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Essay/Term paper: Tale of two cities

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Charles Dickens

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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 1859.

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

central themes.

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.

Tale of Two Cities is a very long and detailed historical novel. It is my

opinion that the major strength of this book was the suspense and drama

involved to keep the reader hooked. There are always incidents to keep the

reader thinking, "what's going to happen now?" For example, I as a reader

wondered, "Will Dr. Manette ever get back to his old self?"; "What will

happen to Charles Darnay?"; and so on. A major weakness of this book, in my

opinion, was the fact that it was so very long and had a somewhat advanced

vocabulary. Tale of Two Cities was almost 400 pages long and took quite a

bit of thinking on the reader's part to understand. The novel used such

words as "capricious"; "coquette"; "tergiversation"; and "acquiesced", among

others, which I included on my vocabulary list. I will admit, this writing

does enhance one's terminology greatly, but these words are not used in

everyday speech. It is good to read literary classics, however, Dickens

Tale of Two Cities would not be one of my favorites.

 

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