Justify the title of the novel ‘A Tale of two cities’ by Charles dickens
As suggested by the title “A Tale of Two Cities”, Dickens’ novel is about the impact of the French Revolution upon the people living in France and England alike. When Dickens wrote his novel in 1859, the Revolution had well subsided, but it was not completely out of the English cultural memory. It is a tale that partly takes place in London and partly in Paris, and the title is an instrument to build up a covert comparison between the lives of the two nations at the important epoch of the French Revolution, thereby suggesting the very possibility of a revolution in Britain as well. The tale begins in 1755 when the young French physician Dr. Manette was arbitrarily sent to the Bastille and ends in 1794 when the martyrdom of Sydney Carton saves the life of Charles Darnay who, together with his beloved wife, child, and father-in-law, is safely conveyed across the Channel.
Behind the tale of love and hatred, the book offers good glances into the condition of life in the two cities-London and Paris. The sights are, of course, pessimistic in both places. London is shown to be an ill-paved, ill-lighted city with poor sanitation and robbery rampant in the streets. The criminal law of the country was extremely bad and inequitable persons being capitally punished for the grave as well as small crimes. Therefore, the English used to live a pitiable life.
Dickens’ picture of the French life is more vivid than that of England as he was actually making an in-depth study of the causes behind the French Revolution. The apathy and incompetence of the court, the diabolical vices of the nobility, and the rising tide of the popular discontent are well highlighted. The released prisoner from the Bastille, the shoe-maker with whom we meet in the First Book, is a living monument of aristocratic tyranny, and the popular discontent which is focused in the wine shop of Defarge is a Prelude to the Revolution. The two chapters “Monseigneur in Town”, “Monseigneur in the Country” offer an intensive picture of the inhumanity of the aristocrats in France. In contrast to their inhuman luxurious lifestyle, the utter poverty of the common people easily draws attention. Such discrimination caused the Revolution, Dickens’ work clearly establishes.
Books II and III draw pictures of the French Revolution in its initial phase up to the Reign of Terror. A new era begins after the King’s killing. The whole nation was in a raging fever. Dickens skillfully presents a short but vivid picture of the Reign of Terror including the September massacre, perpetual sending of men to the guillotine without proper trial, the revelry in bloodshed, the feast of unreason, and the flow of emotional stupidity as they affect the lives of commoners like Lucy and her associates. Thus we get in a single compass a tale of two nations through the medium of A Tale of Two Cities.