A Tale of Two Cities
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|A Tale of Two Cities|
Cover of serial Vol. V, 1859
|Illustrator||Hablot Knight Browne (Phiz)|
|Cover artist||Hablot Knight Browne (Phiz)|
|Series||Weekly: 30 April 1859 - 26 November 1859 |
|Publisher||London: Chapman & Hall|
|Media type||Print (Serial, Hardback, and Paperback)|
|Dewey Decimal||823/.8 20|
|LC Classification||PR4571.A2 S56 1990|
|Preceded by||Little Dorrit|
|Followed by||Great Expectations|
A Tale of Two Cities (1859) is a novel by Charles Dickens, set in London and Paris before and during the French Revolution. With well over 200 million copies sold, it ranks among the most famous works in the history of fictional literature.
The novel depicts the plight of the French peasantry demoralized by the French aristocracy in the years leading up to the revolution, the corresponding brutality demonstrated by the revolutionaries toward the former aristocrats in the early years of the revolution, and many unflattering social parallels with life in London during the same time period. It follows the lives of several protagonists through these events. The most notable are Charles Darnay and Sydney Carton. Darnay is a French once-aristocrat who falls victim to the indiscriminate wrath of the revolution despite his virtuous nature, and Carton is a dissipated British barrister who endeavours to redeem his ill-spent life out of his unrequited love for Darnay's wife. The 45-chapter novel was published in 31 weekly installments in Dickens' new literary periodical titled All the Year Round. From April 1859 to November 1859, Dickens also republished the chapters as eight monthly sections in green covers. Dickens' previous novels had appeared only as monthly installments. The first weekly installment of A Tale of Two Cities ran in the first issue of All the Year Round on 30 April 1859. The last ran thirty weeks later, on 26 November.
 Plot summary
 Book the First: Recalled to Life
The first book of the novel takes place in 1775. Mr. Jarvis Lorry, an employee of Tellson's Bank, is travelling from England to France to bring Dr. Alexandre Manette to London on his return trip. Before crossing into France, he meets 17-year-old Miss Lucie Manette at Dover, and reveals to her that her father, Monsieur Manette, is not dead, as she had been told; instead, he was a prisoner in the Bastille for 18 years.
Mr. Jarvis Lorry and Miss Manette travel to Saint Antoine, a suburb of Paris, and meet Monsieur Defarge and Madame Defarge. The Defarges operate a wine shop they use to lead a clandestine band of revolutionaries; they refer to each other by the codename "Jacques," which Charles Dickens drew from the Jacobins, an actual French revolutionary group.
Monsieur Defarge was Monsieur Manette's servant before his incarceration, and now has care of him, and he takes them to see the doctor. Because of his long imprisonment, Monsieur Manette entered a form of psychosis and has become obsessed with making shoes, a trade he had learned whilst he was incarcerated. At first, he does not recognize his daughter; but he eventually compares her long golden hair with her mother's, which he found on his sleeve when he was incarcerated and kept, and notices their identical blue eye colour. Mr. Jarvis Lorry and Miss Manette then take him back to England.
 Book the Second: The Golden Thread
Five years later, two British spies, John Barsad and Roger Cly, are trying to frame French émigré Charles Darnay for their own gain; and Darnay is on trial for treason at the Old Bailey. They claim, falsely, that Darnay gave information about British troops in North America to the French. Darnay is acquitted, however, when a witness who claims he would be able to recognize Darnay anywhere is unable to tell Darnay apart from a barrister present in court, Sydney Carton, who looks almost identical to him.
In Paris, a wheel on the despised Marquis St. Evremonde's carriage hits and kills the baby of a peasant, Gaspard. The Marquis throws a coin to Gaspard to compensate him for his loss. Defarge, a witness to the incident, comforts Gaspard. As the Marquis's coach drives off, the coin thrown to Gaspard is thrown back into the coach by an unknown hand, probably that of Madame Defarge, enraging the Marquis.
Arriving at his château, the Marquis meets with his nephew and heir, Darnay. (Out of disgust with his family, Darnay shed his real surname and adopted an Anglicised version of his mother's maiden name, D'Aulnais.) The following scene demonstrates the differences between Darnay's personality and his uncle's: Darnay has sympathy for the peasantry, while the Marquis is cruel and heartless:
"Repression is the only lasting philosophy. The dark deference of fear and slavery, my friend," observed the Marquis, "will keep the dogs obedient to the whip, as long as this roof," looking up to it, "shuts out the sky."
That night, Gaspard, who followed the Marquis to his château by riding on the underside of the carriage, stabs and kills the Marquis in his sleep. He leaves a note on the knife saying, "Drive him fast to his tomb. This, from JACQUES." After nine months on the lam, he is caught, and hanged above the village's fountain, poisoning its water, which angers the peasants greatly.
In London, Darnay gets Dr. Manette's permission to wed Lucie; but Carton confesses his love to Lucie as well. Knowing she will not love him in return, Carton promises to "embrace any sacrifice for you and for those dear to you".
On the morning of the marriage, Darnay reveals his real name and who his family is, a detail which Dr. Manette had asked him to withhold until then. This unhinges Dr. Manette, who reverts to his obsessive shoemaking. His sanity is restored before Lucie returns from her honeymoon and the whole incident kept secret from her. To prevent a further relapse, Lorry and Miss Pross destroy the shoemaking bench and tools, which Dr. Manette had brought with him from Paris.
It is 14 July 1789. The Defarges help to lead the storming of the Bastille. Defarge enters Dr. Manette's former cell, "One Hundred and Five, North Tower". The reader does not know what Monsieur Defarge is searching for until Book 3, Chapter 9. It is a statement in which Dr. Manette explains why he was imprisoned.
As time passes in England, Lucie and Charles begin to raise a family, a son (who dies in childhood) and a daughter, little Lucie. The perennial bachelor Lorry, who believes that such things are beyond "a man of business", finds a second home and a sort of family with the Darnays. Stryver, who once had intentions to marry Lucie, marries a rich widow with three children and becomes even more insufferable as his ambitions begin to be realized. Carton, even though he seldom visits, is accepted as a close friend of the family and becomes a special favorite of little Lucie.
