In Tale of Two Cities, Book 2 Chapter VI Hundreds of People, there is one word, 'render', which confuses me.

Mr. Lorry knew Miss Pross to be very jealous, but he also knew her by this time to be, beneath the service of her eccentricity, one of those unselfish creatures — found only among women — who will, for pure love and admiration, bind themselves willing slaves, to youth when they have lost it, to beauty that they never had, to accomplishments that they were never fortunate enough to gain, to bright hopes that never shone upon their own sombre lives. He knew enough of the world to know that there is nothing in it better than the faithful service of the heart; so rendered and so free from any mercenary taint...

What does 'render' mean here?


5 Answers 5


the faithful service of the heart; so rendered and so free from any mercenary taint...

Render means in the broadest sense "give" or "yield"; when its direct object is an action (as in this case: service) it means perform [the action] as a gift or obligation.

In Present-day English we'd replace that semicolon with a colon or em dash. And Dickens playfully employs so in two different senses: so rendered means "rendered in that manner" (that is, rendered faithfully and from the heart), but so free from... combines this sense with the sense therefore: "because it is rendered in this manner it is free from...".

  • 2
    I'd like to add that in "so free from any mercenary taint", "so" could also be interpreted as adding emphasis to express the great degree of freedom Mar 11, 2017 at 16:09
  • Great thanks, I was mostly confused by why it is followed by 'and ...'.
    – Landy
    Mar 12, 2017 at 7:56

Rendered here means surrendered, : -

1.3 literary Give up; surrender. ‘he will render up his immortal soul’


The heart is so surrendered to love that it is free from any other motive or desire.

Here is a modern interpretation of the same passage:-

He knew enough of the world to know that there is nothing in it better than the faithful service of the heart; so rendered and so free from any mercenary taint,

Mr. Lorry knew enough about the world to know that there is nothing better than true love and devotion that is free from selfish motives.

  • Definitely "surrendering herself to the innate urge <to do whatever>" is plausible, but I don't know if I buy the idea of "the heart is so surrendered from other motives". One doesn't typically surrender from, but surrender to.
    – Dan Bron
    Mar 11, 2017 at 14:41
  • No definite about it, it's purely interpretive. The heart is being used metaphorically here of course. When one is consumed with love, you could argue that all that remains is the heart.
    – Gary
    Mar 11, 2017 at 14:42
  • @DanBron interesting, thanks: " but I don't know if I buy the idea of "the heart is so surrendered from other motives". I'll amend the answer in light of your comment
    – Gary
    Mar 11, 2017 at 14:48
  • I like this. Upvote.
    – Dan Bron
    Mar 11, 2017 at 14:50

The sentence is a bit complicated because the so rendered phrase is apparently applicable to either faithful service, as Dan Bron has noted, or of the heart, which also works.

In addition to the sense of "given to" provided by others, rendered seems to borrow shades of meaning from other usages. I read it as metaphor - that Ms. Pross's unselfish heart, refined and purified by time, was such that all that remained was goodness. This sense of rendered comes from the rendering of fat to segregate the valuable from the corrupting. Something that is rendered is valuable, keeps well, and is the result of a time consuming process. This works pretty well in light of the preceding sentence. Rendering was done in the kitchen to make soap, and metaphorically, a rendered fraction carries an association of a clean and pure purpose.


It's a redundant statement with "so free" to emphasis how he looks at it. While traditionally rend means to tear and rendered means to give away, here it is closer to separated from, covered.

With the previous statements the context is that her heart is beyond the ugly things in life, mercenary work.

Alternatively you can see how he's talking about how she gives it away. How they tie it to things no longer around. In context it would be that this type of love is freely, strongly or blindly given to passion. It's melted away from things like logic and separated to nicer things.

Essentially both interpretations are the same, the heart was removed and given to a better state.


Rendered, in this instance, means torn. A rendered heart is one that has been broken (torn) and healed through the act of repentence. The usage comes from a verse in the Bible (Joel 2:13), which Victorian readers would have been very familiar with:

And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil.

King James Version

Other translations use tear instead of rend:

Tear your hearts, not just your clothes, and return to the Lord your God. For He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, rich in faithful love, and He relents from sending disaster.

Holman Christian Standard Bible

rend verb [ T ] (old use or literary)

to tear or break something violently:

Cambridge Dictionaries

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    Wouldn't that be rent, not rendered? And how does "a broken heart" fit into the context of a woman whose soul is so pure that she's closer to the angels than even the most beautiful and riches people on the earth? No, here she is rendering service out of a innate and sinless urge, untwined by any selfish desire, including a mercenary desire for dirty lucre.
    – Dan Bron
    Mar 11, 2017 at 13:38
  • I really, really hate autocorrect. It makes me look like a gibberish-spewing moron. "Untwined by desire", indeed!
    – Dan Bron
    Mar 11, 2017 at 14:09
  • 1
    @DanBron We've all done that. Been there. Got the t-shirt.
    – Mick
    Mar 11, 2017 at 14:27

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