A Tale of Two Cities
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
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 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
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.
"For complete summary and analysis of literary works, please visit