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A Tale of Two Cities By Charles Dickens


In the fictitious novel Tale of Two Cities, the author,
Charles Dickens, lays out a brilliant plot. Charles Dickens
was born in England on February 7, 1812 near the south
coast. His family moved to London when he was ten years old
and quickly went into debt. To help support himself,
Charles went to work at a blacking warehouse when he was
twelve. His father was soon imprisoned for debt and shortly
thereafter the rest of the family split apart. Charles
continued to work at the blacking warehouse even after his
father inherited some money and got out of prison. When he
was thirteen, Dickens went back to school for two years. He
later learned shorthand and became a freelance court
reporter. He started out as a journalist at the age of
twenty and later wrote his first novel, The Pickwick
Papers. He went on to write many other novels, including
Tale of Two Cities in 1859.
Tale of Two Cities takes place in France and England during
the troubled times of the French Revolution. There are
travels by the characters between the countries, but most
of the action takes place in Paris, France. The wineshop in
Paris is the hot spot for the French revolutionists, mostly
because the wineshop owner, Ernest Defarge, and his wife,
Madame Defarge, are key leaders and officials of the
revolution. Action in the book is scattered out in many
places; such as the Bastille, Tellson's Bank, the home of
the Manettes, and largely, the streets of Paris. These
places help to introduce many characters into the plot.
One of the main characters, Madame Therese Defarge, is a
major antagonist who seeks revenge, being a key
revolutionist. She is very stubborn and unforgiving in her
cunning scheme of revenge on the Evermonde family.
Throughout the story, she knits shrouds for the intended
victims of the revolution. Charles Darnay, one of whom Mrs.
Defarge is seeking revenge, is constantly being put on the
stand and wants no part of his own lineage. He is a languid
protagonist and has a tendency to get arrested and must be
bailed out several times during the story. Dr. Alexander
Manette, a veteran prisoner of the Bastille and moderate
protagonist, cannot escape the memory of being held and
sometimes relapses to cobbling shoes. Dr. Manette is
somewhat redundant as a character in the novel, but plays a
very significant part in the plot. Dr. Manette's daughter,
Lucie Manette, a positive protagonist, is loved by many and
marries Charles Darnay . She is a quiet, emotional person
and a subtle protagonist in the novel. One who never forgot
his love for Lucie, the protagonist Sydney Carton changed
predominately during the course of the novel. Sydney , a
look-alike of Charles Darnay, was introduced as a
frustrated, immature alcoholic, but in the end, made the
ultimate sacrifice for a good friend. These and other
characters help to weave an interesting and dramatic plot.
Dr. Manette has just been released from the Bastille, and
Lucie, eager to meet her father whom she thought was dead,
goes with Mr. Jarvis Lorry to bring him back to England.
Dr. Manette is in an insane state from his long prison stay
and does nothing but cobble shoes, although he is finally
persuaded to go to England. Several years later, Lucie, Dr.
Manette, and Mr. Lorry are witnesses at the trial of
Charles Darnay. Darnay, earning his living as a tutor,
frequently travels between England and France and is
accused of treason in his home country of France. He is
saved from being prosecuted by Sydney Carton, who a witness
confuses for Darnay, thus not making the case positive.
Darnay ended up being acquitted for his presumed crime.
Darnay and Carton both fall in love with Lucie and want to
marry her. Carton, an alcoholic at the time, realizes that
a relationship with Lucie is impossible, but he still tells
her that he loves her and would do anything for her. Darnay
and Lucie marry each other on the premises of the two
promises between Dr. Manette and Darnay. Right after the
marriage, while the newlyweds are on their honeymoon, Dr.
Manette has a relapse and cobbles shoes for nine days
France's citizens arm themselves for a revolution and, led
by the Defarges, start the revolution by raiding the
Bastille. Shortly before the start of the revolution, the
Marquis runs over a child in the streets of Paris. He is
assassinated soon after by Gaspard, the child's father, who
is also a part of the revolution. Three years later, right
in the middle of the revolution, Darnay is called to France
to help Gabelle, an old friend. As soon as he goes down
what seems to be a one-way street to France, he is arrested
(in France) for being an enemy of the state. Dr. Manette,
Lucie, and the Darnay's daughter go shortly after to Paris
to see if they can be of any help to Charles. When the
delayed trial finally takes place, Dr. Manette, who is in
the people's favor, uses his influence to free Charles. The
same day, Charles is re-arrested on charges set forth by
the Defarges and one other mystery person. The next day, at
a trial that had absolutely no delay, Charles is convicted
and sentenced to death. Because of the despondent
situation, Dr. Manette has a relapse and cobbles shoes.
Sydney Carton overhears plot to kill Lucie, her daughter,
and Dr. Manette and has them immediately get ready to leave
the country. Carton, having spy contacts, gets into the
prison in which Darnay is being held, drugs him and
switches places with him. Lucie, Charles, and their
daughter successfully leave the country. Sydney Carton,
making the ultimate sacrifice, partly for Lucie, goes to
the guillotine in place of Charles. Just before he dies,
Carton has a vision in which society is greatly improved
and the Darnays have a son named after him. This dramatic
plot revolves around several central themes.
One theme involves revenge. One's bad side is brought out
by the evil effects of revenge. Madame Defarge is the main
subject of this implicit theme. She turns into a killing
machine because she must get revenge. An example of this is
when she finds out Charles Darnay is an Evermonde and is
going to marry Lucie Manette. She knits Darnay's name into
the death register. Another key theme in the novel has to
do with courage and sacrifice. There were many sacrifices
in this novel by many different characters. The ultimate
sacrifice was made by Sydney Carton. Because of his love
for Lucie and his friendship with Darnay, Carton is the
example of one of the most important themes implied in this
book. Carton helps others, and does not think so much of
himself. Right before going to the guillotine, Carton sees
a better world, a world where he gave to others, not
thinking of himself. These themes help outline an
interesting story.
Tale of Two Cities is a very long and detailed historical
novel. It is my opinion that the major strength of this
book was the suspense and drama involved to keep the reader
hooked. There are always incidents to keep the reader
thinking, "what's going to happen now?" For example, I as a
reader wondered, "Will Dr. Manette ever get back to his old
self?"; "What will happen to Charles Darnay?"; and so on. A
major weakness of this book, in my opinion, was the fact
that it was so very long and had a somewhat advanced
vocabulary. Tale of Two Cities was almost 400 pages long
and took quite a bit of thinking on the reader's part to
understand. The novel used such words as "capricious";
"coquette"; "tergiversation"; and "acquiesced", among
others, which I included on my vocabulary list. I will
admit, this writing does enhance one's terminology greatly,
but these words are not used in everyday speech. It is good
to read literary classics, however, Dickens Tale of Two
Cities would not be one of my favorites. 


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