A Tale of Much Imagery: A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

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Dickens is often held to be among the greatest writers of the Victorian Age. Nonetheless, why are his works still relevant nearly two centuries later? One reason for this is clearly shown in Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities. In the novel, he uses imagery to sway the readers’ sympathies. He may kindle empathy for the revolutionary peasants one moment and inspire feeling for the imprisoned aristocrats the next, making the book a more multi-sided work. Dickens uses imagery throughout the novel to manipulate the reader’s compassion in the peasants’ favor, in the nobles defense, and even for the book’s main villainess, Madame Defarge.
With imagery revealing the poor straits and desperation of the peasant class of France, Dickens influences the reader to pity them. He writes, “The cloud settled on Saint Antoine, which a momentary gleam had driven from his sacred countenance, the darkness of it was heavy—cold, dirt, sickness, ignorance, want were the lords waiting on the saintly presence—nobles of great power all of them; but most especially the last” (Dickens 22). Through hunger, want, etc. being personified and compared to nobles through language such as “nobles” and “lords”, Dickens shows the extent of the suffering of the peasants, their deserving to be pitied, and the human nobles’ apathy towards them. The peasants of Saint Antoine suffer in the 1770s, and the town’s name is made into a play on words with “saintly presence”, with the cloud of cold, dirt, sickness, ignorance, and want looming forming the imagery of irony. Another description of the peasants’ plight is revealed in the quote saying, “Ploughed into every furrow of age and coming up afresh, was the sign Hunger. It was prevalent everywhere...Hunger was the inscription on th...

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...reader feel empathy for even the book’s villainess, and he succeeds.
Throughout the novel, Dickens employs imagery to make the readers pity the peasants, have compassion for the innocent nobles being punished, and even better understand the antagonist and her motives. His use of personified hunger and description of the poor’s straits made the reader pity them for the situation caused by the overlord nobles. However, Dickens then uses the same literary device to alight sympathy for the nobles, albeit the innocent ones! Then, he uses imagery to make the reader better understand and perhaps even feel empathy for Madame Defarge, the book’s murderous villainess. Through skillful but swaying use of imagery, Dickens truly affects the readers’ sympathies.

Works Cited

Dickens, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities. Ed. Paul Negri. Mineola: Dover
Publications, 1999. Print.

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