Dr. Manette: Character Analysis & Quotes

Instructor: Debbie Notari
The good doctor Manette embodies both suffering and forgiveness in Dicken's novel 'A Tale of Two Cities.' In this lesson, we will see how Dr. Manette suffers and triumphs through his unjust imprisonment in the Bastille during the time of the French Revolution.

The Character Dr. Manette

Doctor Manette evokes sympathy, as he is a victim of the pre-French Revolution era. To tell it briefly, Dr. Manette is a successful French physician who is stopped by two French aristocrats, the Evremonde brothers, as he walks home one evening. They brandish weapons and demand that he come with them to help two injured people on their property.

As it turns out, one of the men has raped a young woman, and she is delirious. When her little brother tries to defend her, one brother fatally stabs him with a sword. Their story is horrific. Although the Evremonde brothers swear Doctor Manette to secrecy, he sends a statement about their criminal actions to the governing authorities, only to be imprisoned in the Bastille as a result. He is rescued when the Bastille falls, but he has lost much of his identity and compulsively cobbles shoes to ward off the horrors of long imprisonment. Manette is eventually reconciled with his loving daughter, Lucie, where he recovers under her care in England.


How does someone who is so wronged learn to forgive? Dr. Manette provides a compelling example for us. He is unjustly imprisoned and then released due to the fall of the Bastille. He becomes a lowly shoemaker and has forgotten his own identity. When he is asked if he 'cares to be recalled to life,' his only answer is 'I can't say.'

His daughter, Lucie, loves him unconditionally, and he is restored to physical and mental health through her unwavering devotion. Still, his experience scars him for life. Dickens writes that certain things could 'draw a gloom over him, as incomprehensible to those unacquainted with his story as if they had seen the shadow of the actual Bastille thrown upon him by a summer sun, when the substance was three hundred miles away.' However, Dickens illustrates Lucie's healing influence upon Manette by stating, '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.'

The Ironic Twist

In a twist of irony, his daughter, Lucie, falls in love with Charles Darnay, the nephew of his enemy, the Marquis Evremonde. Darnay has kept his identity a secret because he wants nothing to do with his evil uncle. Darnay tells Dr. Manette his secret on the morning of his wedding to Lucie. This news sends Dr. Manette into a state of relapse. Not only does he have to relive the horror of his past, but his daughter is marrying the nephew of his worst enemy.

In a psychologically healing part of the story, Dr. Manette must come to terms with his old pain, and the symbolic distraction of shoemaking that he retreats towards when he learns of Darnay's identity. Manette, himself, calls his pain 'an old companion.' In some ways, Darnay's openness has provided an opportunity for Dr. Manette to face his pain and fears and release them with the help of dear and trusted friends.


Book Three, chapter ten gives us the largest text of lines by Dr. Manette, as a letter that he secretly wrote while he was imprisoned in the Bastille is read to the court, essentially damning the Marquis Evremonde. In this letter, he relates how he came to be stopped one night by the Evremonde brothers and is basically forced to attend to two victims who the Evremonde's have harmed.

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