A Tale of Two Cities
This paper is a literary analysis over the book A Tale of Two Cities, written by Charles Dickens. It contains information about the author, plot, and characters in the story. Devices and styles used to complete the book are also in this paper.
On February 7, 1812 in Portsea, Charles Dickens began his life. His father, John Dickens, spent little time with Charles. The family lived in poverty and John was in prison much of the time. When Charles was two, the family moved to London. At age twelve, Charles worked in a factory pasting labels on bottles of shoe polish. He only worked there for a few months, but it was a miserable experience that would remain with him his whole life.
Dickens attended school until he was fifteen. He always enjoyed reading, and especially adventure stories, fairy tales, and novels. Authors like William Shakespeare, Tobias Smollet, and Henry Fielding greatly influenced his work. However, most of the knowledge he used as an author came from his environment around him.
In the late 1820s, Dickens became a newspaper writer and reporter. Dickens= first book, Sketches by Boz, written in 1836, consisted of articles he wrote for the London Chronicles. After he married Catherine Hogarth in 1836, his first work printed in The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club. This was the beginning of his career.
When Dickens was twenty-four, he became famous for the rest of his life. His first fame came with The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club with Dickens= adventure stories. Other works followed such as, Great Expectations, A Tale of Two Cities, and Our Mutual Friend.
In 1837, Catherine=s sister Mary, died. Dickens suffered much grief. This led some scholars to believe that Dickens loved Mary more than Catherine. Dickens and Catherine had ten children in all. In 1958 the couple separated.
Through his life, Dickens was an actor, a conjurer, a poet, a lecturer, and an editor. Dickens had a remarkable mental and physical energy. This led to involvement in many organizations until 1865 when Dickens health started to decline. In 1870 Dickens died of a stroke. The world remembers him as one of the best authors in history.
In two basic locations the story takes place. The main action is in England and France during the French revolution. The action begins in 1775 at Tellson=s bank in England, then it moves to France in a wine shop where the rebels have headquarters. Tellson=s bank in England is also a rebel base. The people in France are poor and the nobles keep getting richer. This leads to dirty streets and unhealthy people. This is the cause for the revolution.
Doctor Manette is a main character in the story. He was a well-respected doctor that fell into trouble among nobility before the time of the story. The nobles put Manette in a prison for eighteen years. These years of solitary confinement drive him crazy. His only comfort in the dark are his tools and workbench that his uses to make imaginary shoes. During these years Manette has no sense of time or anything.
Manette was in his fifty=s when he got out of prison. His hair was long and dirty. His well-built body wore thin in those eighteen years. Time and normal life helped to restore Manette=s body and also his mind.
After the rebels break Manette out of the Bastille, he evolves back into the man he was before the imprisonment. This took almost three years. We found that Manette is a deeply caring and compassionate family man. He earns the respect and love of most everyone. It takes great strength of character and determination to overcome the horrors of eighteen years of confinement in the Bastille.
Manette was a moral man. He knew that the French nobles were wrongfully stealing money and leaving the peasants in poverty. He was a shoemaker in his dreams and a scientist in real life. Manette loved his daughter very much and was happy to give her to Charles Darney in marriage. He knew Darney was a good man and loved his daughter very much. When Darney tried to tell Manette of his past, Manette would not allow him to speak until he and Lucie married. To show the great character that he was, Manette used his knowledge of the prison to return and help Darney escape, even after his terrible experience there.
Manette was not without flaw though. At one point everyone has to crack. When Darney told Manette that he was Charles Evermond after the wedding, Manette went back to his solitary mentality. He went back to work with his tools on his shoes until his family buried the tools and bench. They did this and soon Manette had his health back.
Sydney Carton is an insolent, indifferent, alcoholic lawyer. He loves Lucie, but knows he is unworthy of her. Carton once had a promising future, but his life went downhill. Carton is an unhappy man on the outside and a brave and heroic man on the inside. He dies for Lucie, in the place of Darney in the end of the story. “Carton to be about thirty when he goes to the guillotine, but he is actually middle-aged, somewhere around forty. What gives one that illusion of youth is the adolescent nature of his love in its purity and emailprotected(Dickens 360)
Charles Darnay is a Frenchman who chooses to live in England for secret reasons. Darnay becomes Lucie’s husband and the father of her children. He is a good man, but his origins are mysterious. Darnay has an inclination for getting into mortal trouble and someone always comes to the rescue, every time with a greater risk. With his propensity for getting jailed and tried on charges carrying the death penalty, it is no wonder Lucie falls in love with Darney.
