Tale Of Two Cities Essay

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.

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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 straight.
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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