A Historical Interpretation of A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

1775 Words8 Pages
A Historical Interpretation of A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

History has not only been important in our lives today, but it has also impacted the classic literature that we read. Charles Dickens has used history as an element of success in many of his works. This has been one of the keys to achievement in his career. Even though it may seem like it, Phillip Allingham lets us know that A Tale of Two Cities is not a history of the French Revolution. This is because no actual people from the time appear in the book (Allingham). Dickens has many different reasons for using the component of history in his novel. John Forster, a historian, tells us that one of these reasons is to advance the plot and to strengthen our understanding of the novel (27). Charles Dickens understood these strategies and could use them to his advantage.

The main focus of Dickens’ novel is the French Revolution. This was a tragic time that took place between the years of seventeen eighty-nine and seventeen ninety-nine. It was the lower class revolting against the corrupt authoritarian government. The ideals that the French stood for were liberty, equality, and brotherhood. Dickens uses this for the background of his novel. Marie Shephard once said that Dickens was helped by his friend Carlyle for a background on the French Revolution, and tried to focus more on the plot than a character (51). Another historian said that “the French Revolution exists in the novel only insofar as Dickens’s characters vivify it, live through it, react to it, and make its reality manifest to the reader”(Allingham). Dickens understood this and used it to help him write the novel, and to help us in understanding it.

In the tale, the historical technique has been used quite perfectly. Dickens uses the element of history not only to advance the plot, but also to show connections between life in the eighteenth century and the novel. Another way Dickens’ uses history is to show the partnership between evil and history itself (Allingham). Dickens showed how the population felt about the government, how they acted, and what the end result was. He did all of this while advancing the storyline. He also continued to develop the many characters of the book. He also showed many connections between the novel and history including characters, events, places, and overall feelings.
Open Document