In this essay, I will argue that one of the underlying motives in Charles Dickens' novel A Tale of Two Cities (1859) is the reinforcement of Christian values in 18th century Victorian England. Dickens was very concerned with the accepted social norms of industrialized England, many of which he felt were very inhumane. Christian values were challenged, largely due to the recent publication of Darwin's Origins of a Species, and philosophy along with literature was greatly affected. In 1859, the industrial age was booming, making many entrepreneurs rich. However, the majority of the lower economic class remained impoverished, working in unsafe and horrific environments as underpaid factory workers. Additionally, child labor was an accepted practice in Victorian England's factories. Dickens, who worked, as a child in a shoe polish factory, detested this social convention with such strength that only one with experience in such exploitation could.
Dickens responded to this "dog-eat-dog" social climate by writing A Tale of Two Cities as a vehicle to reform society. He intends to fortify Christian values within English culture, such as self-sacrifice and kindness, in a time when he feels these values are threatened and sometimes completely overlooked. In this essay, I will show how Dickens interweaves his moral agenda of Christian values into the novel by using contrasts, symbols, and the motif of doubles as well as the evolution of Sydney Carton into a Christ-like figure with the goal of inspiring the reader to the point of evolving into an ethically "good" human being.
The Motif of Doubles: Darkness and Light as Symbols of Good and Evil
."..it was the seaso...
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...n the same passage the narrator reveals that Lucie's future son will be named after Sydney, and, like Sydney, the son will become a lawyer (292).
Dickens creates immortality for Sydney's character with the intention of showing the reader that those who live by a Christian moral code will be rewarded with immortality. Sydney begins as a sordid character so the reader will realize that anyone can follow the path of righteousness, regardless of how sinful one is to begin with. Dickens intends the evolution of Sydney's character to function as inspiration for the reader to incorporate both selfless kindness and self-sacrifice into his or her ethical code. By giving immortality in exchange for Sydney's selfless kindness and martyrdom, Dickens radiates his moral agenda of Christian values as a moving story to inspire Victorian society towards Christian morals.
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