Why did Charles Dickens Write “A Tale of Two Cities”?

Published: 18th November 2011
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A Brief Insight into the Life of Charles Dickens

Dickens, who was the most renowned English novelist of the Victorian Era, was born on the 7th of February, 1812 in Kent, England. He tended to write about social reform and its inevitable impact on the individuals affected by the waves of change which was a natural reaction to the maltreatment he faced as a child while working in different factories.

Unlike other novelists, Dickens used to publish his work in chapter installments rather than publishing finished works to begin with. His work mustered awe-inspiring acclaim and his novels remain popular over a century later. He died in the year 1870, at the age of fifty eight.

The book was published in the year 1839 from the months April through November. It was completed in thirty one weekly installments which were eventually compiled into a single copy which is now known as A Tale of Two Cities. The book is still split into three major sections which divide the story according to the timeframe, characters and relational intricacies.

“A Tale of Two Cities”: Summary, Synopsis & Symbolism

The French Revolution changed the political landscape of the state’s aristocracy as the monarchy of France collapsed and led to the eventual execution of King Louis XVI. Dickens’ ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ was set in the time preceding the French Revolution and the time during the movement itself.

The story was based in two major European hubs of the time which still attract significant attention today; London and Paris. The tale revolved around a supplanted French aristocrat and a dissolved British barrister.

A Brief Summary of A Tale of Two Cities

The story revolves mostly around Charles Darnay, a French ex-aristocrat and Sydney Carton, a British barrister. Darnay is victimized as he falls directly into the path of the Revolution’s movement and hides under pseudonyms instead of his actual name and title. He goes on trial for treason a few years later after British spies falsely accuse him of providing the French with information regarding British military troops in North America.

Sydney Carton, the barrister, fancies Darnay’s wife Lucie Manette but she does not reciprocate his feelings. Carton possesses a tarnished image and a damaged reputation. Some critics argue that Darnay and Carton were doppelgangers of each other’s personalities. The three main characters are trapped in a love-triangle with complicated relationships and convoluted intricacies. The relational complexities coupled with socio-political plot twists make for an epic tale of love, struggle, tragedy and hardship.
Relation to Dickens’ personal life

Several people were of the opinion that Carton and Darnay possessed traits that Charles Dickens himself had in his personality. The two characters are shown to be psychologically and genetically similar. It has also been argued that Charles Dickens’ affair with Ellen Ternan was reflected in the role of Lucie Manette. The likeness of the two men across either ends of the English Channel was illustrated by a specific collection of phrases in the book. It reads:

‘Do you particularly like the man [Darnay]?’ he muttered, at his own image [which he is regarding in a mirror]; ‘why should you particularly like a man who resembles you? There is nothing in you to like; you know that. Ah, confound you! What a change you have made in yourself! A good reason for talking to a man, that he shows you what you have fallen away from and what you might have been! Change places with him, and would you have been looked at by those blue eyes [belonging to Lucie Manette] as he was, and commiserated by that agitated face as he was? Come on, and have it out in plain words! You hate the fellow.
The characters that breathed life into A Tale of Two Cities

The main characters were the two men entangled in their personal struggles and a common love interest, namely:

Charles Darnay: The French ex-aristocrat.
Sydney Carton: The disreputable British barrister.
Lucie Manette: Charles Darnay’s wife and Sydney Carton’s love interest.

There were several other characters that helped breathe life into the story which included:

Dr. Alexandre Manette: Lucie’s father.
Monsieur Ernest Defarge: Dr. Manette’s ex-servant who owns a wine shop.
Madame Therese Defarge: A female revolutionary who is married to Ernest Defarge.
Jacques I, II, and III: Ernest Defarge’s revolutionary comrades.

Saad Salman has posted this article. Visit www.writeawriting.com to read about “A Tale Of Two Cities”.

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