Cities Essay, Research Paper
In A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, the reader is made aware of a social resurrection which is caused by the French Revolution. Dickens’ powerful and dramatic three-part novel engrosses the reader in a spider web of lively characters, an intricate plot, and excellent writing that turns each page into a picture. Throughout the novel Dickens emphasizes the moral duties of an individual, the potholes of society that people can fall into, and the sacrifices one must make to be deemed a good person. Dr. Manette is imprisoned for almost eighteen years because he has witnessed the aftermath of a crime committed by two noblemen, the Evremondes, and has attempted to report the incident to the royal court (Page). His incarceration and its consequences are one of the main features of the story. He can never really escape his prison experience, and in moments of great stress he reverts to the insanity which prison inflicted on him. Dr. Manette has a dual personality, “an early forerunner of Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” (Page). Duality was a Victorian attempt to achieve complexity of character, and while the device was melodramatic, Dickens made it an integral part of the novel. Dr. Manette’s character mirrors the split in society at large; a point that is clearly addressed in the story itself (Glancy). Presumably orphaned at the age of two and brought to England by Mr. Lorry, Lucie only learns of father’s existence at seventeen, when she is summoned to rescue him with Mr. Lorry. A quite blonde, her positive qualities are a gift for housekeeping and a compassion for unfortunates. She inspires love in almost everyone around her, but “one must take this on faith because Dickens cannot bring her to life as a character” (Hollington). Her fainting fits and unrelenting earnestness were undoubtedly part of a Victorian concept of womanhood, in which passivity was the desired quality. Emotionally reserved for the most part, the Victorian woman (at least in fiction) tended to faint under stress. While Lucie may have been true-to-life then, the passage of time has tended to make her type obsolete both as a literary figure and as a social actuality (Craig). While Darnay rejects his father and everything the Evremondes stand for, moves to England, Anglicizes his mother’s name, and renounces his inheritance, he cannot escape his family history (Eigner). Trying to make amends to a missing woman whose family was wiped out by his own, he is arrested for treason in England; trying to save a jailed family servant, he is arrested in Revolutionary France, where he is tried twice. While he means well, he cannot accomplish his goals except through accident. As a character Darnay is phlegmatic and passive, and he has an inclination for getting into mortal trouble from which he has to be rescued time and again at an ever-greater cost to his rescuers (Eigner). With his propensity for getting jailed and tried on charges carrying the death penalty, it is no wonder Lucie falls in love with him-he is the perfect outlet for her compassion (Eigner). As with her father, unjustified imprisonment seems to be his natural element. Carton, Darnay’s double and alter ego, is a frustrated alcoholic. He analyzes cases for the lawyer, Stryver, who makes a fortune picking his brains. The only noble part of his life is his chaste love for Lucie. One generally imagines “Carton to be about thirty when he goes to the guillotine, but he is actually middle-aged, somewhere around forty. What gives one that allusion of youth is the adolescent nature of his love in its purity and tenacity” (Eigner). We tend to assume that a more mature man would have forgotten about Lucie when she married Darnay, and would have found someone else (Eigner). But in Dickens’ fictional world his characters may be simple, yet they have very intense attachments. Carton takes on a mythical aspect in sacrificing himself to save his friends. He is the culture-hero who is ritually slaughtered of his own free will so that society might renew itself, a prospect he envisions before he dies. If Darnay is society’s innocent victim who suffers because of the sins of his fathers, Carton is the sacrificial hero who redeems those sins in an imitation of Christ (Eigner). Mr. Lorry has a protective role. He takes Lucie as an infant to England, rescues her father from France, and aids the escape of his friends from Revolutionary France. A bachelor and an elderly man of business, he still has great natural affection. He is “shrewd, capable, ordinarily mild-mannered, full of moral virtue and fidelity-all the traits one might wish for in a fairy godfather” (Bloom). Yet he somehow transcends the clich , perhaps because he, too, has to submit to his prison-like environment at Tellson’s Bank (Bloom). Miss Pross is another protective figure; a big, gruff, mannish, red-haired woman with a heart of gold. She is Lucie’s nurse and guardian, a role that she never fully relinquishes. Miss Pross aids the Darnays’ escape from France by killing Madame Defarge in a struggle. She transcends the stereotype of the stiff, short-tempered, masculine British nanny by her somewhat excessive devotion to Lucie. A spinster, she appears to be Mr. Lorry’s female complement as a character (Dunn). Because her entire family perished when she was a young girl, Madame Defarge wants revenge, not merely on the family that caused the evil but on