A Tale of Two Cities By Charles Dickens


(Essay #2)
Many authors receive their inspiration for writing their
literature from outside sources. The idea for a story could
come from family, personal experiences, history, or even
their own creativity. For authors that choose to write a
book based on historical events, the inspiration might come
from their particular viewpoint on the event that they want
to dramatize. George Orwell and Charles Dickens wrote
Animal Farm and A Tale of Two Cities, respectively, to
express their disillusionment with society and human
nature. Animal Farm, written in 1944, is a book that tells
the animal fable of a farm in which the farm animals revolt
against their human masters. It is an example of social
criticism in literature in which Orwell satirized the
events in Russia after the Bolshevik Revolution. He
anthropomorphises the animals, and alludes each one to a
counterpart in Russian history. A Tale of Two Cities also
typifies this kind of literature. Besides the central theme
of love, is another prevalent theme, that of a revolution
gone bad. He shows us that, unfortunately, human nature
causes us to be vengeful and, for some of us, overly
ambitious. Both these books are similar in that both
describe how, even with the best of intentions, our
ambitions get the best of us. Both authors also demonstrate
that violence and the Machiavellian attitude of "the ends
justifying the means" are deplorable.
George Orwell wrote Animal Farm, ". . . to discredit the
Soviet system by showing its inhumanity and its
back-sliding from ideals [he] valued . . ."(Gardner, 106)
Orwell noted that " there exists in England almost no
literature of disillusionment with the Soviet Union.'
Instead, that country is viewed either with ignorant
disapproval' or with uncritical admiration.'"(Gardner, 96)
The basic synopsis is this: Old Major, an old boar in Manor
Farm, tells the other animals of his dream of "animalism":
" . . . Only get rid of Man, and the produce of our labour
would be our own. Almost overnight we would become rich and
free.'" (Orwell, 10) The other animals take this utopian
idea to heart, and one day actually do revolt and drive the
humans out. Two pigs emerge as leaders: Napoleon and
Snowball. They constantly argued, but one day, due to a
difference over plans to build a windmill, Napoleon exiled
Snowball. Almost immediately, Napoleon established a
totalitarian government. Soon, the pigs began to get
special favours, until finally, they were indistinguishable
from humans to the other animals. Immediately the reader
can begin to draw parallels between the book's characters
and the government in 1917-44 Russia. For example, Old
Major, who invented the idea of "animalism," is seen as
representing Karl Marx, the creator of communism. Snowball
represents Trotsky, a Russian leader after the revolution.
He was driven out by Napoleon, who represents Stalin, the
most powerful figure in the country. Napoleon then
proceeded to remove the freedoms of the animals, and
established a dictatorship, under the public veil of
"animalism." Pigs represent the ruling class because of
their stereotype: dirty animals with insatiable appetites.
Boxer, the overworked, incredibly strong, dumb horse
represents the common worker in Russia. The two surrounding
farms represent two of the countries on the global stage
with Russia at the time, Germany and England.
Orwell begins his book by criticizing the capitalists and
ruling elite, who are represented in Animal Farm by Mr.
Jones, the farmer. He is shown as a negligent drunk, who
constantly starved his animals. "His character is already
established as self-indulgent and uncaring." (King, 8)
Orwell shows us how, "if only animals became aware of their
strength, we should have no power over them, and that men
exploit animals in much the same way as the rich exploit
the proletariat."(Gardner, 97) What was established in
Russia after the Bolshevik Revolution was not true
communism ("animalism"), which Orwell approved of, where
the people owned all the factories and land. Rather, "state
communism" was established, where a central government
owned them. Orwell thought that such a political system,
"state communism," was open to exploitation by its leaders.
Napoleon, after gaining complete control, did anything he
wished - reserved the best for the pigs, and treated the
animals cruelly. The animals could not do anything, unless
they again realized their strength in numbers against their
own kind. Unfortunately, they were too stupid to realize
this and accepted the "status quo." It began when the milk
and apples were appropriated to the pigs, and continued to
when the pigs could drink and sleep on beds, until finally
the pigs were the "human masters" to the rest of the
animals. Orwell criticized Germany, representing it as
Pinchfield Farm, which betrayed Animal Farm by paying for
lumber with counterfeit money. In real life, this
