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Throughout his novel, "A Tale of Two Cities," Charles Dickens enjoys satirizing the aristocracy whom he refers to as "Monseigneur" [metonymy]. Again, in Chapter 24 of Book the Second, Dickens writes that as the revolution becomes more bloody--"tumultous under a red flag"--
Monseigneur, as a class, had dissociated himself from the phenomenon of his not being appreciated. Like the fabled rustic... Monseigneur, after boldly reading the Lord's Prayer backwards for a great number of years,...Royalty was "suspended," when the last tidings came over.
The words in bold are ironic because they do not mean what is literally stated. The aristocracy which has exploited the peasants, taxing and starving them, are hardly appreciated; rather they are hated as the enemy and are decapitated-"suspended" from life. They have trespassed upon the rights of these peasants for centuries, having read backwards the Lord's prayer.
As the aristocracy flees France, they congregate at Tellson's Bank where they have transferred much of their fortunes. Tellson's is described as the "munificent House." This wording is clearly ironic as no bank is generous or giving; Tellson's holds the fortunes of the French aristocracy solely for its own profit.
Literary irony is defined as "a figure of speech in which the literal meaning of a word or statement is the opposite of that intended." An example of literary irony in this chapter is shown in the conversation between Charles Darnay and Mr. Lorry. Someone from Tellson's Bank must go to France to take care of some business during the dangerous first days of the Revolution, and Mr. Lorry has determined to be the one to do so. In trying to talk him out of it, Darnay makes reference to his age, saying,"you are the youngest man that ever lived," implying that Lorry is youthful, when in reality, he is trying to point out that Lorry is too old to undertake the mission.
Situational irony is when the outcome of events turns out to be quite different from what might be expected, or when, simply, things are not as they seem. An example in this chapter is in the description of the way Monseigneur, representative of the aristocracy, responds to the charges of the Revolution. Even though the ruling class has for years treated the peasants abominably, suddenly, to hear them "talk of this terrible Revolution...nothing had ever been done, or omitted to be done, that had led to it" on their part.
It is also ironic that Charles Darnay, who is in fact a member of that ruling class in France, lives in peace in "the happiness of his own chosen English home." No one knows whom he really is, or what his family heritage signifies. To further the irony, in France, he would be in great danger, hated by the masses because of his association with the aristocracy, when, in fact, he does not share their views and habits at all.
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