Humor in Dicken's Tale of Two Cities

Humor in Dicken's Tale of Two Cities

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A Tale of Two Cities
Frequently in literature, humor is added in scenes to make them more interesting and more appealing to readers. Often times underneath the humorous covers lay a much more serious principle. Charles Dickens does exactly this in A Tale of Two Cities, by making slight comedy of issues such as democracy, the lower class, and spousal abuse.
In A Tale of Two Cities, the actions of Jerry Cruncher, while essentially very humorless, may seem peculiarly funny to some people. The events that occur in chapter one of book two, concerning Mrs. Cruncher, is an appropriate example of this idea. In this scene, Jerry Cruncher yells at his wife because he thinks she was praying against him. To start with, because of this accusations obvious ridiculousness, it strikes readers as comical. One may even argue that he didn’t actually believe this, but maybe he was just bored and finds joy in harassing his wife. To say such silly things out of boredom also may hit someone as amusing. What generally makes this scene humorous is that Cruncher is so unjustified in yelling at his wife for such an absurd thing, and furthermore, he lacks any real evidence that she was doing what he accuses her of doing. While this scene may seem like a comical one, with a silly husband, it is really calling attention to verbal abuse to wives. It is palpable that Cruncher has no respect whatsoever for his wife. At the time of this book, this was a common situation so either people did not notice the seriousness because of the humor that is masking it, or it was an every day happenning for them.
When Cruncher wakes up to find Mrs Cruncher praying (in reality praying for him), he reacts by throwing a muddy shoe at her. This notion may also seem like a funny one to readers. Because the idea of somebody getting hit in the head by a muddy shoe can be humorous, if used in an appropriate situation, such as a TV show or a movie, it may also seem funny in this scene. The realness of the situation can be easily overlooked. When Dickens adds these unexplainable events, it may strike some as funny because his actions are so unjustified and random.

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People may read these scenes and simply think that it is there for comical purposes and not to address a real problem. When one reads this particular scene, spousal abuse is usually not the initial idea that comes to mind. Instead, it would usually strike them that Cruncher is just a jerk, or is crazy, or has a twisted sense of humor. This scene is masking the real problem of wife abuse by adding perverse wit. The way the dialogue is worded and the way the author describes the actions, it does not seem to be a grave occurrence, but instead, a comical, every day situation.
Perhaps by adding these humorous elements to his scenes, Dickens was trying to shield himself from the ridicule that sometimes comes with writing about topics that are controversial.
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