Foreshadowing in A Tale of Two Cities

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Foreshadowing in A Tale of Two Cities


How does diabolically spilt blood and mysterious footsteps become important in a historical fiction novel? What makes these murder-mystery traits relevant? Charles Dickens, author of A Tale of Two Cities, creatively foreshadows future events using suspenseful topics: A forbidden declaration of love, a tragically beautiful sunset streaked with crimson, echoing footsteps of a past that will not be forgotten, and wine stained streets soon to be smeared with blood. The aforementioned events are pulled together in this story of love and sacrifice. Collectively, they are an example of successful use of foreshadowing to create an atmosphere of foreboding and intrigue.


Dickens dedicated many of his long-winded paragraphs to the scene where the Defarge's wine was spilt. He describes in detail how eager and needy the French peasants were... drinking wine from muddy streets, feeding the drink to the youngest and oldest of their ranks. Such a scene may seem unimportant, but, since it was thoroughly described, Dickens must of had a specific purpose for it. The wine cask that was broken in the streets prophesized that blood would soon be spilt, and the thirst the peasants had for the wine foretold their savage thirst for blood.


A great corner for echoing was located near where Lucie and her father lived. Lucie, in fanciful times of imagination, made predictions about the echoing footsteps she heard pass by. During a night of conversation with Darnay and Carton, Lucie stated, "I have sometimes sat alone here of an evening, listening, until I have made the echoes out to be the echoes of all the footsteps that are coming by-and-by into our lives." (pg.121;book2;ch.6) And, although the innocent character Lucie may not realize it, Dickens, her creator, has her say such words to foretell the times when the footsteps of the past will again catch up with the book's characters. The mention of these echoes makes the reader wonder (along with the musing threesome) who will be affected by influence of the footsteps.


"I would embrace any sacrifice for you and those dear to you." (pg.166; book2;ch.13 ) Proclaiming these words with passion, Carton, in a rare moment of sincere sobriety, becomes the carrier of Dickens's most poignant use of foreshadowing.


Alone with Lucie, Carton honestly tells her his feelings. He states how useless and lost he sees himself in the world. Also, he reveals his love for her, and most importantly, his determination that her happiness is worth more to him than his own life. As Carton declares his life lost but for her contentment, he foreshadows the conclusion of the book. The end in which he indeed makes the ultimate sacrifice for her well-being and that of those dear to her.


With a simple heartfelt statement, Carton brings suspense to the portion of the story that takes place in France, for it makes the reader wonder why he suddenly arrives. With a loving confession, Carton brings intrigue to his situation with Lucie, and the motives behind his business in Paris. Dying for Lucie`s true love, and his friend Darnay, Carton validates his statement: "There is a man who will give his life, to keep a life you love beside you." which he not only declares in that moment of truth... but proves in the end. (pg.184, book2, ch.13)


Charles Dickens fills his novel with seemingly random events, that are only made clear in the conclusion. He uses foreshadowing as one of his tools to confuse and intensify the plot. One finds themselves asking: What makes spilt wine so important? Who do the footsteps stand for? Why would Carton declare his love when he has no hope of having it returned? Many occurrences of foreshadowing are subtle, making them clear only upon reflection. Still, with blood, a haunting past, and proclamations of love, the events of foreshadowing in A Tale of Two Cities are captivating. Without being a murder-mystery, Dickens uses techniques like foreshadowing to intersperse his novel with the suspense of that genre.


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"Foreshadowing in A Tale of Two Cities." 09 Feb 2016

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