Dual Credit English
A Literary Analysis of A Tale of Two Cities
Charles Dickens’ twelfth novel, A Tale of Two Cities, was written to show all of the good and evil that was present during the French Revolution. He uses the two main cities, London and Paris, to represent this, and then ties in a love story with many different symbols of good and evil such as Darnay and Carton, Madame Defarge and Miss Pross. In his novel, Dickens also shows both sides of the revolution with the peasants and the aristocracy. He expresses how they are both evil although the peasants are the people who we would be accustomed to feel pity for. An example of this is when the Marquis runs over a peasant boy in the streets and only fears that his horses might have been hurt. Monsieur Defarge runs to Gaspard (the father of the child) and says “Be brave man, my Gaspard! It is better for the poor plaything to die so, than to live. It has died in a moment without pain. Could it have lived an hour as happily” (102)? This is a heart wrenching quote that allows the reader to understand just how atrocious the peasant’s lives were; that is was a relief for a child to die quickly than to live out their life as a peasant being stepped on by the aristocracy. Dickens’ novel, although challenging to some, has a great message of hope and positive change with an enjoyable depiction of true events during the French Revolution. II. Themes
The most obvious theme seen throughout the book is the idea, and need for transformation. The repetition of the words “recalled to life” presents most of the change that occurs. This theme applies to Doctor Manette, who is recalled to life when Mr. Lorry and Lucie bring him home from prison and cure his unhealthy mind, giving him another chance at having a life with his beloved daughter. Carton is also recalled to life, for example he describes himself to Lucie as “self-flung away, wasted, drunken, poor creature of misuse,” and Lucie replies by asking Carton if she can recall him to a better ways (“Overview” par 3). Carton sacrifices himself to allow Lucie to be happy. He says “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” (360). At the end of the novel, the narrator describes what Carton’s last words would have been. He tells how Carton envisioned Lucie having a son and naming him after Carton, he says, “I see him winning it (his name) so well, that my name is made illustrious there by the light of his. I see blots threw upon it, faded away” (360). He knows this child will live the life he should have, and in a way continue to redeem Carton for wasting his own life. Roger Cly is also seen within this theme; “Cly’s death and burial as an Old Bailey Spy, complete with an enraged London mob, is a fraud, a means of his escaping England with John Barsard. Cly, too, then, is “buried” and resurrected” (“Themes and Construction” par 4). Transformation is also evident throughout France because of the strict, evil aristocracy. The peasants believe revolting will give them the change they want, although it only makes the situation worse.
Another important theme within the novel is revenge. Dickens creates entire chapters on the Marquis to show how horrid the aristocracy was, and yet he also condemns the peasants for revolting to it. Near the end of the novel, Dickens says, “Sow the same seed of rapacious licence and oppression over again, and it will surely yield the same fruit according to its kind” (355). This shows his idea that if they continue teaching their generations the same beliefs that they have, a greater change will never be obtained. Another example of the unruly people is when the do the Carmagnole around Lucie as she waits for the imprisoned Darnay to hopefully catch a glance of her. The Carmagnole was known as the dance of the revolution that was very wild and grotesque, which...
Cited: Atsma, Aaron J. "NEMESIS : Greek Goddess of Retribution & Indignation | Mythology, W/ Pictures." THEOI GREEK MYTHOLOGY, Exploring Mythology & the Greek Gods in Classical Literature & Art. Theoi Project, 13 Oct. 2000. Web. 27 Dec. 2011. <http://www.theoi.com/Daimon/Nemesis.html>.
Dickens, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities. 1859. Upper Saddle River, NJ. Prentice Hall, 2005. Print.
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