Why did Charles Dickens Write “A Tale of Two Cities”?

By: Amy Dyslex | Posted: 18th November 2011

“A Tale of Two Cities”: Summary, Synopsis & Symbolism

The French Revolution changed the political landscape of the state’s aristocracy as the monarchy of France collapsed and led to the eventual execution of King Louis XVI. Dickens’ ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ was set in the time preceding the French Revolution and the time during the movement itself.

The story was based in two major European hubs of the time which still attract significant attention today; London and Paris. The tale revolved around a supplanted French aristocrat and a dissolved British barrister.

A Brief Insight into the Life of Charles Dickens

Dickens, who was the most renowned English novelist of the Victorian Era, was born on the 7th of February, 1812 in Kent, England. He tended to write about social reform and its inevitable impact on the individuals affected by the waves of change which was a natural reaction to the maltreatment he faced as a child while working in different factories.

Unlike other novelists, Dickens used to publish his work in chapter installments rather than publishing finished works to begin with. His work mustered awe-inspiring acclaim and his novels remain popular over a century later. He died in the year 1870, at the age of fifty eight.

A Brief Summary of A Tale of Two Cities

The story revolves mostly around Charles Darnay, a French ex-aristocrat and Sydney Carton, a British barrister. Darnay is victimized as he falls directly into the path of the Revolution’s movement and hides under pseudonyms instead of his actual name and title. He goes on trial for treason a few years later after British spies falsely accuse him of providing the French with information regarding British military troops in North America.

Sydney Carton, the barrister, fancies Darnay’s wife Lucie Manette but she does not reciprocate his feelings. Carton possesses a tarnished image and a damaged reputation. Some critics argue that Darnay and Carton were doppelgangers of each other’s personalities. The three main characters are trapped in a love-triangle with complicated relationships and convoluted intricacies. The relational complexities coupled with socio-political plot twists make for an epic tale of love, struggle, tragedy and hardship.

The characters that breathed life into A Tale of Two Cities

The main characters were the two men entangled in their personal struggles and a common love interest, namely:

Charles Darnay: The French ex-aristocrat.
Sydney Carton: The disreputable British barrister.
Lucie Manette: Charles Darnay’s wife and Sydney Carton’s love interest.

There were several other characters that helped breathe life into the story which included:

Dr. Alexandre Manette: Lucie’s father.
Monsieur Ernest Defarge: Dr. Manette’s ex-servant who owns a wine shop.
Madame Therese Defarge: A female revolutionary who is married to Ernest Defarge.
Jacques I, II, and III: Ernest Defarge’s revolutionary comrades.
The Vengeance: Madam Defarge’s shadow lieutenant.

There are several other characters which supported the story’s base but were not of equal importance when compared to the main lineup.

Other famous works by Charles Dickens

Dickens was well known not only for A Tale of Two Cities but he also authored:

The Adventures of Oliver Twist
A Christmas Carol
David Copperfield
Great Expectations
The Chimes

He was well known for his distinct style which featured tinges of sarcasm and humor amid the formal tone of old. His works are preserved and recreated in the modern world.

Famous quotations from A Tale of Two Cities

"Eighteen years! Gracious Creator of day! To be buried alive for eighteen years!" – Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities, Book 1, Chapter 3.

"I have sometimes sat alone here of an evening, listening, until I have made the echoes out to be the echoes of all the footsteps that are coming by and by into our lives."
- Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities, Book 2, Chapter 6.

"Repression is the only lasting philosophy. The dark deference of fear and slavery, my friend, will keep the dogs obedient to the whip, as long as this roof shuts out the sky,’" Book 2, Chapter 9.

"I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me, shall never die." Book 3, Chapter 9.

"Then tell the Wind and Fire where to stop, but don’t tell me." Book 3, Chapter 12.


Saad Salman has posted this article. Visit www.writeawriting.com to read about “A Tale Of Two Cities”.
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