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A Tale of Two Cities at a Glance

A Tale of Two Cities at a Glance

About This Event

A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens, deals with the major themes of duality, revolution, and resurrection. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times in London and Paris, as economic and political unrest lead to the American and French Revolutions. The main characters in Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities — Doctor Alexandre Manette, Charles Darnay, and Sydney Carton — are all recalled to life, or resurrected, in different ways as turmoil erupts.


Written by: Charles Dickens


Type of Work: novel


Genres: historical fiction; political commentary


First Published: In weekly installments in All the Year Round, from April 30 to November 29, 1859


Setting: London and Paris, 1775-1792


Main Characters: Doctor Alexandre Manette; Lucie Manette (later Darnay); Charles Darnay; Sydney Carton; Therese Defarge; Ernest Defarge; Jerry Cruncher; Mr. Lorry; Miss Pross


Major Thematic Topics: duality; revolution; resurrection; violence; centrality of women; aristocratic versus peasant


Motifs: darkness; restricted by society; duality


Major Symbols: Madame Defarge's Knitting; motherhood


Movie Versions: A Tale of Two Cities (1935); A Tale of Two Cities (1958); A Tale of Two Cities (1980); A Tale of Two Cities (1989)


The three most important aspects of A Tale of Two Cities:

  • A Tale of Two Cities is told from the omniscient, or all-knowing, point of view. The narrator, or storyteller, who is never identified, has access to the thoughts and feelings of all the characters.
  • A Tale of Two Cities, which is one of two historical novels written by Charles Dickens, is set in London and in Paris and the French countryside at the time of the French Revolution. The book is sympathetic to the overthrow of the French aristocracy but highly critical of the reign of terror that followed.
  • Dickens characterizes the men and women who populate A Tale of Two Cities less by what the book's narrator or the characters themselves say, and more by what they do. As a result, the novel seems somewhat modern, despite being set in the 18th century and written in the 19th century.



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