6 of Air - The Manettes & Miss Pross

Characters:

Dr. Alexandre Manette; Lucie Darnay the younger;

Lucie Darnay the elder née Manette; Miss Pross.

Book:

A Tale of Two Cities

    Lucie Manette and her family have crossed the English Chanel in hopes of aiding the case of the family's patriarch, Charles Darnay. Lucie had made a similar trip earlier when reunited with her father, a brilliant physician, who spent 18 years incarcerated in a secret prison in the Bastille. The good doctor's crime? - reporting the abuses at court of nobles such as the Evrémondes. As a distraction from the tortures of captivity, Dr. Manette took up the cobbling of shoes – an activity he still reverts to when under mental duress. Upon their initial return to England, Lucie had cared for her father, aiding in his recovery from so many years in isolation. Having befriended Charles Darnay – actually an Evrémonde who is fleeing the tyranny of his family and the turmoil of France – the Manettes attend his trial when he is arrested on trumped-up charges of treason against the Kingdom of Great Britain. Thanks to the clever maneuverings of the barrister Sydney Carton, Darnay is acquitted and Dr. Manette blesses his proposal of marriage to Lucie.

 The 6 of Air sees the Manettes returning to revolutionary France in hopes of seeing Charles Darnay once again acquitted, unaware of the vengeance and unchecked violence which is strangling the country. As we know, Dr. Manette will speak at the Revolutionary tribunal in Darnay's defence, his words rejoined by blood-thirsty calls for retribution. His words affect action only temporarily, however, when facts the doctor had written down while imprisoned concerning the misdeeds of Darnay's family resurface, damning Darnay to death by La Guillotine.

 Lucie, as her name suggests, is a ray of light cutting through the charred, claustrophobic world of A Tale of Two Cities. When her father is released from his captivity and asked “I hope you care to be recalled to life?” his answer is “I can't say.” With Lucie's nurturing – the very quality which first endears her to Darnay – Doctor Manette is recalled to life, practicing medicine again and becoming a man of distinction. The same can be said of her influence on Sydney Carton - even as his distinction and recalling to life means his death. What Dickens smuggles into the novel through these two characters is the idea that experience and surrounding shape a person's character and actions – an idea grown commonplace to a post-Freudian world but revolutionary in Dickens' day. The impact of the characters' manipulations and their transformations stand in stark contrast to another idea knitted into the novel, namely: Fate and the weal of the people, revolving – unstoppable - like the world, or the time-piece of Providence, or the Marquis St. Evrémonde's carriage wheel. The movement implicit in the 6 of Air represents both these ideas – agency and impotence, the inevitable and the unknown. Here, midway through the suit, we have both at once and not quite either: the compulsive action of Manette's cobbling, empty in itself but nevertheless affecting, and the heirlooms of Destiny deferred.

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Shorthand : Action: solution to problems? – an eye for an eye, a shoe for a shoe - such is an obstacle temporarily overcome – a partial success – a question, to be sure: just what is progress? – rescue? – banishment? – the past cannot be escaped – the future impossible to elude – the terrible tenterhooks of the present – but a momentary reprieve – a change is as good as a rest - yet heeding the call for continuing effort – doctor heels thyself - supposition: that difficulties fled without resolution will only resurface – the shoe, in the end, on the other foot – if it ever falls.