Essay on Revenge in Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities

Essay on Revenge in Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities

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"Among all my books, `A Tale of Two Cities' becomes the gall and bitterness of my life. I vow to God they make me wretched and taint the freshness of every new year..."

These words, spoken by Dickens illumine us on the stark hatred, the unflinching desire for revenge that makes Dickens so "wretched." His "the sun was going down and flaring out like an angry fire at the child-- and the child, and I, and the pale horse stared at one another in silence for some five minutes as if we were so many figures in some dismal allegory", reflects so vividly the spirit of hatred personified by Madame Defarge. She shows no compunction, neither would have allowed any weakness to deflect her from her purpose.

Revenge reigns utmost in `A Tale of Two Cities', but the basic element beneath the theme of revenge is `Rape'--the violation that initiates the novel's entire cycle of violence and guilt. Dr. Manette's imprisonment in the Bastille for eighteen years and Madame Defarge's hatred and her thirst for revenge combine together and form this one word, for it all started with the rape of one girl.

Dickens calls this primal rape scene `The Substance of the Shadow'. This incident was the beginning of the hatred within Madame Defarge for the Evremonde brothers, as it was her sister who went through this physical violation. Brutally ravaged by the twin brothers, she falls victim to death.

"They have had their shameful rights, these nobles in the modesty and virtues of our sisters, ...We were so robbed by that man who stands there, as all we common dogs are by those superior beings--obliged to work for him without pay, and forbidden for our lives to keep a single tame bird of our own."

Thus, physical v...


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... But the concentration of evil is never on Charles Darnay; it is all on the wild frenzy of people who have committed everything to violence. Dickens hated and feared such violence; there is not a sign of approval or defense of it; he attributes every kind of monstrous wickedness to its leaders; but he projects in to his treatment of it his own feelings of desperate impotence in the face of the problem of political power. The first set of oppressors might have become so due to lack of sympathy or humanity, but the second set is born out of a need revenge. The bases of all their actions, thus, is blind fury and a need to avenge all wrongs done to them. The evil Madame Defarge, The one-tracked Vengeance, Gaspard, and in fact, the entire revolution, is a product of this need. Thus, revenge comes out to be one of the strongest themes in Dickens' "A Tale of Two Cities."

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