represents the Soviet-Germany non-aggression pact during
World War II which Germany eventually broke. Eventually,
towards the end of the story, the term, "absolute power
corrupts absolutely," is proven, as the pigs, who retained
all the privileges for themselves, have evolved into a
different caste from the other animals. Orwell's
implication is that "real" communism cannot exist in the
countries which claim to be communist. The ruling class -
politicians - own everything and ironically are therefore
in total control.
A Tale of Two Cities is a love story which chronicles the
lives of Charles Darnay, a Frenchman who renounced his link
with the aristocracy, and Sydney Carton, a wastrel who
lived in England. Both these characters fall in love with
Lucie Manette, the daughter of Dr. Alexandre Manette,
unjustly imprisoned in France for 17 years. Though Lucie
marries Darnay, Carton still loves her and in the end,
gives his life to save Darnay for her. Dickens, who was
fascinated with French history, especially the French
Revolution, begins by criticizing the aristocrats'
treatment of the poor people of France. In the seventh
chapter of book two, the Monsieur the Marquis had
accidentally driven his carriage over a young child,
killing him. Instead of worrying about the child's welfare,
the Monsieur's reaction was to worry about his horses: "One
or the other of you is for ever in the way. How do I know
what injury you have done to my horses."(Dickens, 111) He
deemed their lives inferior and insignificant, as
illustrated when he threw a gold coin to the child's
devastated father as compensation. The Monsieur the Marquis
revealed his true sentiments to his nephew: "Repression is
the only lasting philosophy. . . fear and slavery, my
friend, will keep the dogs obedient to the whip. .
."(Dickens, 123) Dickens makes it abundantly obvious that
the aristocrats are to meet doom, with symbolic references
to fate and death. For instance, as the Monsieur the
Marquis rides through the country, a glowing red sunset
appeared over him, signifying his bloody death. In the
words of the author, ". . . the sun and the Marquis going
down together. . ."(Dickens, 114) Madame Defarge's knitting
is also a symbol of impending doom, as she records the
names of all those who are to die when the revolution takes
Dickens also expresses his disillusionment with some of the
outcomes of the French Revolution. He believed that the
people did not just liberate themselves, but also took
vengeance towards the aristocracy. This is confirmed in the
conversation between the revolutionaries: " Well, well, but
one must stop somewhere. After all, the question is still
where?' At extermination,' said madame."(Dickens, 341)
Madame Defarge embodies this attitude, as she wants to have
Charles Darnay killed, not because he has done something
wrong, but because he is related to the Evr,monde family,
which killed her relative. Though "Dickens seems almost to
regard violence as the one way to bring about social
change,"(Lucas,288) he then began to denounce the actions
taken by some of the revolutionaries. The citizens let
their righteous cause turn into vengefulness. Even servants
and maids to the aristocrats were beheaded, although they
had not really done anything wrong.
Animal Farm and A Tale of Two Cities were written to
express their authors' disenchantment with the state of
evolution of human nature. They seem to be saying, that
even when we begin with honourable intentions, there will
be some of us who will let their base instincts take
control. Orwell, in Animal Farm portrays this nature by
parodying events in real history. Given the right
conditions, those events could happen anywhere - a leader
becoming overly ambitious, to the point of harming his
people for morepower. In A Tale of Two Cities, Dickens
examines the inner soul, and shares with us how people are
driven to the valley of human emotions, where desperation
and anger reign, and what could happen afterwards if we let
these emotions build up inside. Every human being is
capable of becoming a ruthless, opportunistic being like
Napoleon or Madame Defarge, if placed in the right place,
at the right time. 

Works Cited
Coles Editorial Board. Coles Notes: Animal Farm.
Toronto: Coles Publishing Company, 1996.
Dickens, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities.
London: Orion Publishing Group, 1994.
Gardner, Averil. George Orwell.
Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1987.
Kaplan, Fred. Dickens: A Bibliography.
New York: William Morrow & Company, Ltd., 1988.
King, Martin. Students' Guide to Animal Farm.
Scotland: Tynron Press, 1989.
Lucas, John. The Melancholy Man: A Study of Dickens' Novels.
London: N.P., N.D.
Orwell, George. Animal Farm.
London: Penguin Books, 1985.
Shelden, Michael. Orwell: The Authorised Biography.
London: Mandarin Paperbacks, 1992.
Written in Toronto, 1996.

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