the entire class from which it came (Bloom). What makes her such a threatening figure is “her stubborn patience, which bides its time until she can strike” (Friedman). In this she is like some natural force, and when the opportunity arrives she is ferocious and unrelenting. Her secret management of Darnay’s arrest is cunning, but it shows immense cruelty as well. In seeking to avenge her family she has acquired some of the traits of the men who did that wrong from which she suffers. Her knitting represents both her patience and her urge to retaliate, since she knits the names of her intended victims. As a character she “serves a symbolic function in that she sums up the intensity and blood-thirst behind the Revolution” (Friedman).Defarge was Dr. Manette’s servant as a boy, and he seems to have a “filial reverence for him during the Revolution” (Bloom). But when the doctor was newly released from prison, Defarge was “not above exploiting his insanity as a spectacle to further the revolutionary cause” (Bloom). As a revolutionary leader Defarge generally follows his wife, but he wants to spare the doctor, and Lucie and her daughter-a reluctance that his wife interprets as weakness (Baumgarten). The reader is told that in the end Defarge will go to the guillotine with all the leaders then in power. Marquis St. Evremonde, Darnay’s uncle, is a nothing other than “a stock villain in Dickens’ repertoire: the cynical, polished rake” (Beckwith). Evremonde is a crude class-symbol and exemplifies the predatory nature of the French aristocracy (Glancy). The cause of Madame Defarge’s family tragedy and of Dr. Manette’s long imprisonment, his concept of honor consists of getting what you want regardless of the consequences. But he has no influence at court and is viciously frustrated. In running over a child he provides the motive for his own murder at the hands of Gaspard, the child’s father. Jerry Cruncher is a “porter for Tellson’s by day and a body-snatcher by night, and in doing so he parodies the duality of Dr. Manette in a comic way” (Bloom). His euphemisms create a topsy-turvy world in which body-snatching becomes respectable and prayer is degraded to “flopping” (Dunn). In digging up buried bodies he also turns the theme of resurrection into a ghastly parody. He serves as a lever in the plot when his knowledge of Cly’s fake burial enables Sydney Carton to blackmail John Barsad effectively (Eigner). And in the end Cruncher is redeemed on a minimal lever. In him Dickens exhibits a wonderful craftsmanship, but the comedy is rather sketchy (Dunn). C. J. Stryver is an aggressive, insensitive boor. He has succeeded in his law practice through Carton’s brains and his own drive. Stryver is presented satirically, particularly in his unsuccessful courtship of Lucie Manette. “Unable to take an honorable defeat, he turns it into an ignoble victory by pretending that Lucie wanted snare him” (Bloom). Self-centered, he is the “prototype of the coarse newly rich” (Bloom). Apart from his colorful characters, the device that articulates the novel the most is Dickens’s vivid setting for the story. He manages to place the story in a very famous point in time, namely the French Revolution. Dickens’ choice for a backdrop was anything but arbitrary, especially since the historical period dictates the events of the story itself. The setting is vividly painted into the words of each page the reader turns. For example in the following passage Dickens describes a jail:”Through gloomy vaults where the light of day had never shone, past hideous doors of dark dens and cages, down cavernous flights of steps, and again up steep rugged ascents of stone and brick, more like dry waterfalls than staircases ” (Book 2, pg.228).He manages to delineate any scene with a sense of ease and articulation that amazes all those who peruse through his works. He is a master of incorporating all that he wants to in a single sentence or passage. He especially enjoys including similes into his writing as was seen above, as well as here:”The little narrow, crooked town of Dover hid itself away from the beach, and ran its head into the chalk cliffs, like a marine ostrich.” (Book 1, pg. 18).But Dickens did more than just use figurative language and clear imagery, he also let the situation of the times influence the way in which his characters acted. In 1775 Europeans viewed their era as exceptionally good or exceptionally wicked, as millennial or apocalyptic (Page). Both England and France had undistinguished kings, and in each country the status quo was generally accepted as the eternal truth. France was marked by a harsh and repressive social system in which inflation was rampant and in which a man could be tortured and put to death for not bowing to a procession of monks (Page). “Even then changes were taking place that would turn timber into guillotines and farm carts into tumbrills” (Page). England had its faults as well. Burglaries and holdups were everyday occurrences, and violence was very common. The English were about to experience a revolution, too, in America. Yet, complacency was the order of the day everywhere, the result of a blindness to actual social conditions. It’s plain and simple that the setting is very important to this type of a novel. Since the theme of the novel and the time period intertwine, Dickens has to put forth very minimal effort on his part to help the reader visualize the era. Instead he can focus more on fully