The French Revolution in A Tale of Two Cities by Charles John Huffam Dickens

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Charles John Huffam Dickens was one of the most critically acclaimed writers in the Victorian Period, and his works are still heavily appreciated in present times. Dickens added to his repertoire in 1859 with the publishing of A Tale of Two Cities, a novel centered around the French Revolution. Dickens is well known for generating his themes through critiques on current events and the characters’ actions. For example, in A Tale of Two Cities, sacrifice is a motif, or a recurring theme, that is developed through the actions of three seemingly ordinary, yet extraordinary, characters. Throughout the novel, Charles Dickens develops the theme of sacrifice through Madame Defarge, Miss Pross, and Sydney Carton.
Madame Defarge, an avid supporter of the French Revolution, is willing to sacrifice her life to avenge her family and to further the aim of the revolution. When she is just a young girl, Thérèse Defarge’s father and siblings are killed at the hands of the cruel Evrémonde brothers. Consequently, this tragic loss creates Madame Defarge’s hatred towards French nobles, and eventually, contributes to her leadership position in the French Revolution. The readers see that avenging her family through the death of the Evrémonde brothers is not enough, as the narrator describes, “It was nothing to her, that an innocent man was to die for the sins of his forefathers; she saw, not him, but them. It was nothing to her, that his wife was to be made a widow and his daughter an orphan; that was insufficient punishment, because they were her natural enemies and her prey, and as such had no right to live” (Dickens 281). Whilst her mission to exterminate Lucie and her daughter furthers her satisfaction for revenge, it also promotes the intentions ...

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... a very noble life, his final act of sacrificing himself for his true love is a redeeming and vital addition to Dickens’ theme.
The admirable actions of Madame Defarge, Miss Pross, and Sydney Carton are all utilized in this novel to formulate the theme of sacrifice. The way in which Dickens portrays these three as unyielding and persistent in regards towards their sacrificial actions truly strengthens this particular theme’s development. All three of these characters are martyrs for each of their individual causes. Charles Dickens shows the theme of sacrifice in the everyday lives of simple people, yet their actions are truly remarkable. In life, sacrifices are usually hard to make, and the way one reacts in the face of adversity is the only infallible way to understand his character.

Works Cited

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

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