Book Review: A Tale of Two Cities

Topics: A Tale of Two Cities, French Revolution, Age of Enlightenment Pages: 8 (2871 words) Published: March 7, 2006
A Tale of Two Cities is set in London and Paris before and during the French Revolution, which occurred from 1789 until 1799 (Bulliet, 652). An eruption of feelings from the rising lower class broke way for Charles Dickens, the author, to write a novel filled with historical information intertwined with developed characters and actions to give a taste of how life was during the French Revolution. The historical events are embedded in the conflicts and through the characters of Marquis Evremonde, Doctor Manette, and Madame Defarge and their actions. The documents "The Progress of the Human Mind," the "Declaration of the Rights of Man," "On the Moral and Political principles of domestic policy," and "Reflections on the Revolution of France" are effective at accurately showing lifestyles of all classes and people. These documents portray the history precisely, and illuminate the positive and negative aspects to the way the French Revolution unraveled. The historical events are rooted in the character of Marquis Evremonde, a horrific man of who represents the French aristocrats. Marquis Evremonde, an aristocrat, runs over a child while heedlessly rushing home in his carriage. The child is the son of a poor man named Gaspard. Instead of apologizing, he blames the crowd for being in the way. Being more worried about his horses, Evremonde scornfully tosses a gold coin on to the street and announces that the people should take better care of their children and themselves. Defarge, a leader of the French Revolution, throws the coin back into Evremonde's carriage. Marquis curses them all and says that he would gladly ride over any of them, especially the rascal that threw the coin. "I would ride over any of you very willingly, and exterminate you from the earth"(Dickens, 102). This quotation affirms that Evremonde is so insensitive towards the lower class, he even feels the world would be better without their presence. The quotation implies that the pheasants are like rodents or pests to the aristocrats. Gaspard, angered by the lethargic insolence of Evremonde, joins the Defarges in the French Revolution, and hides under Evremonde's carriage and murders him at night. Gaspard becomes Jacques 1, one of the three revolutionaries who secretly plan the revolution. Evremonde's character represents the horror and power of the aristocracy. Other areas that showed the revulsion of the arisotcacy toward the poor were places associated by Doctor Manette. Doctor Manette alludes to the historical evidence by his memories of the prison called the Bastille, the Tellson's bank and the Tower of London. This prison swarms with prisoners accused of speaking out against France at the beginning of the novel. Dr. Manette had been an innocent victim of aristocratic oppression for eighteen years, causing him loss of memory and no desire to live. Though the Bastille later imprisons the aristocrats when the French Revolution rises, the Bastille is covered in memories of the atrocious aristocrat. The horrors of the aristocrats live on inside Dr. Manette so well, that when he finds out that his daughter Lucie Manette, married a family member of the Evremonde's, he withdraws into his state he was in while imprisoned and appears old, scared, and lost. He cobbles shoes, which he only does when he is miserable and haunted by memories of the Bastille. Charles Dickens describes that the Tellson Bank (an English bank that had a branch in Paris and catered to the aristocratic clients) as similar to the great Bastille prison, in how it holds many dark secrets, promotes death, and buries people alive. "It was an old fashioned place…the partners in the House were proud of its smallness, proud of its darkness, proud of its ugliness, proud of its incommodiousness" (Dickens, 46). The Tower of London (a prison Darnay was imprisoned in) also shows the atrocities of the aristocrats. Darnay tells Dr. Manette and others a story of how workmen had apparently come upon an old...

Cited: Bulliet, Richard W., The Earth and Its Peoples; A Global History. Boston: Houghton
Mifflin Company, 2005
Burke, Edmund. "Reflections on the Revolution in France". 1790: Rpt. In
Johnson, Oliver A
Dickens, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities. New York: Bantam Books, 1981. (Bantam Classic
Edition 1859).
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