developing his plot.The plot of this novel is quite original, but the idea of a book based on the theme of resurrection being set during the French Revolution is nothing short of ingenious. Dickens was clever enough to take a topic known to all, and then sculpt it into an audacious and breathtaking piece of literature. His ability to manipulate his characters is clearly evident, and does nothing short of reiterating his prolific talent as a novelist. The story begins on a foggy night in November 1775, with a Dover mail coach slogging its way through the mud. Inside the coach sits Jarvis Lorry , who has been sent by his firm, Tellson’s Bank, on a confidential mission to Paris. His object is to find Dr. Alexander Manette, a physician who has spent eighteen years in the Bastille, and return with him to England. Dr. Manette’s daughter, Lucie, who learns for the first time that her father is alive, accompanies Mr. Lorry. At Paris they go to Defarge’s wineshop and discover the doctor in a dreadful state. Deranged after his long prison term, he is withdrawn, lacking memory, and prematurely aged. His only activity is cobbling shoes. Dr. Manette is induced to journey to London with his daughter and Mr. Lorry. There they hope to restore him to sanity and health.
Five years later, in 1780, the three of them are called as witnesses in a trial at Old Bailey. The defendant, Charles Darnay, is a Frenchman living in England and earning a livelihood by tutoring. However, his trips between the two countries have led to an accusation of treason. Lucie Manette reluctantly gives damaging circumstantial evidence against him. But the prosecution’s case falls apart when a witness cannot positively identify Darnay because of his likeness to Sydney Carton, a lawyer in the courtroom. So Darnay is acquitted. Both Carton and Darnay are enamored of Lucie and call on her at home. Carton, who leads a drunken and uncertain life, regards his courtship as hopeless; but he professes his love to Lucie and his willingness to sacrifice himself for her. Darnay of course wins out, and he and Lucie are married with her father’s uneasy blessing. Dr. Manette, who has regained enough vigor and sanity to set up a medical practice, suffers a nine-day relapse after the wedding. In France the aristocracy has gradually drained the country’s resources, reducing the people to dreadful poverty. The people, under increasing oppression, start preparing for vengeance by means of a revolution. Shortly after his carriage kills a child, the Marquis St. Evremonde, Darnay’s sophisticated, callous uncle, is assassinated at his mansion. Darnay inherits the estate but he renounces it, preferring to live modestly in England instead of exploiting the French peasantry as his uncle had done. In 1789 the people revolt, storming the Bastille, burning chateaux, and murdering or imprisoning the members of the former regime. In 1792, with the French Revolution in full fury, Darnay receives a plea for help from his family steward, Gabelle, who has been jailed. After eleven years of a happily married life, and the birth of a daughter, Darnay returns to France due to feelings of having neglected his responsibilities there. Without telling his wife he leaves for his native country, where he is immediately seized and jailed as an enemy of the state. Lucie and her daughter and Dr. Manette arrive in Paris soon after, hoping to assist Darnay if they can. Mr. Lorry is also present, taking care of Tellson’s French office. Darnay’s trial is delayed for over a year. When Darnay’s trial finally comes up Dr. Manette’s plea secures an acquittal, for as one of the former prisoners in the Bastille, Manette has been made a folk hero of the Revolution. Darnay is unexpectedly re-arrested that same day because of Madame Defarge, a leading revolutionist who wants to exterminate the entire Evremonde family for personal reasons. On the following day Charles Darnay is tried, convicted, and sentenced to death by the Tribunal. His father-in-law, Dr. Manette, knows the situation is hopeless; and, shattered by the trial, reverts to his old demented state of mind. Sydney Carton, arriving in Paris, learns of Darnay’s new trial and impending execution. He also overhears a plot against the lives of Lucie and her daughter and father. Acting quickly, Carton tells Mr. Lorry to have a carriage prepared an hour before the execution. Then, having access to the prison through a spy and informer, Carton enters Darnay’s cell, drugs him, and changes places with him. The deception works because of the striking resemblance between the two men. Under Mr. Lorry’s protection Darnay, his wife, child, and father-in-law successfully escape from France while Carton goes to the guillotine, a sacrifice prompted by his intensely pure love for Lucie Darnay. Just before he is beheaded Sydney Carton has a prophetic vision of a better society emerging from the holocaust and of his own survival in the memories of the Darnay family, and he faces death in serenity and triumph. The style of writing Dickens uses is extraordinarily simple and magnificent. It is flashy and audacious, yet can be understood by high school students today much more easily than that of the great tragedian Shakespeare. Dickens of course used many of the techniques that were present in the great works of literature that were published before him, but he also managed to be unique and original. Dickens’ imagination put him in a class of his