A Tale of Two Cities
A Tale of Two Cities is a book of struggle, love, social injustice, sacrifice, and resurrection. These are all common themes throughout the book, as well as, common themes during this period of time. This book was written in 1859, but is set to take place during the year of 1775. Which is of course, the year that the French Revolution had begun. This book only talks directly about the French Revolution in a few instances. The majority of A Tale of Two Cities are the events that took place prior to the French Revolution.
In the novel, A Tale of Two Cities, struggle is portrayed several times. The book talks greatly about the struggles of every day life. The fear of walking around their cities. The fear England and France had of their kings, George III and Louis XVI. Both kings had many issues with power and authority, which is greatly shown throughout the novel. It is obvious they are both contradicting to their people. King Louis XIV is an absolute ruler, which we talked a lot about in class. He believed every thing should be done his way. Every one living in France was to believe in what Louis XIV believed in. As well as like the same things Louis XIV liked. The common people of France were not allowed to express their ideas or emotions to anyone. The only opinions you could have were those that were in favor of King Louis XIV. This defines the ongoing class struggle that has so greatly changed the way we live today.
Most people and fellow classmates believe that A Tale of Two Cities is also a love story. Of course love is a very common and confusing feeling that most people experience at some point in their lives. Most kings have multiple wives, mistresses, and children. In this novel, there was also a relationship forming between Carton, Lucie, and Darnay. Carton is one of the defense attorneys for Lucies dad, Dr. Manette. Lucie meets a French aristocrat, Charles Darney. Lucie and Charles fall in love, get married, and have a daughter. Carton never lets go of his feelings for Lucie, but understands that they will never be together.
Another theme that is found in both the novel, and in western civilization is social injustice. Social injustice generally refers to the idea of creating a society or institution that is based on the principles of equality and solidarity, that understands and values human rights, and that recognizes the dignity of every human being. Social injustice is related to the class struggle theme because those who feel the negative effects of injustice begin to struggle against it. Dickens vividly paints the aristocratic maltreatment of the lower classes, such as when the despised Monsieur the Marquis only briefly stops to toss a coin to the father of a child he has just ran over to help compensate for his loss. Obviously there is no value of money that can give them back their child. It is all about the social statuses and the difference of the value of life. A king may not care if his son or daughter dies because they may not cherish them as much as the every day people.
The fourth theme is sacrifice. Several people had to sacrifice things at different parts in the novel. Basically the novel portrays that to be able to achieve happiness you must sacrifice other things. This theme is used on a national and personal level. In the novel the revolutionaries prove that a new French republic can only begin with a heavy and terrible cost. That meaning that every one needs to sacrifice things that are valuable and dear to them for the good of the nation. Also, Madame Defarge makes her husband sacrifice his emotions when she punishes him for his devotion to Manette. The last example and most important example is that of Cartons transformation throughout the novel. Carton had to sacrifice his former self into a man with moral worth. Carton chooses to die for his friends, which does not enable their happiness but also gives his friends a spiritual rebirth.
The fifth and final theme that I believe relevant is that of resurrection. This theme I believe is the most obvious theme throughout the book. The first book in the novel is called Recalled to Life. Doctor Manette has been held in jail for the last eighteen years for spying. He saw a rape and murder take place, and was imprisoned shortly after. Dr. Manette plays both a hero and a victim in this novel. Many people believed that Dr. Manette had died, including his own daughter whom he never met. A rescue mission takes place to rescue Dr. Manette from prision. The code for that mission is recalled to life. Mr. Lorry starts thinking about all the years that Dr. Manette has been out of society. He realizes that this will not be as easy as he had believed. Dr. Manette had taken up shoe making while in prison. Dr. Manette did not talk much, or even look up very much when Mr. Lorry and Lucie came in the room to rescue him. After Lucie explains who she is, he begins thinking about his wife whom he would never see again. He seems fairly happy with the fact that he has a daughter and agrees to go home with her.
Another example is the relationship between Carton and Lucie. Carton is so in love with Lucie, but she is married to another man. Carton sacrifices his love for her and understands the horrible realization that he will never be with her. So instead of becoming extremely angry and upset, he makes sure that Lucie and her husband, Charles Darnay, are able to be together. In England, Charles Darnay, was to be convicted and executed. Fortunately, Charles Darnay and Sydney Carton look a lot alike, which saves Darnay from the guillotine. Not long after Carton decides that because they look so much alike he will take the place of Darnay in the guillotine. Many people agree that this resembles what Jesus sacrificed for us. He died for our sins and was crucified on a cross. Carton died for Darnay, so that Darnay and Lucie could still be together. Since Carton knew he could never be with Lucie he wanted to make sure that she would at least have Darnay. Others say that this also helped form a new way of life for people living during this time.
The guillotine was used many times during the French Revolution. It was used to decapitate whomever was sentenced to death. The guillotine was also called the Terror. Unfortunately, it was used long after the French Revolution was over. The area that was last to abolish the guillotine was France in 1981. That to me seems absolutely insane that something that terrifying and horrible was around until just recently. Most people I know today were around at that time, and were able to be a part of history.
In conclusion, A Tale of Two Cities takes place during the late 1700s. Times were not easy. Things were constantly changing for the people, but usually it was not for the better. The Kings and Queens wanted every thing to be their way, or there was no way. They did not want to listen to any one else but themselves, and did not believe that any one else should have any say about anything. Luckily, times have changed and people understand that there is a right and wrong. Every day people know that it is okay to think differently than someone else does. This just goes to show that nothing gets better until it gets worse first. We learn from our mistakes, and we also learn to forgive and forget. Without being able to conquer those simple little things our brains would be on overload and not be able to function. England and France are not perfect, but looking back through the years, they have really never been better.