darnay is him.  Two guards carry Darnay out of the prison, believing that he is Carton.  Darnay is placed into the waiting coach with the Manettes and Mr. Lorry.  Carton then takes his place in the holding room for those who are to be executed.  The switch is successful; no one questions whether or not he is actually Darnay.  That is not to suggest that the switch is entirely unnoticed; a fellow prisoner realizes that he is not Darnay, but rather than reveal that fact, she asks him for comfort as they walk to the guillotine. The coach holding the family manages to get out of Paris, still believing that the unconscious man in the coach is Carton.

The switch between Carton and Darnay is the major part of the chapter, and it brings the reader’s attention to the pervasive theme of doubles that has run throughout A Tale of Two Cities.  Carton has previously used his physical resemblance to Darnay to get Darnay out of legal trouble.  However, when he did so, it cost him nothing and presented no risk.  This time, Carton is literally going to die to save Darnay.  On a simplistic level, Carton takes Darnay’s place because of his love for Lucie.  However, when one looks back on the novel and sees the amount of disgust Carton has for the fact that he has wasted his life, one realizes that his actions are as much about redeeming himself as they are about protecting Lucie.

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