own; and he often expressed this trait of his by his stories with lively figurative language. Similes are clearly the most prolific type of figurative language, in this novel, and they are definitely the items that turn each page into a picture (Lloyd). Rather than banally describing a person walking across a room Dickens gives the passage some life by saying:”Rustling about the room, his softly slippered feet making no noise on the floor, he moved like a refined tiger ” (Book 2, pg. 130).Whilst using this simile Dickens manages to mix in some consonance and alliteration. Alongside his figurative language the syntax and diction he uses magnify the elegance of his works. The syntax and diction, which Dickens uses in his novel, tend to stay at the same level throughout the entire piece of literature. The sentences are very impressive, but not as wonderful as the words used in them. It is his diction that is the primary foundation for style in the entire novel. Instead of using plain words, Dickens breaks out sizzling entities from his vast vocabulary, as is shown in:”Mr. Stryver having made up his mind to that magnanimous bestowal of good fortune on the doctor’s daughter, resolved to make her happiness known to her ” (Book 2, pg. 147).The talent shown here is not a rare occurrence, but rather the type of excellent writing that makes up this entire novel. This display of his knowledge is actually quite representative of Dickens’ life. Charles John Huffman Dickens was born in Portsmouth on February 7, 1812. He moved with his family to London when he was about two years old. Many of the events and people in his books are based on events and people in his life. Dickens’ father, John Dickens, was a poor and easygoing clerk who worked for the navy. John served in some respects as the model for Wilkins Micawber in David Copperfield. He spent time in prison for debt, an event Charles re-created in Little Dorrit. Even when John was free, he lacked the money to support his family adequately. At the age of twelve, Charles worked in a London factory pasting labels on bottles of shoe polish. He held the job only a few months, but the misery of that experience remained with him all his life. Dickens attended school off and on until he was fifteen, and then left for good. He enjoyed reading and was especially fond of adventure stories, fairy tales, and novels. He was influenced by such earlier English writers as William Shakespeare, Tobias Smollett, and Henry Fielding. However, most of the knowledge he later used as an author came from his observation of life around him. Dickens became a newspaper reporter in the late 1820’s. He specialized in covering debates in Parliament, and also wrote feature articles. His work as a reporter sharpened his naturally keen ear for conversation and helped develop his skill in portraying his characters’ speech realistically. It also increased his ability to observe and to write swiftly and clearly. Dickens’ first book, Sketches by Boz (1836), consisted of articles he wrote for the London Evening Chronicle. These descriptions, fictional portraits, and short stories surveyed the manners and conditions of the time. Personal unhappiness marred Dickens’ public success. In 1836, he married Catherine Hogarth. Catherine had a sister Mary, who died in 1837. Dickens’ grief at Mary’s death has led some scholars to believe that he loved Mary more than his wife. Catherine was a good woman but lacked great intelligence. She and Dickens had ten children. The couple separated in 1858 (Kaplan). Dickens had remarkable mental and physical energy. He recorded his activities in thousands of letters, many of which make delightful reading. He spent much of his crowded social life with friends from the worlds of art and literature. Dickens enjoyed drama and went to the theater as often as he could. When he was rich and famous, he made a hobby of producing and acting in amateur theatrical productions. He had a great success giving public readings of his works (Kaplan). Dickens’ gift for creating dramatic scenes in his novels can be traced to his love for the theater. Besides writing, editing, and touring as a dramatic reader, Dickens busied himself with various charities. These charities included schools for poor children and a loan society to enable the poor to move to Australia. Dickens often walked for hours to work off his remaining energy. He came to know the streets and alleys of London better, perhaps, than any other person of his time. However, Dickens’ health began to decline about 1865 and he died of a stroke on June 9, 1870 (Kaplan). Bibliography Page Ackroyd, Pater. Charles Dickens. New York: HarperCollins, 1990. Baldridge, Cates. “Alternatives to Bourgeois Individualism in A Tale of Two Cities.” Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900 30 (1990): 633-54. Baumgarten, Murray. “Writing the Revolution.” Dickens Studies Annual 12 (1983): 161-76. Beckwith, Charles E., ed. Twentieth Century Interpretations of A Tale of Two Cities. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1972. Bloom, Harold, ed. Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities. New York: Chelsea, 1987. Craig, David. “The Crowd in Dickens.” The Changing World of Charles Dickens. Ed. Robert Giddings. Totowa, New Jersey: Barnes & Noble, 1983. 75-90. Dunn, Richard J. “A Tale of Two Dramatists.” Dickens Studies Annual 12 (1983): 117- 24. 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