In the summer of 1792, a letter reaches Tellson's Bank. Mr. Lorry, who is planning to go to Paris to save the French branch of Tellson's, announces that the letter is addressed to someone named Evrémonde. Nobody in England knows who this is, because Darnay has kept his real name a secret there. Darnay acquires the letter by pretending Evrémonde is an acquaintance of his. The letter turns out to be from Gabelle, a tax collector for the late Marquis. Gabelle has been imprisoned and begs the new Marquis to come to his aid. Darnay, who feels guilty about relinquishing his title, leaves for Paris to help Gabelle.
 Book the Third: The Track of a Storm
In France, Darnay is denounced for emigrating from France and imprisoned in La Force Prison in Paris. Dr. Manette and Lucie—along with Miss Pross, Jerry Cruncher, and "Little Lucie", the daughter of Charles and Lucie Darnay—come to Paris and meet Mr. Lorry to try to free Darnay. A year and three months pass, and Darnay is finally tried.
Dr. Manette, who is seen as a hero for his imprisonment in the hated Bastille, is able to have him released; but, that same evening, Darnay is again arrested. He is put on trial again the following day, under new charges brought by the Defarges and one "unnamed other". We soon discover that this "other" is Dr. Manette, through his own account of his imprisonment. Manette did not know that his statement had been found and is horrified when his words are used to condemn Darnay.
On an errand, Miss Pross is amazed to see her long-lost brother, Solomon Pross; but Solomon does not want to be recognised. Sydney Carton suddenly steps forward from the shadows much as he had done after Darnay's first trial in London and identifies Solomon Pross as John Barsad, one of the men who tried to frame Darnay for treason at the Old Bailey trial. Carton threatens to reveal Solomon's identity as a Briton and an opportunist who spies for the French or the British as it suits him. If this were revealed, Solomon would surely be executed, so Carton's hand is strong.
Darnay is confronted at the tribunal by Monsieur Defarge, who identifies Darnay as the Marquis St. Evrémonde and reads the letter Dr. Manette had hidden in his cell in the Bastille. Defarge can identify Darnay as Evrémonde because Barsad told him Darnay's identity when Barsad was fishing for information at the Defarges' wine shop in Book 2, Chapter 16.
The letter describes how Dr. Manette was locked away in the Bastille by Darnay's father and his uncle for trying to report their crimes against a peasant family. Darnay's uncle had become infatuated with a girl, whom he had kidnapped and raped. Despite Dr. Manette's attempts to save her, she died. The uncle then killed her husband by working him to death. Before he died defending the family honor, the brother of the raped peasant had hidden the last member of the family, his younger sister. The letter also reveals that Dr. Manette was imprisoned because the Evremonde brothers discovered that they could not bribe him to keep quiet. The paper concludes by condemning the Evrémondes, "them and their descendants, to the last of their race". Dr. Manette is horrified, but his protests are ignored—he is not allowed to take back his condemnation. Darnay is sent to the Conciergerie and sentenced to be guillotined the next day.
Carton wanders into the Defarges' wine shop, where he overhears Madame Defarge talking about her plans to have the rest of Darnay's family (Lucie and "Little Lucie") condemned. Carton discovers that Madame Defarge was the surviving sister of the peasant family savaged by the Evrémondes. The only plot detail that might give one any sympathy for Madame Defarge is the loss of her family and that she has no (family) name. Defarge is her married name, and Dr. Manette does not know her family name, though he asked her dying sister for it. At night, when Dr. Manette returns shattered after spending the day in many failed attempts to save Charles' life, he has reverted to his obsessive search for his shoemaking implements. Carton urges Lorry to flee Paris with Lucie, her father, and Little Lucie, "as soon as his, i.e Carton's place in the coach is filled".
That same morning, Carton visits Darnay in prison. Carton drugs Darnay, and Barsad (whom Carton is blackmailing) has Darnay carried out of the prison. Carton has decided to pretend to be Darnay and to be executed in his place. He does this out of love for Lucie, recalling his earlier promise to her. Following Carton's earlier instructions, Darnay's family and Lorry flee Paris and France. In their coach is an unconscious man who carries Carton's identification papers, but is actually Darnay.
Meanwhile, Madame Defarge, armed with a pistol, goes to the residence of Lucie's family, hoping to catch them mourning for Darnay, since it was illegal to mourn an enemy of the Republic; however, Lucie and Little Lucie, Dr. Manette, and Mr. Lorry are already gone. To give them time to escape, Miss Pross confronts Madame Defarge and they struggle. Pross speaks only English and Defarge speaks only French, so neither can understand what the other is saying but each instinctively understands the other's intentions. In the struggle, Madame Defarge's pistol goes off, killing her; the noise of the shot and the shock of Madame Defarge's death cause Miss Pross to go permanently deaf.
The novel concludes with the guillotining of Sydney Carton. As he is waiting to board the tumbril, he is approached by a seamstress, also condemned to death, who mistakes him for Darnay but suddenly realizes the truth. Awed by his unselfish courage and sacrifice, she asks to stay close to him and he agrees. Upon their arrival at the guillotine, she and Carton are the last two and Carton comforts her, telling her that their ends will be quick but that there is no Time or Trouble "in the better land where ... [they] will be mercifully sheltered", and she is able to meet her death in peace. Carton's unspoken last thoughts are prophetic::
"I see Barsad, ... Defarge, The Vengeance [a lieutenant of Madame Defarge], ... long ranks of the new oppressors who have risen on the destruction of the old, perishing by this retributive instrument, before it shall cease out of its present use. I see a beautiful city and a brilliant people rising from this abyss, and, in their struggles to be truly free, in their triumphs and defeats, through long years to come, I see the evil of this time and of the previous time of which this is the natural birth, gradually making expiation for itself and wearing out.
"I see the lives for which I lay down my life, peaceful, useful, prosperous and happy, in that England which I shall see no more. I see Her with a child upon her bosom, who bears my name. I see her father, aged and bent, but otherwise restored, and faithful to all men in his healing office, and at peace. I see the good old man, so long their friend, in ten years' time enriching them with all he has, and passing tranquilly to his reward.