The story begins in the year 1775 when Jarvis Lorry finds Lucie Manette and tells her that her father is alive and in France. After finding her father, they return to England to testify for Charles Darney who is on trial for treason. DeFarge releases Darney and everyone is happy. As Dr. Manette starts to get better, three suitors come to him for Lucie. Darney is the lucky one who gets to marry her. After the wedding, Manette has a relapse of his prison days. Lorry then destroys the shoemaking kit.
In 1789 the storming of the Bastille in France occurred and began the revolution. The guillotine became overused, killing anyone relating to nobility. Darney returns to France to save a friend, but the French capture him and put him on death row. Manette freed him then unknowingly condemned him because of family actions in the past. Since Carton looked like Darney, he took Darney’s place at the guillotine. Madame Defarge found out so Mrs. Pross had to kill her to save the Manettes’. Carton died happy knowing that Lucie would live happily.
There are many conflicts in this story and one of these is Sydney Carton’s conflict with his past and outer self. In his past he was a drunk and led a miserable life. As a lawyer, Carton had a chance at a good life, but ruined it with alcohol. This made it very difficult for him when he fell in love with Lucie. Carton knew that he was unworthy of such a woman, or any woman at all. The plan to save Darney gave Carton a chance to overcome his past and allow people to remember him as something better than a drunk. This showed that Carton had a loving and heroic inner self that anyone can respect.
I have learned that the power of love is the strongest of all emotions. Love knows no limits. Not even hate or the ultimate revenge can overcome love. Carton gave up his life for Lucie because love allowed him to do the unthinkable. He did not do it to be happy with Lucie. He did this simply for his love to be happy without him. Mrs. Pross also did the unthinkable because of love. She murdered Madame Defarge out of love and determination to save her loved ones. We find that the power of love will compel people to do anything selflessly for others.
Author styles and devices greatly affect the story. To set the emotional scene Dickens describes the feelings of the characters. By explaining the setting of the novel Dickens can show the reader how the people of the two cities are feeling toward each other and the nobles.
Dickens also uses humor to cause a break in a serious story. One example of this is when a wine barrel breaks on its way to the wine shop. Since the people in the streets are so poor, they flock to the spill and save every drop of the wine leaving the cobblestone street clean.
One of Dickens greatest abilities is to describe scenes to give the reader a vivid picture. This quotation from the end of the book that shows his ability.
AThere is a dreadful compulsion in the Carmagnole, a ghastly apparition of a dance-figure gone raving mad, keeping a ferocious time…like a gnashing of teeth in unison, with dancers who advance, retreated, struck at one another=s hands, spun, clutched and tore, and then, with their heads low down, and their hands high up, swooped screaming emailprotected(Dickens 374)
Foreshadowing is another important element used by Dickens. Many times he foreshadows the Revolt to come. AThe time was to come, when that wine too would be spilled on the street-stones, and when the stain of it would be red upon many emailprotected(Dickens 38) This foreshadows the blood shed because there is going to be a revolt.
Dickens tells A Tale of Two Cities in third person. This is a perspective of writing where the narrator tells the story. There is also dialogue between characters. The omniscient narrator tells the story. He knows everything, including what the characters do not know.
The title, A Tale of Two Cities is appropriate for this story. They directly relate to the setting that is London and Paris. These are two cities of major importance during the French revolution. They house a tale of dramatic happenings of individuals and the countries as a whole.
A Tale of Two Cities is a long and boring book. As I look back on the story, I find that the last 120 pages of the book were much more eventful than the first 270 pages. This causes lose of interest early in the story. Without interest, getting anything out of the pages is hard. Then, all of the sudden, the plot becomes exciting and the story is over. This is not the best way to write a story. For these reasons A Tale of Two Cities is not a book for people who are not die hard readers.
Dickens, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities. New York, New York: The New American Library of World Literature, Incl., 1936.