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A Tale of Two Cities
Throughout the novel A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens creates suspense and mystery to try to keep his readers interested. This technique might have worked for 19th century people with nothing better to read, but it doesn’t stack up nowadays. You can paint this anyway you want but what it all comes down to is that no 20th century person with any kind of attention span wants to read a 400 page book with one dimensional characters and an unbelievable storyline. But, Dickens’s original audience couldn’t get enough of the novel’s intricate plot filled with suspense and mystery. To get the novel this suspense and mystery, Dickens’s divides his story into episodes, allows his characters to be general, and uses the theme of doubles.
The most obviously way that Dickens’s creates suspense is through his use of cliffhanger-like episodes. I can’t exactly call it clever, but Dickens’s ends a chapter with unanswered questions and loose ends. This little scheme might work for television shows in which the viewer has a whole week between episodes to think about possible outcomes, but it doesn’t have the same effect when it only takes half of a second to turn the page and read further.
Dickens tries to create mystery by having his characters as broad as possible so that readers can make up their own opinions and possibilities. Almost all of Dickens’s characters are basically good or basically evil. We are supposed to care about the "good" characters but they’re so boring that their "goodness" loses it’s charm. For example, Lucie and Charles. Lucie is describes as being basically perfect in every way. She’s young, wholesome, and beautiful, of course. There’s no such thing as a good woman that
wasn’t beautiful in fiction. Charles is a rich aristocrat, and we’re supposed to believe that he’s good and really noble because he didn’t want to kill people and he married the other "good" character. Please. Do you think that Charles would have given Lucie a chance is she looked like the rest of us even though she was so good-hearted? Of course not, but that’s what we are supposed to believe. Lucie and Charles are so stereotyped and boring that Dickens’s should have named them "Snore" and "Snooze." Dickens’s under developed characters lets readers wonder about what they are really like and what they’ll do next.
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Dickens’s uses the theme of doubles to let his reader’s minds wonder, thus creating some kind of suspense and/or mystery. It may just be my 20th century, teenage mind talking but just wondering what Darnay and Carton can do with their uncanny resemblance to each other is almost interesting. Carton loves Lucie. Carton looks exactly like Lucie’s husband. Carton is drunk all the time. Just imagine what he could do while Darnay was at work...but that would be too exciting for this boring novel. That and the "proper" people of Dickens’s times just wouldn’t have it. The only time this
resemblance comes in handy is when Carton decides that dying will make his only love happy, when in reality Lucie would be just as upset over his death as if Darnay had died.
Throughout the novel, Dickens attempts to create suspense and mystery. He does this by dividing his story into parts, broadening his characters, and created possibilities with the theme of doubles. I, personally, don’t think it works well combined with the unbelievable story. But, there’s a reason it’s a classic. It’s a nice story where the bad people are bad, the good are good, and love overcomes all. In other words, a fantasy.