A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

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Chapter 1 - What is the meaning of the first paragraph of A Tale of Two Cities?

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What Dickens is trying to establish in the opening paragraph are the various paradoxical themes that he will explore in the book and which found such vivid expression during the French Revolution. This historical epoch was the Age of Enlightenment, but it was also an era of darkness and tyranny; it was a time of great hope and of great despair. Dickens uses a literary technique called anaphora, which is the repetition of the phrase at the beginning of clauses. For example,

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity.

The use of anaphora emphasizes the paradoxical elements of contemporary society and how they are locked together in a ceaseless struggle. That struggle will form the basis of much of what happens in A Tale of Two Cities. In that sense, the famous opening paragraph gives us a taste of what is to come.

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The first paragraph in the story of

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