A Tale of Two Cities


Points To Ponder

What is the importance of featuring two cities in the setting of the novel?

Looking at A Tale of Two Cities, there is really no reason that Dickens could not have set the entire story in Paris, as almost all of the pivotal action either did occur or could occur in Paris.  However, the concept of doubles is crucial to the story.  Without the contrast of London, the reader might not fully understand why the conditions in Paris were growing steadily worse.  In addition, London provided balance to the negative portrayal of France.  While France had its own brand of lawlessness, with the aristocracy basically above the law, England was marked by rampant violence and criminal activity.  Furthermore, the English aristocracy may not have been as abusive of its citizens in England, but was facing its own Revolution in the American colonies.  Using the two different settings allowed Dickens to consistently highlight the best or worst aspects of the location.  Moreover, the two different cities allowed for movement in the plot.  It makes sense that Lucie would not want her father to be in Paris after his release from the Bastille, and London, as the closest big city, served as a great secondary location.  In the relative safety of London, the characters could develop and strengthen the relationships that would become so critical at the end of the novel.

Why would Dickens choose to render his female characters as two-dimensional caricatures of womanhood? 

One of the complaints about the novel is that two of its central characters, Lucie and Madame Defarge, are not very well developed, despite the fact that they play important roles in the novel.  However, Dickens’s failure to fully develop his female characters seems intentional.  Neither woman is essential in terms of her individual role in the novel.  Unlike Carton, whose personality is truly critical to the development of the novel, both women are most pivotal in how they manage to get others to...

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Essays About A Tale of Two Cities