In A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens contrasts the Manettes’ life during the French Revolution in both London and Paris. The story follows them throughout the trials of the Reign of Terror in Paris, to the safety and security of London. He also compares the cities themselves, one being overrun with poverty and oppression, and the other being safe and economically sound. He shows the differences in the quality of life in both cities, while developing a love story in which the lives of the characters are twisted within the French Revolution.
In France before the revolution, many changes had been made to help the country, but the Deficit of Revenue was not one of them. Many of the aristocrats and clergy were exempt from paying taxes, yet the poorer citizens were taxed heavily to make up for it (Carlyle vii). Louis XIV gave the upper class special power and privileges and ultimately caused France to weaken (Wright 31). Soon the common people were poor and starving. France had been suffering inflation for years; therefore, the government tried to tax the upper classes, but they refused to pay since they had been exempt for so long. Soon after, France endured many hardships, including drought and famine, and France became even poorer (Wright 31). In order to reform the financial status of France, Louis summoned the Etates-Generaux, who had not met since 1614. The Etates-Genereaux, or the General States, was a representative assembly that dealt with the matters of the state. It was made up of three groups: the church, the aristocracy, and the remaining ninety five percent of the population (Wright 33). On July 14, 1789, the French Revolution officially began by the storming of the Bastille. The reason the Bastille was attacked was because it was seen as a symbol of the King’s power (Wright 34). This led to ten years of attacks made upon the privileged because of the abuses the common people felt from the ruling classes. Soon after the Bastille was taken, many other outbursts and riots occurred in France. Many aristocrats’ chateaux were burned, and this era of violence became known as The Great Fear (Wright 33). Many aristocrats and clergy fled the country in fear of being beheaded (Wright 34). Louis was put on trial as a traitor and was executed on January 21, 1793.
Many people led revolts and provided the revolutionary ideas that the upper classes feared...
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... but his future was clearly in England with his daughter and son-in-law (Kiran-Raw).
The harsh conditions of Paris in the story were extremely realistic compared to the actual revolution. The people of Paris were starved and worked to death. They had to work more than they should have had just to pay what the government taxed them. However, in the story, all the revolutionaries were more violent than some of the real revolutionaries. Although there were violent ones, others were also people that had revolutionary ideas and views that could have helped the situation. Those people ended the true revolution.
A Tale of Two Cities is undoubtedly a realistic, yet fictional account of the French Revolution. Dickens compares and contrasts the lives and events of both London and Paris in a very accurate manner. His intentions of writing to enlighten people of the history of the revolution were successful, while also extremely entertaining. Although it has been thought that Dickens created the characters out of people he actually was associated with, they fit the story properly. The story truly digs into the heart of the revolution and the people it affected.
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