Revolutionary Imagery in A Tale of Two Cities

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The French Revolution began in 1789 as a respectable insurrection; however, it soon became a bloody massacre. The peasants had been oppressed by poverty and the aristocracy. Eventually, they grew weary and tired of the subjugation; therefore, they revolted against the aristocracy, who had not anticipated the revolution. However, they became frenzied and blood thirsty, becoming carried away with the bloodshed. The novel A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens tells the story of these two classes along with that of two families and two cities, London and Paris, during the French Revolution. The novel is written in such a way that allows the reader to experience the trials and tribulations of the French Revolution, while still enjoying the characters and convoluted plot. Dickens seems to believe that imagery is the key to showing the contrast between two characters, cities or classes, and he often uses it to please the reader esthetically and successfully sway the reader’s sentimentality and sympathies throughout the novel. Furthermore, to develop the theme of man’s inhumanity towards his fellow man, Dickens uses imagery to set a specific tone towards two characters, C.J. Stryver and Sydney Carton, the peasants at the beginning of the novel, and the aristocracy at the end of the novel.
C.J. Stryver and Sydney Carton are two very different characters; however, without Dickens’ use of compelling imagery, their dissimilarity would not have been so noticeable. C.J. Stryver is a man who was “free from any drawback of delicacy” and “had a pushing way of shouldering himself (morally and physically) into companies and conversations, that argued well for his shouldering his way up in life” (Dickens 60). Here, Dickens is depicting Stryver as...

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...og and not human. The aristocracy is treating the peasants like they are animals, running over them while in carriages and leaving them to fend for themselves. During the revolution, the peasants, overcome with the promise of revenge and blood-lust, began to persecute the nobility, dehumanizing them and turning the revolution into a massacre. Throughout history, man has always treated his peers inhumanely: making them inferior to him, treating them with disgust, standing by to watch them struggle, and slaughtering them. In his novel A Tale of Two Cities, Dickens brings to light a part of human nature that no one wants to discuss, a small fire in human nature burning for revenge and power. A small fire that humans, themselves, are ashamed of, yet cannot seem to find a way to quench.

Works Cited

Dickens, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities. Mineola: Dover, 1999. Print.
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