"I see that I hold a sanctuary in their hearts, and in the hearts of their descendants, generations hence. I see her, an old woman, weeping for me on the anniversary of this day. I see her and her husband, their course done, lying side by side in their last earthly bed, and I know that each was not more honoured and held sacred in the other's soul, than I was in the souls of both.
"I see that child who lay upon her bosom and who bore my name, a man winning his way up in that path of life which once was mine. I see him winning it so well, that my name is made illustrious there by the light of his. I see the blots I threw upon it, faded away. I see him, fore-most of just judges and honoured men, bringing a boy of my name, with a forehead that I know and golden hair, to this place—then fair to look upon, with not a trace of this day's disfigurement—and I hear him tell the child my story, with a tender and a faltering voice.
"It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known."
Lucie and Darnay have a first son earlier in the book who is born and dies within a single paragraph; it seems likely that this first son appears in the novel so that their later son, named after Carton, can represent another way in which Carton restores Lucie and Darnay through his sacrifice.
A Tale of Two Cities is one of only two works of historical fiction by Charles Dickens (Barnaby Rudge is the other one). It has fewer characters and sub-plots than a typical Charles Dickens novel. The author's primary historical source was The French Revolution: A History by Thomas Carlyle: Charles Dickens wrote in his Preface to Tale that "no one can hope to add anything to the philosophy of Mr. Carlyle's wonderful book".
Dickens uses literal translations of French idioms for characters who can't speak English, such as "What the devil do you do in that galley there?!!" and "Where is my husband? ---Here you see me." The Penguin Classics edition of the novel notes that "Not all readers have regarded the experiment as a success."
Dickens is renowned for his humor, but A Tale of Two Cities is one of his least comical books. Dickens also uses as humor in the book to show different points of view. The book is full of tragic situations, leaving little room for intended humor provided by Dickens.
 "Recalled to Life"
In Dickens' England, resurrection always sat firmly in a Christian context. Most broadly, Sydney Carton is resurrected in spirit at the novel's close (even as he, paradoxically, gives up his physical life to save Darnay's—just as in Christian belief, Christ died for the sins of the world.) More concretely, "Book the First" deals with the rebirth of Dr. Manette from the living death of his incarceration.
Resurrection appears for the first time when Mr. Lorry replies to the message carried by Jerry Cruncher with the words "Recalled to Life". Resurrection also appears during Mr. Lorry's coach ride to Dover, as he constantly ponders a hypothetical conversation with Dr. Manette: ("Buried how long?" "Almost eighteen years." ... "You know that you are recalled to life?" "They tell me so.") He believes he is helping with Dr. Manette's revival and imagines himself "digging" up Dr. Manette from his grave.
Resurrection is the main theme in the novel. In Jarvis Lorry's thoughts of Dr. Manette, resurrection is first spotted as a theme. It is also the last theme: Carton's sacrifice. Dickens originally wanted to call the entire novel Recalled to Life. (This instead became the title of the first of the novel's three "books".)
Jerry is also part of the recurring theme: he himself is involved in death and resurrection in ways the reader does not yet know. The first piece of foreshadowing comes in his remark to himself: "You'd be in a blazing bad way, if recalling to life was to come into fashion, Jerry!" The black humour of this statement becomes obvious only much later on. Five years later, one cloudy and very dark night (in June 1780), Mr. Lorry reawakens the reader's interest in the mystery by telling Jerry it is "Almost a night ... to bring the dead out of their graves". Jerry responds firmly that he has never seen the night do that.
It turns out that Jerry Cruncher's involvement with the theme of resurrection is that he is what the Victorians called a "Resurrection Man", one who (illegally) digs up dead bodies to sell to medical men (there was no legal way to procure cadavers for study at that time).
The opposite of resurrection is of course death. Death and resurrection appear often in the novel. Dickens is angered that in France and England, courts hand out death sentences for insignificant crimes. In France, peasants are even put to death without any trial, at the whim of a noble. The Marquis tells Darnay with pleasure that "[I]n the next room (my bedroom), one fellow ... was poniarded on the spot for professing some insolent delicacy respecting his daughter—his daughter!"
Interestingly, the demolition of Dr. Manette's shoe-making workbench by Miss Pross and Mr. Lorry is described as "the burning of the body". It seems clear that this is a rare case where death or destruction (the opposite of resurrection) has a positive connotation, since the "burning" helps liberate the doctor from the memory of his long imprisonment. But Dickens' description of this kind and healing act is strikingly odd:
So wicked do destruction and secrecy appear to honest minds, that Mr. Lorry and Miss Pross, while engaged in the commission of their deed and in the removal of its traces, almost felt, and almost looked, like accomplices in a horrible crime.
Sydney Carton's martyrdom atones for all his past wrongdoings. He even finds God during the last few days of his life, repeating Christ's soothing words, "I am the resurrection and the life". Resurrection is the dominant theme of the last part of the novel. Darnay is rescued at the last moment and recalled to life; Carton chooses death and resurrection to a life better than that which he has ever known: "it was the peacefullest man's face ever beheld there ... he looked sublime and prophetic".
In the broadest sense, at the end of the novel Dickens foresees a resurrected social order in France, rising from the ashes of the old one.
Hans Biedermann writes that water "is the fundamental symbol of all the energy of the unconscious—an energy that can be dangerous when it overflows its proper limits (a frequent dream sequence)." This symbolism suits Dickens' novel; in A Tale of Two Cities, the frequent images of water stand for the building anger of the peasant mob, an anger that Dickens sympathises with to a point, but ultimately finds irrational and even animalistic.
Early in the book, Dickens suggests this when he writes, “[T]he sea did what it liked, and what it liked was destruction.” The sea here represents the coming mob of revolutionaries. After Gaspard murders the Marquis, he is “hanged there forty feet high—and is left hanging, poisoning the water.” The poisoning of the well represents the bitter impact of Gaspard's execution on the collective feeling of the peasants.
After Gaspard’s death, the storming of the Bastille is led (from the St. Antoine neighbourhood, at least) by the Defarges; “As a whirlpool of boiling waters has a centre point, so, all this raging circled around Defarge’s wine shop, and every human drop in the cauldron had a tendency to be sucked towards the vortex...” The crowd is envisioned as a sea. “With a roar that sounded as if all the breath in France had been shaped into a detested word [the word Bastille], the living sea rose, wave upon wave, depth upon depth, and overflowed the city...”
