Charles Dickens Attitude and Tone in A Tale of Two Cities

Charles Dickens Attitude and Tone in A Tale of Two Cities

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Dickens frequently uses literary devices and terms throughout his novel, A Tale of Two Cities to express his attitude toward certain subjects that can be paralleled to real events in history. “The Wine-Shop” passage from Book I of this novel includes particularly detailed examples the revelation of Dickens’ attitude and intended tone.
To summarize, “The Wine-Shop” passage is a scene in which a large wine cask spills all over the streets of the poor French city, Saint Antoine. Everyone present rushes to gather the wine for themselves and their loved ones. These peasants attack the wine and almost make a game out of it.
Dickens has a sympathetic attitude toward these needy people. He feels sorry for them because they are destitute. However, he does foreshadow to the events of the Revolution in which these people are destructive and cruel to the aristocrats. When these later events occur, I think Dickens feels that these people are acting very harshly even though they have suffered tremendously.
In the Wine-Shop scene, Dickens makes use of simile to express his attitude toward the situation. “The accident has happened in getting it out of a cart; the cask had tumbled out with a run, the hoops had burst, and it lay on the stones just outside the door of the wine-shop, shattered like a walnut-shell (Dickens 27). The use of this simile describes how violently the cask tore open, foreshadowing to the tremendous spill of the wine itself. Dickens also uses juxtaposition to explain the wine gathering done by the peasants. “A shrill sound of laughter and of amused voices-voices of men, women, and children-resounded in the street while this wine game lasted…When the wine was gone, and the places where it had been most abundant were raked into a gridiron-pattern by fingers, these demonstrations ceased, as suddenly as they had broken out (27-28). As the people are rushing onto the street, they are experiencing a sudden sense of opulence, but this feeling soon subsides. Overall, each of these literary devices shows that Dickens has pity for the peasants.
Throughout this entire passage, “wine” is a type of symbolism: a metaphor. The wine spilling over Saint Antoine is representative of blood. The people, who are thirsty for the wine, are actually craving the bloodshed of their enemies, the aristocrats.

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“The time was to come, when that wine too would be spilled on the street-stones, and when the stain of it would be red upon many there (28). This sentence doubles as a metaphor and a method of foreshadowing. In addition to the symbolism of wine, this sentence is foreshadowing to the French Revolution, in which much blood is shed and the Revolutionaries are represented by the color red. In using the symbol of blood, Dickens highlights his characters’ desperation, creating a concerned tone throughout the passage.
Personification and metaphor are both used to describe the yearning of the people of Saint Antoine; literally for the wine, and metaphorically for bloodshed. “…the darkness of it was heavy-cold, dirt, sickness, and want, were the lords in waiting on the saintly presence-nobles of great power all of them; but, most especially the last (28).
Anaphora is used in this passage to put emphasis on the power that hunger had over these people. The repetition of the word “hunger” puts stress on his understanding of the peasants’ struggles, resulting in a sympathetic tone.
Hunger. It was prevalent everywhere. Hunger was pushed out of the tall houses, in the wretched clothing that hung upon poles and lines; Hunger was patched into them with straw and rag and wood and paper; Hunger was repeated in every fragment of the small modicum of firewood that the man sawed off; Hunger stared down from the smokeless chimneys, and startled up from the filthy street that had no offal, among its refuse, or anything to eat. (29)
Throughout the entire passage, Dickens expresses his tone mainly through diction. The words that he chooses to use, such as “mutilated”, “devoted”, or “greedy”, show that he is considerate of these people’s condition. Specific details help reveal Dickens’ tone, too. This scene is extremely detailed, especially the description of the people gathering the wine. This is necessary to give readers a true picture of what the author is describing. Ultimately, Dickens’ use of literary devices assists in expressing his sympathetic tone which corresponds with his understanding attitude.

Works Cited

Dickens, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities. United States of America: Tom Doherty Associates, LLC., 1988. Print.
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