A Tale Of Two Cities By Charles Dickens Essay

A Tale Of Two Cities By Charles Dickens Essay

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Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities is a novel of exploration: it explores what it means to be oppressed or to oppress and the importance of virtue in the face of wickedness and iniquity. Dickens also explores the concept of identity and its ability to be transformed. In the novel, these transformations of identity can come from a place of light, or love, or the darkness of hatred. In the case of Dr. Alexandre Manette and Sydney Carton, the reconstruction of their identities results from the love they feel towards Lucie and, in turn, the compassion she feels towards them. For the poor and downtrodden people of France, their individuality is deconstructed and reconstructed into a single identity that reflects the darkness and anger within them and the revenge they crave against the aristocracy: the revolutionary.
Imprisoned in the Bastille for eighteen years and later placed under the care of Monsieur Defarge, readers of the novel are introduced to Dr. Manette as a shell of the brilliant physician he once was. To distract himself from the tortures of prison, he becomes fixated on shoe making — a habit he often turns back to during his times of tribulation. When he begins to lose himself to the identity he was forced to construct in order to survive as a prisoner, Lucie is at his side and walks him “until he is composed” and restored to the father she loves (Dickens, p. 101). Throughout the novel, he shifts between “the identity of a prestigious doctor and a dehumanized shoemaker,” and finds tranquility and stability through Lucie’s devotion alone (Robbins, 2015).
Sydney Carton’s transformation throughout the novel is an especially poignant one. From his introduction, Carton is presented as an alcoholic and a tortur...


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...e causes for such transformation vary greatly across the characters in the novel. For Dr. Alexandre Manette and Sydney Carton, the transformation of their individual identities was caused by love. For the lower class of France, the creation of their group identity as revolutionaries was a result of years of hardship and the subsequent anger they experienced. Although distinctly different, these three cases share an unignorable similarity: each transformation did not occur in a vacuum. Some entity or guiding force, whether it be from a place of light or darkness, acted as a catalyst to these characters’ fundamental changes. In the case of A Tale of Two Cities, the results of these changes also vary: one experiences a restoration of his former self, one sacrifices his life for the woman he loves, and the other results in the political and social upheaval of France.

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