A Tale of Two Cities

Brianna Bennett

All parts not written by myself indicate who the author is

Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities is technically about the French Revolution, but it's really about how people behave in revolutions. Spanning 36 years, the book tells the story of The Manette-Darnay family and their associates. Starting before the French Revolution, we meet Dr. Manette and Lorry. We learn that Manette has been locked in the Bastille for 17 years under false pretenses. Soon he is reunited with his daughter, Lucie. We see the evolution of our characters through Darnay's false trial, his estrangement from his aristocrat family, and his eventual conviction to death by the Revolutionaries because of his former familiar ties.

We see how the Revolution effects people of all classes and how both the upper and lower classes can be self-righteous. The book also explores how people's attitudes in life ultimately decide how they die.

So Many People

Sydney Carton as portrayed by Dick Bogarde in the 1958 movie adaption of A Tale of Two Cities (I chose him because he was the prettiest).

Over the course of the book we see Carton change the most, in my opinion. At the beginning of the book, Carton is an drunk with no purpose in life. He says of himself: "I care for no man on earth, and no man on earth cares for me" (Book 2, Chapter 4). He is aimlessly wondering through life. We learn, though, that he loves Lucie. This seems to be the only thing that motivates his life.

It is not until the end of Book 3 that He begins to grow. Although it seems that it is his love for Lucie that motivates him to save Darnay, it is truly because he cares for Darnay and Manette as well. When the women who is line with him for the guillotine realizes he is not Darnay she asks "Are you dying for him?”, Carton replies, “And his wife and child.” (Book 3, Chapter 13)

Rosalie Crutchley as Madame Defarge in the 1958 movie adaption. (The article I got this from said she was the best Madame DeFarge on screen or stage. I wouldn't know.)

Madame Defarge is one of the most interesting characters and, to me, seems to serve as somewhat of a metaphor (and Dickens loves metaphors). A metaphor for the French Revolution itself. As the beginning of the book she sits idly by in her husbands wine shop knitting but underneath that normalcy lies a ruthless blood-lust. For she is not knitting scarves, but a list of all the people who should be killed. The revolution was much the same way: it seemed passing and uneventful in the beginning, but if one where to look deeper they would see the horrors that were soon to come.

Madame DeFarge's viciousness seems almost justified by the treatment of her family and her oppression. Much as some viewed the revolution. But ultimately her uncaring attitude and selfishness lead to her dying by her own gun.

Lucie Darnay (nee Manette) as portrayed by Brandi Burkhardt in the 2008 Broadway musical adaption of A Tale of Two Cities (there was a musical??)

Lucie is by far the most boring person in the entire book. She is a walking, talking, cliche of the loving wife and daughter. At all times she stands by her husband and father. She seems to have no character development, no conflicting thoughts, and no opinions of her own.

Lucie embodies the perfect soldiers wife: she is loyal, loving, and the pin in the machine that keeps everything together.

Themes (Not the ones for your blog)

  • Revolution- the book takes place during the french revolution. throughout the whole book, the author was talking about how the french storm the Bastille and people being sent to the guillotine.
  • Resurrection- this theme has been expressed literally and figuratively. in book I, doctor Manette was imprisoned in the Bastille for 18 years. the mission to rescue him code name was "recalled to life". being imprisoned for 18 years is long enough for anyone to be considered dead.

(by Arron Girard)

Queen Vicky! Whaddup?!

A Tale of Two Cities takes place prior and during the french revolution. This backdrop of social upheaval serves as a catalyst for the drama that unfolds in the lives its main characters. The Victorian era was about the separation of social classes, religion and sexes. In the book, it talks about the storming of the Bastille, which is when a bunch of poor people attacked a prison that was called the Bastille. The rich people look down on the poor all the time and the poor are the reason that the rich are able to eat.

(by Arron Girard)

Poetry is Weird


The Masque of Anarchy is a poem written by Percy Bysshe Shelley on the all consuming greed of those who run the world. Just as the French commoners saw the French aristocrats as greed consumed pigs, so does Percy Shelley in his poem. He talks about how the All powerful feed the greed of their lessers, the higher nobles, in order to keep power and the higher nobles follow at the heels of those that give them power, all while leaving all others out to die.

(by Caitlyn Vanorder)


This picture is from the protests in Ukraine and shows the people of Ukraine fighting back against their government just as the common French people fought against their government in A Tale of Two Cities. I believe it connects to the novel simply because of the same themes of revolution by the common people due to unjust treatment by the rich. It also shows sort of the desperation that is laced throughout revolution in that these people in this photo are using whatever objects they can to build barricades and obviously stolen guns to fight back, just as the French did by using prisons originally used to hold them, to hold their oppressors.

(by Caitlyn Vanorder)

My Opinions Matter! (sort of)

This book was weird and confusing. It took 3/4s of the book for the plot to be recognizable. For the majority of it, I thought it was just going to be a book about a few moments in these peoples' lives. But, once I finished it, I found I understood everything.

It took a lot of outside sources to help me understand and be able to evaluate things. This book was so full of metaphors, I'm sure that a cobblestone on a road stood for something.

Although a few of the characters were interesting, most of them felt flat and stereotypical. Only one character (Carton) went through any change within themselves. But his martyr death was boring and predictable. Manette was bland and his craziness felt like a plot device rather than a characteristic, Lucie was every feminist's nightmare, Darnay was a hero with no flaws (yawn), Lorry was just kind of there, Madame Defarge was a metaphor within a metaphor, and Defarge was a lackey to his wife with apparently no ideas of his own.

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