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Use of Irony in A Tale of Two Cities

 

In A Tale of Two Cities, the author, Charles Dickens, uses a great deal of irony in the opening chapter to draw the reader into the story. By using a slew of contradictory statements in the opening paragraph, the author forces the reader to further investigate the meaning of the cryptic opening line: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..." As the reader continues, he finds that the story is a dramatization of the circumstances surrounding London and Paris during the time period of the French Revolution.

 

The historical record of the conditions of life in France and England during the French Revolution were identical to the ways they are described in the story. Life for the nobles or higher class people was exquisite, while the lower class was crawling in poverty. People were constantly being nagged by thieves and petty criminals, causing the state of life in those two countries to be especially unbalanced.

 

To begin the story, the author uses a long paragraph almost perfectly describing life in Europe during the late 1700s. However, the paragraph consists of nothing but seemingly absurd statements about the "spring of hope" and the "winter of despair." By writing phrases such as ."..it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness...," the author brings an ironic feeling to the whole story. Of course, the seasons of Light and Darkness could never coincide, but in France and England's situation during the time period of the story, that is exactly what life is like for the people living there.

 

Through the use of self-contradiction in the first chapter, readers are able to understand the plight of the countries of France and England in a darkly humorous way. The author's ironic first paragraph gives readers a chance to assess the French Revolution in a lighter way than any history reference will provide. There can be no doubt that this was the right move made by the author when writing the novel, giving it a legendary reputation among classic novels for its unforgettably famous quotes.

 

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