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A Tale of Two Cities General Overview

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A Tale of Two Cities General Overview


Charles Dickens, disputably the best author of the Victorian era, was born in Landport Hampshire on Feb. 7, 1812, the second of seven children. His father, a financially irresponsible pay clerk for the navy, landed himself and all his family but his second born in debtors prison in 1824, upon which Charles was forced to spend his early years working in a factory in London to support his family. He earned a meager six pence an hour wrapping shoe-black containers.

Half a year after being imprisoned, Charles’ father, John inherited enough money from a relative to pay off his debts and be released from jail. On this inherited fortune, Charles attended the Wellington House Academy in London, a local private school from 1824-27, where he first discovered his passion for writing. However, Charles disliked the work, and dropped out at the age of fifteen.

For the next two years he worked as a law office clerk, after which becoming a regular contributor to such periodicals as the True Son, a radical social reform paper, Mirror of Parliament a report on the proceedings of Parliament, and the Morning Chronicle, and became editor of the London Daily News. It was from these periodicals that Dickens’ career as a writer first gained traction. In 1836, the Morning Chronicle published Dickens’ first renowned works, The Pickwick Papers and Sketches By Boz (Boz being his pen name). In this same year, Charles married Catherine Hogarth, the daughter of one of his good friends.

Dickens’ novels soon began release in regular installments. Olliver Twist, for example, being released from 1837-39, Nicholas Nickelby from 1838-39, and The Old Curiosity Shop from 1840-41. Charles spent much of the next decade using his fame to protest the social injustices of his day, not producing much literature beyond pamphlets and plays dedicated to his cause. Part of this social crusade involved his condemnation of slavery in the United States.

Following his deviation into social reform, Dickens again turned to writing as an outlet for his views. His next work was David Copperfield (1849-50), in which he uses his own experiences working in a factory to protest the conditions of Industrial Britain. His last two great works were A Tale of Two Cities (1859) and Great Expectations (1860-61).

Charles Dickens spent the latter years of his life on lecturing tours in the United states and Great Britain. Ironically, he left an unfinished mystery novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood upon his death in Gadshill on June 9, 1870 at the age of fifty-eight.

Charles Dickens published A Tale of Two Cities in 1859. At the time, Napoleon III was waging war with Austria, Darwin published The Origin of Species, and a guy tight-roped across Niagara Falls for the first time, and even cooked an omelet from it (sorry, was watching the history channel while writing this portion of the paper). More specifically, in Dickens’ homeland of Britain, control of India shifted from the East India company to the British government following the Lucknow revolt and the Jewish Disabilities Removal Act was passed.

The former of these two occurrences likely being of more relevance, the pandemonium in India challenged the idea of an economically, politically, and socially detached and superior entity ruling over the poor masses only to widen the gap between the rich and the poor. This is likely one of the greater influences on A Tale of Two Cities. By speaking of the French Revolution when the climate in India was on the populace’s minds can be interpreted to suggest several things which will be inspected later in this assignment.

Themes, Motifs& Symbols

Touched upon in the “Background” portion of this assignment is the influence of the Indian revolt against foreign (more specifically British) rule on the message of this novel. First is the obvious comparison of the then present control of India to the pre-revolution control of France. Despite this seeming objection to the abuse of British power, Dickens doesn’t really present himself as a supporter of the opposite side of the spectrum either. By representing the result of the revolution in France as a bloodthirsty mob equally as prejudiced against their superiors as their former controllers were to them. This could be interpreted as a possible outcome in India if it’s bloody revolts (Gandhi had not yet entered the scene) were to result in a separation from foreign rule.

Stretching his intentions even further, one could take this denouncement of both aristocratic and socialist forms of rule to mean by process of elimination that Dickens is supporting capitalism in this novel. Dickens celebrates his characters Darnay and Defarge’s ability to break from their intended place in the world and still make a name for

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