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Chapter Titles In Charles Dickens' "A Tale Of Two Cities" And What They Reveal About This Novel

1249 words - 5 pages

Ben Weissler3/16/08Block 5A Tale of Two CitiesCharles Dickens' novel, A Tale of Two Cites, is a very rich text. The characters, plot, and writing style are all complex and multifaceted. However, one of the least studied and important part of this novel is the chapter titles and even the proposed novel titles. These titles reveal and expose more about the text, like symbolism and irony that would have otherwise been missed. Dickens' chapter and proposed novel titles are instrumental in revealing symbolism and irony in the book.Dickens' chapter titles reveal underlying symbolism in the novel. One of most symbolic of all the chapter titles is that of Book II, chapter five: "The Jackal." The "jackal" is the nickname given to Sydney Carton, and it holds a great symbolic meaning. The jackal is a loner, a scavenger, a low-life in the hierarchy. Yet, the jackal is an incredibly adept at what it does; it is an excellent scavenger and hunter. Carton fits the chapter title perfectly. When we first see Carton, he is in the courtroom staring idly at the ceiling. He is unattached, just as he is later unattached from the Revolution and the rift between the Manettes and the Defarges, his manner in court is said to be "so careless as to be almost insolent." Carton is continually a man set apart, just like the lonesome jackal. Carton, it must be noted, is one of the only main characters to not have a connection with the Revolution in some way. The 'jackal' and chapter title are a direct double of the 'lion', or Mr. Stryver. Stryver, though he lacks "that faculty of extracting the essence from a heap of statements", is a highly successful man. Dickens notes that "easy and strong custom" is what prevents the "thought of emerging from the state of the lion's jackal." A second chapter title that exhibits symbolism is that of Book II, chapter fifteen: "Knitting." In a literal sense, Madam Defarge knits a registry of those marked to be killed in the revolution. When one of the Jacques questions the registry of stitches, M. Defarge assures him that "it will always be as plain to her as the sun." At this point in the novel, it is clear that Madame Defarge possesses an anger and fury that knows no boundary. The knitting symbolizes the Defarge's and the entirety of the Revolution's hatred of aristocracy. Dickens tells the reader that the "fingers of the knitting women were vicious." Additionally, we are also told that "if the bony fingers had been still, the stomachs would have more famine-pinched." Thus, Dickens turns a casual and seemingly harmless pastime into a sinister and menacing symbol of hatred. Dickens turns this chapter title into a recurring symbol in Book III, chapter fourteen: "The Knitting Done," in which Darnay is waiting to die, and Madame Defarge herself is killed by Mrs. Pross, bringing an end to her knitting. A third and final symbolic chapter title is that of Book III, chapter three: "The Shadow." The symbol presented by this chapter title is somewhat...

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