Irony in A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens


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This paper is to explain the use of irony of a phrase from A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. The story is set during the time of the French Revolution and the phrase was the slogan of the revolutionaries: “The Republic One and the Indivisible of Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, or Death.” Each term of this phrase will be defined and once defined one will be able to see the extreme irony of it.
First, the definition of Republic is: “a state in which the exercise of the sovereign power is lodged in representatives elected by the people.” During this time, France was not even a republic. They were simply working towards it. And in all reality, they did not even have a government at this time. Their country was in the middle of revolution and was in total chaos. The people had not elected any representatives, and there was no one who was actually in control. It was just whoever had the best troops and could kill more of the other. This does not match the definition of Republic.
The second important word is Liberty. Liberty is defined as: “A state of society so far only abridged and restrained, as is necessary and expedient for the safety and interest of the society, state, or nation. The restraints of laws are essential to liberty.” During the French Revolution there were no laws. The people were basically rebelling against each other in a bloody free-for-all. Of course they would not follow laws. They were all fighting to change the laws, and the government that they did not agree with in the first place. If they did not agree with the laws why would they abide by them?
The next word is Equality, defined as: “An agreement of things in dimensions, quantity, or quality; likeness; similarity in regard to two things compared.” During the French Revolution There was equality, but not the kind the people wanted. They had equality in that they were all able to be killed equally, without distinction, whether they had done anything wrong or not. They had equality for death. Obviously that is not the kind of equality one would desire.
“A body of men associated for their common interest or pleasure.

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” Is the definition for the next word, Fraternity. Madame Defarge is the leader of a fraternity of knitting women but this fraternity was driving for vengeance, for the deaths of those they did not consider “friends of the Republic”. This is not really a fraternity; they did not have a brotherhood with the rest of the people of France; it was a fraternity among just these women. These women took much pleasure in the killing of people, they enjoyed watching people die. This was not the fraternity that the people of the so-called “French Republic” desired.
Finally the definition of Death: “the end of life”. This is a very simple term that many people understand. The French revolutionaries were basically saying all of this or you will have to kill us to break us up. What better way to separate a group of people than to kill them all? If they’re all dead obviously they cannot re-group. Their ideas would have been hopeless if the Jacobins had simply resorted to killing everyone to get what they wanted.
In conclusion, there was much irony in the slogan used by the revolutionaries: “The Republic One and Indivisible of Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, or Death.” Whoever came up with it must have either been uneducated, or was a very imaginative thinker. There was no Republic; they were easily divisible; they had no liberties; their equality was definitely not what they expected or wanted; the fraternity was that of blood-thirsty women; and finally if none of that was brought about, they would have accepted death which, of course, would have rendered the French Revolution an absolute, failure and there would have been many deaths for no cause. That is just simple stupidity.



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