Darnay’s jailer is described as “unwholesomely bloated in both face and person, as to look like a man who had been drowned and filled with water.” Later, during the Reign of Terror, the revolution had grown “so much more wicked and distracted ... that the rivers of the South were encumbered with bodies of the violently drowned by night...” Later a crowd is “swelling and overflowing out into the adjacent streets ... the Carmagnole absorbed them every one and whirled them away.”
During the fight with Miss Pross, Madame Defarge clings to her with “more than the hold of a drowning woman”. Commentators on the novel have noted the irony that Madame Defarge is killed by her own gun, and perhaps Dickens means by the above quote to suggest that such vicious vengefulness as Madame Defarge's will eventually destroy even its perpetrators.
So many read the novel in a Freudian light, as exalting the (British) superego over the (French) id. Yet in Carton's last walk, he watches an eddy that "turned and turned purposeless, until the stream absorbed it, and carried it onto the sea"—his fulfilment, while masochistic and superego-driven, is nonetheless an ecstatic union with the subconscious.
 Darkness and light
As is common in English literature, good and evil are symbolised with light and darkness. Lucie Manette is the light and Madame Defarge is darkness. Darkness represents uncertainty, fear and peril. It is dark when Mr. Lorry rides to Dover; it is dark in the prisons; dark shadows follow Madame Defarge; dark, gloomy doldrums disturb Dr. Manette; his capture and captivity are shrouded in darkness; the Marquis’s estate is burned in the dark of night; Jerry Cruncher raids graves in the darkness; Charles's second arrest also occurs at night. Both Lucie and Mr. Lorry feel the dark threat that is Madame Defarge. "That dreadful woman seems to throw a shadow on me," remarks Lucie. Although Mr. Lorry tries to comfort her, "the shadow of the manner of these Defarges was dark upon himself". Madame Defarge is "like a shadow over the white road", the snow symbolising purity and Madame Defarge's darkness corruption. Dickens also compares the dark colour of blood to the pure white snow: the blood takes on the shade of the crimes of its shedders.
 Social justice
Charles Dickens was a champion of the maltreated poor because of his terrible experience when he was forced to work in a factory as a child. (His father, John Dickens, continually lived beyond his means and eventually went to debtor's prison. Charles was forced to leave school and began working ten-hour days at Warren's Blacking Warehouse, earning six shillings a week.) His sympathies, however, lie only up to a point with the revolutionaries; he condemns the mob madness which soon sets in. When madmen and -women massacre eleven hundred detainees in one night and hustle back to sharpen their weapons on the grindstone, they display "eyes which any unbrutalised beholder would have given twenty years of life, to petrify with a well-directed gun".
The reader is shown the poor are brutalised in France and England alike. As crime proliferates, the executioner in England is "stringing up long rows of miscellaneous criminals; now hanging housebreaker ... now burning people in the hand" or hanging a broke man for stealing sixpence. In France, a boy is sentenced to have his hands removed and be burned alive, only because he did not kneel down in the rain before a parade of monks passing some fifty yards away. At the lavish residence of Monseigneur, we find "brazen ecclesiastics of the worst world worldly, with sensual eyes, loose tongues, and looser lives ... Military officers destitute of military knowledge ... [and] Doctors who made great fortunes ... for imaginary disorders". (This incident is fictional, but is based on a true story related by Voltaire in a famous pamphlet, An Account of the Death of the Chevalier de la Barre.)
The Marquis recalls with pleasure the days when his family had the right of life and death over their slaves, "when many such dogs were taken out to be hanged". He won't even allow a widow to put up a board in the local graveyard bearing her late husband’s name, to discern his resting place from all the others. We learn that the Marquis gave orders according to his 'noble rights' for the young Madame Defarge's sick brother-in-law to be harnessed to a cart all day and for him to quieten frogs at night. This was done to exacerbate the young man's illness and hasten his death.
In England, even banks endorse unbalanced sentences: a man may be condemned to death for stealing a horse or opening a letter. Conditions in the prisons are dreadful. "Most kinds of debauchery and villainy were practised, and ... dire diseases were bred", sometimes killing the judge before the accused.
So riled is Dickens at the brutality of English law that he depicts some of its punishments with sarcasm: "the whipping-post, another dear old institution, very humanising and softening to behold in action". He faults the law for not seeking reform: "Whatever is, is right" is the dictum of the Old Bailey. The gruesome portrayal of quartering highlights its atrocity.
Without entirely forgiving him, Dickens understands that Jerry Cruncher robs graves only to feed his son, and reminds the reader that Mr. Lorry is more likely to rebuke Jerry for his humble social status than anything else. Jerry reminds Mr. Lorry that doctors, men of the cloth, undertakers and watchmen are also conspirators in the selling of bodies.
Dickens wants his readers to be careful that the same revolution that so damaged France will not happen in Britain, which (at least at the beginning of the book) is shown to be nearly as unjust as France. But his warning is addressed not to the British lower classes, but to the aristocracy. He repeatedly uses the metaphor of sowing and reaping; if the aristocracy continues to plant the seeds of a revolution through behaving unjustly, they can be certain of harvesting that revolution in time. The lower classes do not have any agency in this metaphor: they simply react to the behaviour of the aristocracy. In this sense it can be said that while Dickens sympathises with the poor, he identifies with the rich: they are the book's audience, its "us" and not its "them". "Crush humanity out of shape once more, under similar hammers, and it will twist itself into the same tortured forms. Sow the same seed of rapacious licence and oppression over again, and it will surely yield the same fruit according to its kind".
With the people starving and begging the Marquis for food; his uncharitable response is to let the people eat grass; the people are left with nothing but onions to eat and are forced to starve while the nobles are living lavishly upon the people's backs. Every time the nobles refer to the life of the peasants it is only to destroy or humiliate the poor.
