I am reading A Tale of Two Cities, and I have some questions. What are the differences among the citizens of the two cities, including characters who travel or move from one to another. And how are...

I am reading A Tale of Two Cities, and I have some questions. What are the differences among the citizens of the two cities, including characters who travel or move from one to another. And how are the cities divided? 

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In his novel of dualities, A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens draws parallels between the capital cities of London, England, and Paris, France, separated by the English Channel, as well as pairing characters with each other as foils. Some, like Charles Darnay, even have dual natures. After having read Thomas Carlysle's The French Revolution: A History numerous times, Dickens realized that it is people, rather than events, who alter history and direct change; therefore, the similarities of history lie in human nature, not places.

In his famous opening chapter, Dickens draws many parallels between the rulers of the English and of the French:

There were a king with a large jaw and a queen with a plain face, on the throne of England; there were a king with a large jaw and a queen with a fair face, on the throne of France. In both countries it was clearer than crystal to the lords of the State...that things in general were settled for ever.

Thus, Dickens indicates the complacency of the royalty in each country, a complacency soon to be shaken up in France because of citizens such as Madame Defarge and the Vengeance. The French Revolution created by ordinary citizens was ominous, Dickens felt, as he was concerned that the same kind of revolution could occur in England. In his historical novel, for instance, the London trial of Charles Darnay, accused of treasonous remarks against the king, demonstrates how events can be manipulated by traitorous witnesses and high emotion in any country. For, under the Reign of Terror, he is recalled to France, and similarly accused as Charles St. Evrémonde, his real name.

Another character who moves between the two countries is Mr. Lorry, representative of Tellson's Bank in both London and Paris. He represents a strong moral sense that prevails throughout the narrative, anchoring the other characters when they begin to lose rationality. Since both England and France with despotic rulers were losing their moorings, Dickens's characterization of Mr. Lorry serves as a caution for the necessity of rational thought and wisdom.

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