A Tale of Two Cities


Story Symbols and Themes

Symbols are those things in a novel that actually represent something else. A Tale of Two Cities is replete with symbols. Though it openly discusses the French Revolution, it also indirectly alludes to a number of ideas reflecting the cultural and political milieu of the time.

Knitting – Knitting plays an important role in the story and refers to the idea of fate controlling human life. Lucie is considered the golden thread holding her family together, and as such, she knits them together to make a family out of a group of people who did not know each other at the beginning of the novel. However, knitting is also linked to Madame Defarge, who also involves people in her knitting, but in a destructive manner. In addition, Madame Defarge is like a spider spinning its web; her knitting condemns people to death.

Wine – It is significant that Defarge ran a wine shop rather than another type of shop, as the wine symbolizes the heady irresponsibility of many of the characters in the novel. First, Carton has a drinking problem, so that one can see the direct negative impact that wine has on his life. More importantly, the Revolutionaries are drunk on power, and their intoxication causes them to act irrationally. Moreover, the wine in the story is red wine, and the red wine symbolizes blood. For example, the wine spilled outside of Defarge’s wine shop foreshadows the blood that would soon spill in the streets. Likewise, the fact that the Defarges trafficked in wine foreshadows that they will traffic in blood.

Guillotine – The guillotine symbolizes fear, but not just any fear; it symbolizes the fear that comes when chaos becomes the norm. Throughout the novel, Dickens reveals the dangers of mob rule, and the guillotine and its associated executions reveal a society in which mob mentality controls the country.

Footsteps – At different times throughout the book, Dickens observes that the characters hear footsteps. These are not ghostly footsteps;...

Sign up to continue reading Story Symbols and Themes >

Essays About A Tale of Two Cities