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By Charles Dickens
It is the beginning of the French revolution and the countries at war with it's self. Many if not all of the lower class people believe it is time for change in the French Social and political system.
Dr. Alexander Manette was a prisoner in the Bastille (Frances symbolism for Royal Authority) for 18 years. He is eventually released and he travels to London with Jarivs Lorry of Tellson bank, who had raised his daughter since Manette was imprisoned. Since Alexander had been imprisoned for so long he had lost touch with life, love, rest, duty and comfort which his daughter helps to bring out in him again.
Five years later in the year 1780 Charles Darnay is being accused for treason but is saved from execution when his lawyer, Sydney Carton, makes the point that he and Darnay look very similar so how could the prosecutor be sure that Darany was indeed the spy. Carton, his boss Stryver and Darany at this point are all in love with Lucie and she chooses Darnay and they are wed. Darnay reveals his identity to Lucie's father Alexander Manette. Darnay is actually Charles St. Evremonde, who is the nephew of the Marquis St. Evremonde. Marquis St. Evremonde was the man who was responsible for Dr. Alexander Manette's imprisonment. Upon hearing this Manette returns to his old habit from prison, and makes shoes for nine days before regaining himself and joining the couple on their honeymoon. When he returns Carton visits him and requests friendship which Darnay agrees too.
The year 1789, Madam Defarge and her husband lead an attack on the Bastille, and the French revolution begins. The revolutionaries begin killing the aristocrats and nobles in the streets. A maintenance man from the Evrémonde estate, named Gabelle is imprisoned and five years later writes Darnay requesting that he be freed. Darnay knowing the risks decides to go to his aid regardless and departs for France.
As soon as he arrives he is arrested and tried for his ancestors wrongs from many years before which were committed against Madam Defarge's parents. He is then sentenced to death within twenty-four hours. Carton goes to visit Darnay in prison and convinces him to trade clothes with him. He then drugs Darnay and the guards thinking he is Carton escort Darney to a waiting carriage where he is taken safely away.
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Charles Darnay/Charles D' Aulnais, is a French aristocrat. He gives up his life as noble and moves to London, because he can not stand the cruel injustices of the French social systems. He displays good and noble characteristics and shows great discretion in not becoming the snobbish and cruel man his uncle (the Marquis Evrémonde) is. Upon arriving in London Darnay is tried for treason and then acquitted. He then marries Lucie Manette and displays courage as he returns to Paris to free Gabelle.
Lucie Manette, who is also often referred to as "the golden thread" is a kind and compassionate young lady, whose loving manor and ways has a great effect on those around her. She was raised as an orphan, in England as her parents were presumed to be dead. Her loving ways to enabled her to help her newly found father be "recalled to life, love, duty, rest, [and] comfort" and caused the ruthless, drunken Sydney Carton to develop in to a hero. She ends up marring Charles Darnay.
Sydney Carton, is and insolent, English attorney who is a brilliant man but his alcoholic tendencies keep him from becoming rather successful. As Stryver's assistant he saves Darnay twice, from being executed due to his resemblance to the other man. He loves Lucie deeply and will do anything for her.
Madame Therese Defarge and her husband Ernest Defarge are two characters who take a large part in starting the French Revolution. They own a wine shop and are responsible for attack on the Bastille, which was believed to contain many weapons, prisoners, and unknown secrets. After the fall of the Bastille the head strong Madame Defarge takes the governor of the Bastille out in to the street and lobs of his head. She also would knit the names of those she wished to be executed into her "register". She is a blood thirsty and devoted revolutionary who will stop at nothing. Ernest is not as blood thirsty as his wife but is very devoted to the revolution and will stop at nothing.
The novel takes place in the outskirts and inside of both Paris and London, during the French Revolution. Although the story takes place during the years 1775 and 1793 it also refers to events that took place in the past. This setting helps define the characters because this is where the French Revolution took place, the mood and atmosphere of the location defines and explains the moods and atmosphere around the characters.
The themes in this novel reflect on what was going on during the French Revolution and the need for change. The lower class Frenchmen wanted a say in the politics and how their country operated they wanted more equal rights. A recurring theme is resurrection among the characters as well as the country it's self. Another theme is sacrifice. There were many things people had to sacrifice in order for the revolution to happen and for change to enter. There is also sacrifice among the characters with Darnay sacrificing his nobility, status and title for his beliefs, Miss Pross was willing to sacrifice her life for Lucie and Carton declares that he would embrace any sacrifice for her and eventually sacrifices himself to save Darnay.
Dickens used a lot "doubling" in this novel. The opening lines "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times " poses a sense of doubles to the reader. As well as does the fact that Carton and Darnay are so similar in appearance. Carton poses as Darnay and saves his life twice, both being a double. As well as the fact that both mean who were so similar in appearance, ended up falling in love with the same woman. Another Literary device Dickens uses is symbolism. This can be seen all through out the novel with the people physical hunger and desire for food can be associated with the people hunger for a change in the French social system and their desire to have an equal say. Another could be contrast as the first opening paragraph outlines for the entire paragraph. The contrast between personalities in the characters as well as the contrast of the countries opinion on the Revolution is another. Dickens also uses imagery to describe the physical state many of the French were in, with their houses living environment and conditions as well as their appearance.
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way in short, the period was so far like he present period that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only." (pg 35)
This Quotation is important because it outlines the mood and the feelings of the era. This is the opening Paragraph which sets the reader up for the entire novel with a sense of what's going on. It also gives the reader an idea of the central tension between oppression and hatred verse love and happiness.
"The wine was red wine, and had stained the ground of the narrow street in the suburb of Saint Antoine, in Paris, where it was spilled. It had stained many hands, too, and many faces, and many naked feet, and many wooden shoes. The hands of the man who sawed the wood, left red marks on the billets; and the forehead of the woman who nursed her baby, was stained with the stain of the old rag she wound about her head again. Those who had been greedy with the staves of the cask, had acquired a tigerish smear about the mouth; and one tall joker so besmirched, his head more out of a long squalid bag of a night-cap than in it, scrawled upon a wall with his finger dipped in muddy wine-leesblood."(59)
This quotation shows the poverty and state that the county was in. The peasant's desperate for a drink are willing to lick wine up off of the streets. The hunger for the wine could also represent the peoples hunger for change a new order and life for themselves and their children.
"In the howling universe of passion and contention that seemed to encompass this grim old officer conspicuous in his grey coat and red decoration, there was but one quite steady figure, and that was a woman's. "See, there is my husband!" she cried, pointing him out. "See Defarge!" She stood immovable close to the grim old officer, and remained immovable close to him; remained immovable close to him through the streets, as Defarge and the rest bore him along; remained immovable close to him when he was got near his destination, and began to be struck at from behind; remained immovable close to him when the long-gathering rain of stabs and blows fell heavy; was so close to him when he dropped dead under it, that, suddenly animated, she put her foot upon his neck, and with her cruel knifelong readyhewed off his head. "(249)
This quotation is rather significant because it shows how desperate these people were, and how involved the women were in the revolution. Madam Defarge is a very blood thirsty extravagant woman who practically ran the attack of the Bastille and ended up cutting the head off of the Governor of the Bastille. Most women during the revolution were not this eccentric although they were very opinionated and determined for change. They were responsible for the bread march to Versailles. Madam Defarge is an extremist as she probably would not have been satisfied with just marching to Versailles.