In A Tale of Two Cities, what are the attitudes, preoccupations and emphases of the Court and its aristocrats?

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

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A key section of this novel that you will no doubt want to analyse in order to find the answer to this question is Chapter Seven in Book the Second, when we are given our first real presentation of what life was like for the French aristocracy. In particular, you need to pay attention as to how Dickens uses considerable irony to describe the exhorbitant wealth and excessive consumption of the aristocracy, which of course is harshly juxtaposed with the hunger and want of the peasants. Consider the following description:

Monseigneur was in his inner room, his sanctuary of sanctuaries, the Holiest of Holiests to the crowd of worshippers in the suite of rooms without. Monseigneur was about to take his chocolate. Monseigneur could swallow a great many things with ease, and was by some few sullen minds supposed to be rather rapidly swallowing France; but, his morning's chocolate could not so much as get into the throat of Monseigneur, without the aid of four strong men besides the Cook.

Phrases such as "rapidly swallowing France" indicates the way in which the aristocracy were exploiting the French citizenry to support a way of life that was completely excessive and unnecessary, as the way that Monseigneur needs to have four men to bring him his morning chocolate demonstrates. In addition, reference to the room as being "the Holiest of Holiests" is a deliberate Biblical allusion that mockingly presents the feeling that Monseigneur is so much higher and more important than anybody else. Supremacy and superiority are stressed throughout.



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