Le roi Arthur


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Michael Morpurgo

The next chapter occurs three years later, after the Revolution has concluded.  However, the French Revolution was a mixed success.  The Revolutionaries did manage to remove the aristocracy from power.  However, they were not successful in setting up a government to replace the displaced aristocracy.  The aristocracy seems aware of this problem.  Many of them have fled to England, and they seem to be awaiting signs of weakness in France so that they can return and reclaim their prior positions.  Historically, this is accurate.  The French Revolution was only successful until Napoleon came to power; he restored the aristocracy to power.

Although France remains very unstable, Tellson’s Bank is still attempting to do business in Paris.  They have decided to send Mr. Lorry to their Paris office.  They do not expect him to make the Paris branch functional, but are hoping that he will be able to secure some property and papers for their customers.  Mr. Lorry’s impending trip to France sparks discussion of the conditions in France.  Unsurprisingly, Stryver is revealed as being sympathetic to the plight of the French aristocrats.  Along with several Frenchmen in the bank, he condemns the current Marquis St. Evrémonde, unaware that Darnay is the Marquis. 

Moreover, the meeting at the bank presents the opportunity for Darnay to receive a message from France.  A letter addressed to the Marquis St. Evrémonde is delivered to Tellson’s Bank.  Darnay offers to deliver the message to the Marquis, unwilling to reveal his actual identity to the men in the bank.  Darnay actually takes the letter for himself and reads it.  He discovers that the tax collector, Gabelle, has been imprisoned.  The reason for his imprisonment is that he has been acting as a steward for Darnay, a member of the aristocracy.  Darnay determines that he is duty-bound to return to France and aid Gabelle.  Nothing good seems to happen in France, and the reader immediately realizes that this is a bad idea.  This notion is reinforced when one realizes that not only does Darnay feel like he has to free Gabelle, but he also envisions himself playing some type of role in post-Revolutionary France.  He believes that he can calm the bloodlust that still permeates the country, perhaps playing a mediating role between the aristocracy and the peasants.  However, the reader is aware that he has long been targeted by the Revolutionaries. While Darnay might not view himself as a member of the privileged aristocracy because he has renounced his title, the peasants still very much view him as part of the oppressive system.

Darnay leaves without talking to Lucie or Dr. Manette about his departure.  He does write letters to them explaining that he has gone and why, but he does not seek their counsel about whether or not he should go.  He seems aware that they would not approve of his trip.  The reader can certainly understand why they would not support this behavior.  However, the trip to France is in line with prior behavior by Darnay. He has done foolish things in the past in the belief that he was helping people.  In addition, there is the significance of the fact that he is going to France to get someone out of prison, which is a continuation of the resurrection theme that features throughout the novel.

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