 Relation to Dickens' personal life
Some have argued that in A Tale of Two Cities Dickens reflects on his recently begun affair with eighteen-year-old actress Ellen Ternan, which was possibly asexual but certainly romantic. Lucie Manette resembles Ternan physically, and some have seen "a sort of implied emotional incest" in the relationship between Dr. Manette and his daughter.
After starring in a play by Wilkie Collins entitled The Frozen Deep, Dickens was first inspired to write Tale. In the play, Dickens played the part of a man who sacrifices his own life so that his rival may have the woman they both love; the love triangle in the play became the basis for the relationships between Charles Darnay, Lucie Manette, and Sydney Carton in Tale.
Sydney Carton and Charles Darnay may also bear importantly on Dickens' personal life. The plot hinges on the near-perfect resemblance between Sydney Carton and Charles Darnay; the two look so alike that Carton twice saves Darnay through the inability of others to tell them apart. It is implied that Carton and Darnay not only look alike, but they have the same "genetic" endowments (to use a term that Dickens would not have known): Carton is Darnay made bad. Carton suggests as much:
'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.'
Many have felt that Carton and Darnay are doppelgängers, which Eric Rabkin defines as a pair "of characters that together, represent one psychological persona in the narrative". If so, they would prefigure such works as Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Darnay is worthy and respectable but dull (at least to most modern readers), Carton disreputable but magnetic.
One can only suspect whose psychological persona it is that Carton and Darnay together embody (if they do), but it is often thought to be the psyche of Dickens himself. Dickens was quite aware that between them, Carton and Darnay shared his own initials.
Many of Dickens' characters are "flat", not "round", in the novelist E. M. Forster's famous terms, meaning roughly that they have only one mood. In Tale, for example, the Marquis is unremittingly wicked and relishes being so; Lucie is perfectly loving and supportive. (As a corollary, Dickens often gives these characters verbal tics or visual quirks that he mentions over and over, such as the dints in the nose of the Marquis.) Forster believed that Dickens never truly created rounded characters.
- Sydney Carton – A quick-minded but depressed English barrister alcoholic and cynic.
- Lucie Manette – An ideal pre-Victorian lady, perfect in every way. She was loved by both Carton and Charles Darnay (whom she marries), and is the daughter of Dr. Manette. She is the "golden thread" after whom Book Two is named, so called because she holds her father's and her family's lives together (and because of her blond hair like her mother's). She also ties nearly every character in the book together.
- Charles Darnay – A young French noble of the Evrémonde family. In disgust at the cruelty of his family to the French peasantry, he has taken on the name "Darnay" (after his mother's maiden name, D'Aulnais) and left France for England. He exhibits an admirable honesty in his decision to reveal to Doctor Manette his true identity as a member of the infamous Evrémonde family. So, too, does he prove his courage in his decision to return to Paris at great personal risk to save the imprisoned Gabelle.
- Dr. Alexandre Manette – Lucie's father, kept as a prisoner in the Bastille for eighteen years.
- Monsieur Ernest Defarge – The owner of a French wine shop and leader of the Jacquerie; husband of Madame Defarge; servant to Dr. Manette as a youth. One of the key revolutionary leaders, he leads the revolution with a noble cause, unlike many of other revolutionaries.
- Jacques One, Two, and Three – Revolutionary compatriots of Ernest Defarge. Jacques Three is especially bloodthirsty and serves as a juryman on the Revolutionary Tribunals.
- The Vengeance – A companion of Madame Defarge referred to as her "shadow" and lieutenant, a member of the sisterhood of women revolutionaries in Saint Antoine, and revolutionary zealot. (Many Frenchmen and women did change their names to show their enthusiasm for the Revolution)
- The Mender of Roads – A peasant who later works as a woodsawyer and assists the Defarges.
- Jarvis Lorry – An elderly manager at Tellson's Bank and a dear friend of Dr. Manette.
- Miss Pross – Lucie Manette's governess since Lucie was ten years old. Fiercely loyal to Lucie and to England.
- The Marquis St. Evrémonde – The cruel uncle of Charles Darnay. Also called "The Younger." He inherited the title at "the Elder"'s death.
- The Elder and his wife – The twin brother of the Marquis St. Evremonde, referred to as "the Elder" (he held the title of Marquis St. Evrémonde at the time of Dr. Manette's arrest), and his wife, who fears him. They are the parents of Charles Darnay.
- John Barsad (real name Solomon Pross) – A spy for Britain who later becomes a spy for France (at which point he must hide that he is British). He is the long-lost brother of Miss Pross.
- Roger Cly – Another spy, Barsad's collaborator.
- Jerry Cruncher – Porter and messenger for Tellson's Bank and secret "Resurrection Man" (body-snatcher). His first name is short for Jeremiah.
- Young Jerry Cruncher - Son of Jerry and Mrs. Cruncher. Young Jerry often follows his father around to his father's odd jobs, and at one point in the story, follows his father at night and discovers that his father is a resurrection man. Young Jerry looks up to his father as a role model, and aspires to become a resurrection man himself when he grows up.
- Mrs. Cruncher - Wife of Jerry Cruncher. She is a very religious woman, but her husband, being a bit paranoid, claims she is praying against him, and that is why he doesn't succeed at work often. She is often abused verbally, and almost as often, abused physically, by Jerry, but at the end of the story, he appears to feel a bit guilty about this.
- Mr. C.J. Stryver – An arrogant and ambitious barrister, senior to Sydney Carton. There is a frequent mis-perception that Stryver's full name is "C. J. Stryver", but this is very unlikely. The mistake comes from a line in Book 2, Chapter 12: "After trying it, Stryver, C. J., was satisfied that no plainer case could be." The initials C. J. almost certainly refer to a legal title (probably "chief justice"); Stryver is imagining that he is playing every role in a trial in which he browbeats Lucie Manette into marrying him.
- The Seamstress – A young woman caught up in The Terror. She precedes Sydney Carton, who comforts her, to the guillotine.
- Théophile Gabelle – Gabelle is "the Postmaster, and some other taxing functionary, united" for the tenants of the Marquis St. Evrémonde. Gabelle is imprisoned by the revolutionaries, and his beseeching letter brings Darnay to France. Gabelle is "named after the hated salt tax".
