“it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair … we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way…” asserts Charles Dickens in reference to the French Revolution (Dickens 1). This infamous rebellion began as a respectable, even gallant, cause: an uprising against the inhumane way the aristocracy treated the peasants. However, as long as man has the ability to hate, he is going to want revenge. This added emotion often fuels the will of the oppressed, causing them to be even more unmerciful and barbarous towards the ones who tormented and harassed them. Soon, they became even more frenzied and blood thirsty, transforming into animals obsessed with bloodshed. The novel A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens tells the story of these two classes along with that of two families and two cities, London and Paris, during the French Revolution. The novel is written in such a way that allows the reader to experience the trials and tribulations of the French Revolution, while still enjoying the characters and convoluted plot. Dickens seems to believe that imagery is the key to showing the contrast between two characters, cities or classes, and he often uses it to please the reader esthetically and successfully sway the reader’s sentimentality and sympathies throughout the novel. Furthermore, to develop the theme of man’s inhumanity towards his fellow man, imagery is used to set a specific tone towards the peasants over the course of several scenes within the novel, including the peasants crowding around a broken wine-casket, sharpening their bloody weapons on the grindstone, and joining each other in a disturbing dance.
By using detailed imagery to describe the moment when the peasants of St. Antoine crowd around a broken wine-casket, Dickens coaxes the reader into pitying the peasants. One day, a wine-casket is dropped and breaks in the street. Many starving peasants rush to the pools of wine and attempt to drink it from the muddy ground, while “others devoted themselves to the sodden and lee-dyed pieces of the cask, licking, and even champing the moister wine-rotted fragments with eager relish” (21). The imagery in this one quote illustrates that the peasant’s oppression has reduced them to an animal state. It also shows the destitution of the peasants: they are so hungry and thirsty that they will resort to drinking wine off of a muddy street. The wine seems to awaken the peasants, seeing as they become extremely happy, embrace each other, and begin dancing; however, as soon as the wine is gone, they immediately return to their desolate, impoverished lives:
the woman who had left on a door-step the little pot of hot-ashes, at which she had been
trying to soften the pain in her own starved fingers and tows, or in those of her child,
returned to it; men with bare arms, matted locks, and cadaverous faces, who had emerged
into the winter light from...