In Book I of A Tale of Two Cities, what reasons does Dickens give for the French Revolution?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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We have only to look at the opening chapter of this brilliant text to see the way in which Dickens alludes to the future that France is going to face because of the way in which those who have power in pre-revolution France treat those who don't have power. Note how Dickens paints the following picture of France in this quote:

France, less favoured on the whole as to matters spiritual than her sister of the shield and trident, rolled with exceeding smoothness down hill, making paper money and spending it. Under the guidance of her Christian pastors, she entertained herself, besides, with such humane achievements as sentencing a youth to have his hands cut off, his tongue torn out with pincers, and his body burned alive, because he had not kneeled down in the rain to do honour to a dirty procession of monks which passed within his view, at a distance of some fifty or sixty yards.

There seem to be three aspects of France in particular that helped usher in the Revolution. Firstly the way in which it was extravagant with money, "making paper money and spending it." Secondly, the way in which religion as a social institution supported the massive gap in power and wealth. Finally, this quote clearly presents the kind of lives that the peasants faced. Living in a country with such a blatant gap between the haves and the have-nots and where any transgression of the have-nots was so brutally punished clearly helped stir up resentment and foment revolution.


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