- Gaspard – Gaspard is the man whose son is run over by the Marquis. He then kills the Marquis and goes into hiding for a year. He eventually is found, arrested, and executed.
- "Monseigneur" – The appellation "Monseigneur" is used to refer to both a specific aristocrat in the novel, as well as the general class of displaced aristocrats in England.
- A peasant boy and his sister – Victims of the Marquis St. Evremonde and his brother. They are Madame Defarge's brother and sister.
There have been at least five feature films based on the book:
- A Tale of Two Cities, a 1911 silent film.
- A Tale of Two Cities, a 1917 silent film.
- A Tale of Two Cities, a 1922 silent film.
- The Only Way, a 1927 silent British film directed by Herbert Wilcox.
- A Tale of Two Cities, a 1935 black-and-white MGM film starring Ronald Colman, Elizabeth Allan, Reginald Owen, Basil Rathbone and Edna Mae Oliver. It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture.
- A Tale of Two Cities, a 1958 version, starring Dirk Bogarde, Dorothy Tutin, Christopher Lee, Leo McKern and Donald Pleasence.
In the film A Simple Wish, the protagonist's father Oliver (possibly a reference to another of Dickens' famous novels, Oliver Twist) is vying for a spot in his theatre company's production of a musical of A Tale of Two Cities, of which we see the beginning and end, using the two famous quotes, including "It is a far, far better thing that I do", as part of a few solos.
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan pays homage to A Tale of Two Cities, with Spock giving Kirk a copy of the book for his birthday, then later sacrificing his life a la Sydney Carton to save the Enterprise. Kirk quotes both the opening and closing lines of the book in the movie's first and last scenes respectively.
In 1938, The Mercury Theatre on the Air (aka The Campbell Playhouse) produced a radio adapted version starring Orson Welles, who also starred in a version broadcast on Lux Radio Theater on March 26, 1945.
In 1945, a portion of the novel was adapted to the syndicated program The Weird Circle as "Dr. Manette's Manuscript."
In June 1989, BBC Radio 4 produced a 7-hour drama adapted for radio by Nick McCarty and directed by Ian Cotterell. This adaptation has been occasionally repeated by BBC Radio 7 (most recently in 2009); it is not yet known whether or not it will be replayed on BBC 4 Extra. The episodes broadcast on BBC Radio 7 were titled and summarized as follows:
- The Year 1775 - Buried for 18 years, a man 'recalled to life' connects London and Paris during the French Revolution.
- Five Years Later - The Manettes and Mr Lorry attend an Old Bailey treason trial, where the accused is an old acquaintance.
- Promises - Monsieur Le Marquis infuriates residents in Paris, and in London Lucie hears echoes of dark footsteps.
- Beginnings - Mr Carton confesses his feelings, but across the Channel an air of vengeance and retribution is simmering.
- The Storm Gathers - Lucie's actions cause ructions, and France reverberates to the sound of marching mobs.
- The Track of a Storm - With Darnay facing great danger in Paris, Lucie leads a rescue.
- The Knitting Done - With Darnay re-arrested and back in prison, Carton makes plans for his release.
and the cast included:
- Charles Dance as Sydney Carton
- Maurice Denham as Dr. Alexandre Manette
- Charlotte Attenborough as Lucie Manette
- Richard Pasco as Jarvis Lorry
- John Duttine as Charles Darnay
- Barbara Leigh-Hunt as Miss Pross
- Margaret Robertson as Madame Defarge
- John Hollis as Jerry Cruncher
- John Bull as Ernest Defarge
- Aubrey Woods as Mr. Stryver
- Eva Stuart as Mrs. Cruncher
- John Moffatt as Marquis St. Evremonde
- Geoffrey Whitehead as John Barsad and Jacques #2
- Nicholas Courtney as Jacques #3 and The Woodcutter
In December 2011 as part of their special season on Charles Dickens' Bicentenerary, BBC Radio 4 produced a new five-part adaptation for radio by Mike Walker with original music by Lennert Busch and directed by Jessica Dromgoole and Jeremy Mortimer. The original broadcast ran on the Afternoon Play series and summarized as follows:
- December 26 - Recalled to Life - An encounter on the Dover Road, and a message.
- December 27 - The Old Order - Lucie Manette is a witness at Charles Darnay's trial for treason at the Old Bailey.
- December 28 - Two Promises - In a Paris wine shop, information is exchanged about a courtship.
- December 29 - The Grindstone - Charles Darnay is determined to travel to Paris to go to the aid of the family retainer.
- December 30 - The Shadow and the Substance - Charles Darnay has been released. But his freedom is short-lived.
and the cast included:
- Robert Lindsay as the voice of Charles Dickens
- Paul Ready as Sydney Carton
- Karl Johnson as Dr. Alexandre Manette
- Lydia Wilson as Lucie Manette
- Jonathan Coy as Jarvis Lorry
- Andrew Scott as Charles Darnay
- Alison Steadman as Miss Pross
- Tracy Wiles as Madame Defarge
- Carl Prekopp as Jerry Cruncher
- James Lailey as Ernest Defarge
- Simon Bubb as Mr. Stryver/Prison Warder
- Adjoa Andoh as Mrs. Cruncher
- Clive Merrison as Marquis St. Evremonde
- Gerard McDermott as John Barsad
- Daniel Cooper as Natty Cruncher
- Christopher Webster as Young Manette
- Adam Bilington as Young Evremonde
 Television programmes
Another mini-series, this one in 10 parts, was produced by the BBC in 1965.
The novel was adapted into a 1980 television movie directed by Jim Goddard and starring Chris Sarandon as "Sydney Carton/Charles Darnay". Peter Cushing as "Dr. Alexandre Manette", Alice Krige as "Lucie Manette", Flora Robson as "Miss Pross", Barry Morse as "The Marquis St. Evremonde" and Billie Whitelaw as "Madame Defarge".
In 1989 Granada Television made a mini-series starring James Wilby as "Sydney Carton", Serena Gordon as "Lucie Manette", Xavier Deluc as "Charles Darnay", Anna Massey as "Miss Pross" and John Mills as "Jarvis Lorry", which was shown on American television as part of the PBS television series Masterpiece Theatre.
