A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

Last Updated: 25 Mar 2020
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A Tale of Two Cities is a classic novel written by Charles Dickens. It is a historical/realistic-fiction novel with many well developed characters, settings, themes, and plot. Interestingly, the book has many main characters. They are all developed throughout the entire story- some are flat and some are round. However, to many of the readers, one character seems to be very special and moving. The character, Sydney Carton, is probably the most memorable character in the novel.Dickens shows that he is round changing from a “jackal” and an alcoholic into a hero (although it is impossible to call him a protagonist), sacrificing his own life for a woman he loved, but could never be with. In some ways, he can relate to the active reader because of his deep interest in the events that are going on. Another major character would be Mr. Jarvis Lorry. He is a flat character and the perfect image and representation of a Victorian-English hero. His generosity, supportiveness, and kindness are reflected upon his virtuous actions.

He is the first major character introduced in the novel and is present throughout the entire novel. Yet another major character in the novel would be Madame Defarge. Being the most sinister, cold hearted and evil character, she is the antagonist who represents a sans-culotte, a die-hard French Revolutionary woman whom Dickens intended for her to represent the cold hearted Lady Macbeth. She and her husband are responsible for the protagonists’ misery on many occasions. A Tale of Two Cities takes place during the French Revolution in two cities- France and England.

The setting mainly contributed to the major themes and the tone of the entire novel. It helps emphasize the triumph of the Revolutionaries and horrors that the victims of the Revolution faced. It also helps show the problems England faced too- which includes the obsession of paranormal and superstitious principles. The setting also helps contribute to a prominent motif that Dickens uses- duality (Two cities). Duality is immediately noticed because it is expressed in the opening lines, “It was the best of times. It was the worst of times” (7). This motif is resent in the characters and events that take place in the story too.

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Because the setting contributes so much to the story, it serves as a major component for Dickens’s construction of the novel. A major theme in the novel would be the theme of resurrection. Although this does not send out a moral message (not all themes do so), it contributes to the novel’s tone. The storming of the Bastille, the renewal of Doctor Mannette’s (another major character) mind, and Sydney Carton’s foresight of a new French empire are all examples of carefully crafted events that help show the presence of this theme.

In fact, the entire novel is about renewal, regeneration, and rebirth. The problem in this story, endangerment of the Darnay family (also major characters and protagonists), is solved by Carton’s sacrifice. In his foresight, the third generations of the Darnay family name their children after Sydney. This also shows resurrection in some way. A Tale of Two Cities starts off with Jarvis Lorry riding up a hill and receiving a message calling him to tell the orphaned 17 year old Lucie Mannette (the main protagonist) that her father is still alive and help her find him.

He is found mentally troubled imprisoned in the Bastille, but he is completely rejuvenated from seeing and interacting with Lucie. With the aid of Mr. Defarge and Jarvis Lorry, they find transportation back home in England. Here the Mannettes and Sydney Carton stand as testimonies for Charles Darnay (yet another major character who traveled with them on the way back to England) in a trial for life and death. Darnay is found innocent and falls in love with Lucie. When they get married, Madame Defarge finds out and plots against Darnay because his father and uncle had raped and murdered her sisters and killed the rest of her family.

In the end, Defarge is able to get Darnay imprisoned and sentenced to death. This novel, by far, is my favorite book of all time. Dickens is able to write such a work with careful construction of themes, motifs, allegories, allusions, and symbols, ingenious story structure, countless literary elements, and vivid descriptiveness and tone that makes the novel an unquestionable masterpiece. He is also able to add a very comic and lighthearted side to the story through the actions of one side character.

Although to many, the novel was wordy and hard to follow, I enjoyed Dickens’s wordiness and I didn’t have any major problems following the story. Thus, there was nothing I didn’t like about this novel. The story was not predictable and kept me on my toes, but it was still believable. The story ends with Sydney Carton dying in place of Darnay to preserve the happiness of Lucie Mannette, the woman he loved. It closes with a dramatic quote that alludes to William Shakespeare’s Hamlet stating, “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known” (386).

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A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. (2017, Mar 22). Retrieved from https://phdessay.com/a-tale-of-two-cities-207322/

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