Insights into A Tale of Two Cities

Insights into
A Tale of Two Cities
Chapters 9
“The Gorgon’s Head”
The title of Chapter 9 is an
allusion to Homer’s epic poem
“The Odyssey”--which you
studied your freshman year in
English I.
Remember that a Gorgon is from Ancient
Greek mythology. It was a vicious female
with fangs and the skin of a serpent.
There were three Gorgons, one
of which was Medusa, the only
mortal Gorgon, who had snake
hair as a punishment from
Athena. If you looked into the
Gorgon’s eyes, you were turned
to stone
Chapter 9 takes place at the chateau of
the Marquis. A château is a manor house
or residence of the lord of the manor or a
country house of nobility or gentry, with or
without fortifications.
Keep in mind that the Marquis is already
on edge because of what the mender of
roads has told him he has seen in relation
to his carriage (see p. 116).
On pages 120 and 121, the Marquis
thinks he is seeing things outside the
blinds of the window. (This is important
We learn on page 119 that “Monsieur
Charles” is the Marquis’ nephew. Since
we only know one Charles in our story, we
may accurately assume that this nephew
of the Marquis is the same Charles we
saw cross the English Channel with Lucie
and her father—and the one who is
obviously falling in love with Lucie.
It’s important that you pay attention to the
strained relationship between Charles and
his uncle (illustrated on pages 121-128.
Be sure to mark and define the term
“letter de cachet” at the top of page 123.
Your comprehension of the rest of the
novel requires that you understand what
this is. (See next slide.)
In French history, lettres de cachet were letters signed
by the king of France, countersigned by one of his
ministers, and closed with the royal seal, or cachet.
They contained orders directly from the king, often to
enforce arbitrary actions and judgments that could not
be appealed.
The best-known lettres de cachet were punishment, by
which a person was sentenced without trial and without
an opportunity of defense to imprisonment in a state.
The wealthy sometimes bought such lettres to dispose
of unwanted individuals.
In the middle of the page on 124, be sure to note
the very obvious foreshadowing the narrator gives
about what’s to happen to the Marquis’ and other
aristocrats’ chateaus:
“If a picture of the chateau as it was to be a very
few years hence, could have been shown to him
that night, he might have been at a loss to claim
his own from the ghastly, fire-charred, plunderwrecked ruins.”
On page 125, you have a VERY important piece
of information given about Charles:
“Can I separate my father’s twin-brother, joint
inheritor, and next successor, from himself?”
In other words, Charles has told us (through
indirect characterization) that the Marquis is his
father’s twin brother. Because of the Marquis’
response (“Death has done that!”), we can infer
that Charles’ father is dead, and his twin
brother—Charles’ uncle—is now the Marquis
(which is the title). So we know that, if Charles’
uncle were to die, Charles would be the next
Also on page 125, be sure to mark Charles’
feelings about the property and power he will
inherit from his uncle (the Marquis) once his uncle
dies: “This property and France are lost to me…I
renounce them.”
Don’t miss the fact that the uncle (the Marquis)
implies on pages 126-127 that he is familiar with
Dr. Manette and Lucie, who are in England.
At the bottom of page 127 (2nd to the last
paragraph), the narrator provides us with the
animal imagery of Monsieur the Marquis as a
Pages 129 and 130 are EXTREMELY important.
By the end of the chapter (see the last two
paragraphs), something significant has happened
to Monsieur the Marquis. Dickens gives us three
clues to the person who is responsible for this
1. the verb “scrawled” (which you have seen
2. the fact that the note says to drive the Marquis
“FAST” to his tomb
3. the signature “Jacques”
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