In the 1970 Monty Python's Flying Circus episode "The Attila the Hun Show", the sketch "The News for Parrots" included a scene of A Tale of Two Cities (As told for parrots).
The children's television series Wishbone adapted the novel for the episode "A Tale of Two Sitters".
In the ABC television series "Lost" (2004–2010), during the second season two-part finale, as a book belonging to the character 'Desmond Hume'.
American author Susanne Alleyn's novel A Far Better Rest, a reimagining of A Tale of Two Cities from the point of view of Sydney Carton, was published in the USA in 2000.
The historical novel The Carton Chronicles : The Curious Tale of Flashman's true father (2010) by Keith Laidler imagines that Sydney Carton had a last minute change of heart, escaped the guillotine and went on to work as a spy for Robespierre whilst attempting to win Lucie Manette / Darnay's heart. In his narrative Carton also confesses to being the real father of Harry Flashman the rougueish hero of the series of books created by George MacDonald Fraser who in turn borrowed him from Tom Brown's Schooldays by Thomas Hughes.
Simplified versions of A Tale of Two Cities for English language learners have been published by Penguin Readers, in several levels of difficulty.
In Cassandra Clare's novel "Clockwork Angel", "A Tale of Two Cities" was Tessa's and Will's favorite book. They had also quoted lines from the book.
 Stage musicals
There have been five musicals based on the novel:
In 1997 Paul Nicholas commissioned an adaptation with music by David Pomeranz and book by Steven David Horwich and David Soames. Co-produced by Bill Kenwright, the show ran at the New Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham during their 1998 Christmas season with Paul Nicholas as Sydney Carton. The show was reworked and then directed by Nicholas and presented at Upstairs at The Gatehouse in Highgate in 2008. Currently, Nicholas is producing and directing the show for London’s Charing Cross Theatre (Players' Theatre) running through 12 May 2012. The cast includes Michael Howe as “Sydney Carton”, Jonathan Ansell as “Charles Darnay”, Antony Hansen as the alternate “Charles Darnay”, Jennifer Hepburn as “Lucie Manette”, Jemma Alexander as “Mme Defarge”, Craig Berry as “Defarge”, John Fleming as “Dr Manette”, David Alder as “Jarvis Lorry”, Pippa Winslow as “Miss Pross” and Miles Eagling as “Mr Stryver”.
A Tale of Two Cities, a musical adaptation by Jill Santoriello, was performed at the Asolo Repertory Theatre in Sarasota, Florida, in October and November 2007. James Stacy Barbour ("Sydney Carton") and Jessica Rush ("Lucie Manette") were among the cast. A production of the musical began previews on Broadway on 19 August 2008, opening on 18 September at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre. Warren Carlyle is the director/choreographer; the cast includes James Stacy Barbour as "Sydney Carton", Brandi Burkhardt as "Lucie Manette", Aaron Lazar as "Charles Darnay", Gregg Edelman as "Dr. Manette", Katherine McGrath as "Miss Pross", Michael Hayward-Jones as "Jarvis Lorry" and Natalie Toro as "Madame Defarge".
In 2006, Howard Goodall collaborated with Joanna Read in writing a separate musical adaptation of the novel called Two Cities. The central plot and characters were maintained, though Goodall set the action during the Russian Revolution.
The novel has also been adapted as a musical by Takarazuka Revue, the all-female opera company in Japan. The first production was in 1984, starring Mao Daichi at the Grand Theater, and the second was in 2003, starring Jun Sena at the Bow Hall.
Arthur Benjamin's operatic version of the novel, subtitled Romantic Melodrama in six scenes, was premiered by the BBC on 17 April 1953, conducted by the composer; it received its stage premiere at Sadler's Wells on 22 July 1957, under the baton of Leon Lovett.
- ^ a b Facsimile of the original 1st publication of A Tale of Two Cities in All the year round
- ^ Broadway.com on A Tale of Two Cities: "Since its inaugural publication on 30 August 1859, A Tale of Two Cities has sold over 200 million copies in several languages making it one of the most famous books in the history of fictional literature." (24 March 2008)
- ^ Dickens 2003, p. 191 (Book 2, Chapter 16).
- ^ Dickens 2003, p. 128 (Book 2, Chapter 9). This statement (about the roof) is truer than the Marquis knows, and another example of foreshadowing: the Evrémonde château is burned down by revolting peasants in Book 2, Chapter 23.
- ^ Dickens 2003, p. 134 (Book 2, Chapter 9)
- ^ Dickens 2003, p. 159 (Book 2, Chapter 14)
- ^ Dickens 2003, p. 330 (Book 3, Chapter 9)
- ^ Emigration is about to be made illegal but isn't yet. See Dickens 2003, p. 258 (Book 3, Chapter 1)
- ^ Dickens 2003, p. 344 (Book 3, Chapter 10)
- ^ Dickens 2003, p. 340 (Book 3, Chapter 10)
- ^ Dickens 2003, p. 390 (Book 3, Chapter 15)
- ^ Dickens 2003, p. 219 (Book 2, Chapter 21)
- ^ Dickens 2003, p. xxxix
- ^ Dickens 2003, pp. 107-108 (Book 2, Chapter 6)
- ^ The Marquis emphasises his because Dickens is alluding to the (probably mythical) Droit de seigneur, under which any girl from the Marquis's land would belong to the Marquis rather than to her parents. Dickens 2003, p. 127 (Book 2, Chapter 9)
- ^ Dickens 2003, p. 212 (Book 2, Chapter 19)
- ^ Dickens 2003, p. 214 (Book 2, Chapter 19)
- ^ John 11.25-6
- ^ Biedermann 1994, p. 375
- ^ Dickens 2003, p. 21 (Book 1, Chapter 4)
- ^ Dickens 2003, p. 178 (Book 2, Chapter 15)
- ^ a b Dickens 2003, p. 223 (Book 2, Chapter 21)
- ^ Dickens 2003, p. 110 (Book 2, Chapter 7)
- ^ The Chevalier de la Barre was indeed executed for acts of impiety, including failure to pay homage to a procession of monks. These acts were attributed to him, it seems, by his mother's slighted lover. A synopsis of the story is given by Stanford University's Victorian Reading Project. See also Andrew Sanders, Companion to A Tale of Two Cities (London: Unwin Hyman, 1988), p.31; see also Voltaire, An Account of the Death of the Chevalier de la Barre (1766); translated by Simon Harvey, Treatise on Tolerance (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000).
