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The Historical Context Of A Tale Of Two Cities

3125 words - 13 pages

A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens, is a story set in the year 1775 and through the turbulent time of the French Revolution. It is of people living in love and betrayal, murder and joy, peril and safety, hate and fondness, misery and happiness, gentle actions and ferocious crowds. The novel surrounds a drunken man, Sydney Carton, who performs a heroic deed for his beloved, Lucie Manette, while Monsieur and Madame Defarge, ruthless revolutionaries, seek revenge against the nobles of France. Research suggests that through Dickens’ portrayal of the revolutionaries and nobles of the war, he gives accurate insight to the era of the Revolution.
Charles Dickens is a talented author who wrote many notable novels, including A Tale of Two Cities. Barbara Hardy notes that at a young age Dickens’ father was imprisoned for debt, leaving young Charles to support himself and his family alone (47). Dickens strongly disliked prisons, which shows as a motif in A Tale of Two Cities. Many of his interests contributed to the formulation of the novel. In the essay “Introduction” from the book, Charles Dickens, Harold Bloom claims Dickens hoped “to add something to the popular and picturesque means of understanding [the] terrible time” of the Revolution (20). Dickens’ reading and “extraordinary reliance upon Carlyle’s bizarre but effective French Revolution” may have motivated him to write the novel (Bloom 21). Sir James Fitzjames Stephen believed that Dickens was “on the look-out for a subject, determined off-hand to write a novel about [French Revolution]” (Bloom 20). In Brown’s book Dickens in his Time, Dickens guided the writing of the play Frozen Deep where two rivals share the same love, and one ultimately sacrifices himself for her (94). Dickens was not only helping to construct the play, but also “simultaneously arraigning bourgeois society, the reckless greed of the new capitalism, and the incompetence and corruption of the English ruling class” (Brown 95). This plot was translated into his novel, A Tale of Two Cities. Dickens was also “revolted by the death sentence” (Brown 62). At the end of his novel, he shows his contempt for the death sentence by a condemnation of death for a crime the person did not commit.
The novel begins in 1775, when Lucie Manette goes to the Bastille Prison to find her father, who was supposedly dead. She retrieves Doctor Manette who was kept confined by Monsieur Defarge, a wine shop owner and French revolutionary. Years later, after returning home to England, the Manettes attend the trial of Charles Darnay who was accused of treason against England. Darnay was found innocent because the testifier could not attest to whether Darnay or Sydney Carton, a lazy alcoholic who remarkably resembles Darnay, committed the crime. Carton dislikes Darnay because Darnay reminds him of what person he could have been. Afterwards, Darnay visits his uncle, Marquis Evremonde, a French aristocrat. Darnay denounces his...

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