A Tale of Two Cities
A Tale of Two Cities, written in 1859 by Charles Dickens, is an interesting novel, full of adventure, romance, and action. The setting of the story goes back and forth from London, England to Paris, France repeatedly, starting with a banker going to Paris to free an old friend from captivity and arrange a daughter’s meeting of her father, the captive, for the first time. The first half of the book is mainly in London. The second half of the story is centered around the storming of the Bastille and in Paris. Charles Dickens wrote in the Romantic style of the time, but in a new interesting way that changed people’s look on literature and the time period itself. For the first half of his life he was a quite poor man, and later on a very noted spokesperson of the poor class of the time, but still didn’t live very high above that general class throughout his lifetime. Though A Tale of Two Cities may be considered a revolutionary novel, it does connect with the times in which it was written about, the late 1700’s. There were many revolutions going on in the world at that time the book was written, the 1850’s, along with the time it took place. Considered to be Dickens’s only true historic novel and embodying many important ideas of Romantic literature, A Tale of Two Cities portrays themes such as order and disorder, love for one’s friends, and memory and reminiscence.
Charles Dickens was a brilliant author who introduced many timeless, quotable classics, such as A Tale of Two Cities, to the world, but in a different perspective along with being in the upper poor class for the first half of his life. Dickens also gives the reader his message of freedom for the common people from their oppression. First of all, he uses a historical style unlike any of his other novels, and secondly, he does not look from the outside of the social situation, but from the inside since he was in the class of “common folk” of that time. In A Tale of Two Cities, the majority of the view point while they are in France, and some in England, is from the poor class’s view, so Dickens’s past experience in that class adds greatly to the detail and perspective in the book just as , “the sociological effect of the blacking factory on Dickens was to give him a firsthand acquaintance with poverty and to make him the most vigorous and influential voice of the lower classes in his age.” (p.77, Stearns) Without Dickens having grown up with that influence, the perspective and flow of the story from the French common folk’s point of view would have probably been off point and poorly done in the book.
Romanticism was a literary movement during the late 1700’s and early 1800’s in which people were finding new ways to write and new ideas for society and the government. Romantics showed common themes in their writings like the individual, emotion and feeling instead of logic, and attachment to nature. Concerning the individual, the common person in that time was considered very low compared to someone in power or nobility, so many writers spoke out against it and gave the common folk equal rights in society because, “lives of ordinary people had been deemed unworthy of general interest,” (p.713, Milne) but romantics of the time were inspired, “by the events of the American and French revolutions and their underlying political theories...” (p.713, Milne) During the period people also found their emotions and did whatever they wanted instead of the logical decision since, “romantics valued emotion, intuition, and feeling over logic...” (p.713, Milne) Out of the revolutions people saw the beauty of the world and learned to love and respect it, so they would relate their writing to nature as Dickens does at the doctor’s home in Soho, London, where, “the forest-trees flourished, and wild flowers grew, and the hawthorn blossomed, in the now vanished fields…,” (p.86, Dickens) because romantics considered nature, “to be mainly good and kind, in contrast to the corruption of society.” (Furst) These themes opened a gateway to many of the concepts the world uses today.
Dickens shows the reader a theme of order and disorder throughout the novel, going back and forth from the anarchy of the Paris revolt to a peaceful hideaway in England or a safer part of Paris. He does a wonderful job of this in the beginning of the book when he tells the audience, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness,… it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…” (p.1, Dickens) In one chapter the reader may be seeing the chaos the French revolution is causing, then in the next the reader may be succumbed