- ^ Dickens 2003, p. 63 (Book 2, Chapter 2). Dickens is quoting Alexander Pope's Essay on Man of 1733.
- ^ Ruth Glancy has argued that Dickens portrays France and England as nearly equivalent at the beginning of the novel, but that as the novel progresses, England comes to look better and better, climaxing in Miss Pross's pro-Britain speech at the end of the novel.
- ^ Dickens 2003, p. 385 (Book 3, Chapter 15)
- ^ Dickens 2003, p. xxi
- ^ "Context of A Tale of Two Cities". http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/twocities/context.html. Retrieved 2009-08-03.
- ^ Dickens 2003, p. 89 (Book 2, Chapter 4) p. 89
- ^ Rabkin 2007, course booklet p. 48
- ^ Schlicke 2008, p. 53
- ^ "In their purest form [flat characters] ... are constructed round a single idea or quality. ... Part of the genius of Dickens is that he does use types and caricatures, people whom we recognise the instant they re-enter, and yet achieves effects that are not mechanical and a vision of humanity that is not shallow. Those who dislike Dickens have an excellent case. He ought to be bad." Forster 1927, p. 67, 71-72
- ^ Dickens 2003, p. 83 (Book 2, Chapter 4)
- ^ After Dr. Manette's letter is read, Darnay says that "It was the always-vain endeavour to discharge my poor mother's trust, that first brought my fatal presence near you." (Dickens 2003, p. 347 [Book 3, Chapter 11].) Darnay seems to be referring to when his mother brought him, still a child, to her meeting with Dr. Manette in Book 3, Chapter 10. But some readers also feel that Darnay is explaining why he changed his name and travelled to England in the first place: to discharge his family's debt to Dr. Manette without fully revealing his identity. (See note to the Penguin Classics edition: Dickens 2003, p. 486.)
- ^ Dickens 2003, p. 470
- ^ The Marquis is sometimes referred to as "Monseigneur the Marquis St. Evrémonde." He is not so called in this article because the title "Monseigneur" applies to whoever among a group is of the highest status; thus, this title sometimes applies to the Marquis and other times does not.
- ^ Stryver, like Carton, is a barrister and not a solicitor; Dickens 2003, p. xi
- ^ Dickens 2003, p. 147
- ^ Dickens 2003, p. 120 (Book 2, Chapter 8)
- ^ Dickens 2003, p. 462
- ^ . http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/features/dickens/.
- ^ Dromgoole, Jessica. "A Tale of Two Cities on BBC Radio 4. And a podcast too!". http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/radio4/2011/12/a_tale_of_two_cities_on_bbc_ra.html.
- ^ Aziloth Books The Carton Chronicles : The Curious Tale of Flashman's true father http://azilothbooks.com/title_details.php?ID=4
- ^ Laidler, Keith,The Carton Chronicles : The Curious Tale of Flashman's true father (Aziloth, 2010, ISBN 978-1-907523-01-4)
- ^ Playbill.com, 25 September 2008: "Best of Times: A Tale of Two Cities Opens on Broadway September 18"
- ^ Playbill.com, 25 March 2008: "Tale of Two Cities, the Musical, to Open on Broadway in September"
- ^ A Tale of Two Cities musical official site
- ^ Boosey & Hawkes page
 Further reading
- Glancy, Ruth. Charles Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities: A Sourcebook. London: Routledge (2006) ISBN 978-0-415-28760-9
- Sanders, Andrew. The Companion to A Tale of Two Cities. London: Unwin Hyman (1989) ISBN 978-0-04-800050-7 Out of print.
 Works cited
- "A Tale of Two Cities." Shmoop: Study Guides & Teacher Resources. Web. 27 Mar. 2011. <http://www.shmoop.com/tale-of-two-cities/>.
- Biedermann, Hans. Dictionary of Symbolism. New York: Meridian (1994) ISBN 978-0-452-01118-2
- Dickens, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities. Edited and with an introduction and notes by Richard Maxwell. London: Penguin Classics (2003) ISBN 978-0-14-143960-0
- Drabble, Margaret, ed. The Oxford Companion to English Literature. 5th ed. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press (1985) ISBN 0-19-866130-4
- Forster, E. M. Aspects of the Novel (1927). 2005 reprint: London: Penguin. ISBN 978-0-14-144169-6
- Orwell, George. "Charles Dickens". In A Collection of Essays. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich (1946) ISBN 0-15-618600-4
- Rabkin, Eric. Masterpieces of the Imaginative Mind: Literature's Most Fantastic Works. Chantilly, VA: The Teaching Company (2007)
- Schlicke, Paul. Coffee With Dickens. London: Duncan Baird Publishers (2008) ISBN 978-1-84483-608-6
- "SparkNotes: A Tale of Two Cities: Character List." SparkNotes: Today's Most Popular Study Guides. Web. 11 Apr. 2011. <http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/twocities/characters.html>.
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- A Tale of Two Cities at Internet Archive.
- A Tale of Two Cities at Project Gutenberg
- A Tale of Two Cities - The original manuscript of the novel, held by the Victoria and Albert Museum (requires Adobe Flash).
- A Tale of Two Cities, full text with audio and lesson activities.
- A Tale of Two Cities, full text with audio.
- A Tale of Two Cities Complete audio book at Librivox Project.
- 'Dickens: A Tale of Two Cities', lecture by Dr. Tony Williams on the writing of the book, at Gresham College on 3 July 2007 (with video and audio files available for download, as well as the transcript).
- Asolo Repertory Theatre and Beyond the Book - Asolo Rep's community literacy initiative to inspire reading and community connection - featured A Tale of Two Cities during the 2007-08 season
- A Tale of Two Cities study guide, teaching guide, quotes, themes, resources
- BBC Afternoon Play - A Tale of Two Cities, December 26–30, 2011
- William T. Brewster (1920). "Tale of Two Cities, A". Encyclopedia Americana.