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The Fuel For Inhumanity In Charles Dickens’ A Tale Of Two Cities

1151 words - 5 pages

The French Revolution, beginning in 1789, served as a force for exposing man’s inhumanity to man because of the unjust actions that arose in all aspects of human existence during this time period. Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities examines the extent to which man will travel to achieve what he believes is essential to life. A look into every aspect of this epoch in both France and England reveals the faults that enable man to overlook the value of another individual’s life. Throughout the novel, Dickens analyzes the concept of man’s inhumanity to his fellow man as a force motivated by inordinate greed, destructive power, and conspicuous injustice.
In the novel, various forms of greed motivate the characters’ inhumanity by causing them to lose all knowledge of their responsibility to their fellow man. This is first displayed in the lawyer, Stryver, and the mistreatment of his business partner, Sydney Carton. Dickens writes “The more business he got, the greater his power seemed to grow of getting at its pith and marrow...”(Dickens 65). In Stryver’s attempt to gain money and popularity, he capitalizes on Carton’s long nights of hard work and takes all the credit for successes in court while Carton receives no recognition. Stryver’s cupidity to become a well-liked lawyer at the Old Bailey courthouse causes him to take advantage of his colleague. Greed and materialism are also demonstrated through Dickens sardonic descriptions of the French aristocracy. Dickens mockingly describes the Monseigneur in Town, “Of his pleasures, general and particular, Monseigneur had the other truly noble idea, that the world was made for them” (79). The Monseigneur in Town is not given a name because he is meant to symbolize a type of person, a French aristocrat who does not see past the walls of his home. The Upper Class of Paris are ignorant to what occurs beyond the confines of their riches, sitting idly by as their fellow man is starving. From the sumptuous chateau of the Evrémond family to the four people who must serve and prepare the Monseigneur’s morning chocolate, the lavish lifestyles of the French gentry enrage and provoke the peasantry. Within the novel, these various forms of greed precipitate each of these inhumanities by making man oblivious to the lives of his neighbors.
Dickens asserts in the novel that when the mind is darkened with power, man is no longer able to treat his fellow man as an equal. As the novel builds, this becomes apparent in the aristocracy’s treatment of the peasants; the effect of power is specifically made evident in the reaction of the Marquis when he tramples and kills Gaspard’s child with his horse and carriage in St. Antoine’s square. The Marquis’ indifferent response to this situation shows no regret or sympathy towards the father of the child he has killed. The power structure is clear in France, and those who have it are allowed to act in any manner as they choose. The Marquis reveals his brutality as he is leaving when...

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