Is Dickens more modern or Victorian in the way in which he paints his characters in A Tale of Two Cities?In contemporary literature it is often the case that the characters are not clearly cast as...

Is Dickens more modern or Victorian in the way in which he paints his characters in A Tale of Two Cities?

In contemporary literature it is often the case that the characters are not clearly cast as "villains" or "heroes". Victorian literature, in contrast, is typified by more straightforward categorizations of characters as good and evil. In A Tale of Two Cities, is Dickens more modern or Victorian in the way in which he paints his characters?

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litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In some ways, Dickens’s characters are stereotypical.  For example, Lucie Manette is a stereotypical Victorian woman.  However the stereotypical characters in Dickens books are not the focus.  In a Dickens book, the characters that are nuanced are the ones that are important.  For example, Sydney Carton is a complex character.  He is contradictory and evolves as the story progresses.  Darnay, by contrast, is mostly one-dimensional.  Dr. Manette is rather complicated too, as he struggles to keep his severe psychological disfigurement in check.  Imagine knowing that your daughter was going to marry a man whose family sent you to prison for 18 years! 

It is easy to dismiss the Defarges as cartoon villains, but that is not exactly the case.  They have suffered along with the peasants for years.  Their unique position as proprietors of a wine shop allows them access to the upper classes, but they see the lower classes scrounge daily.  Madame Defarge is not a stereotypical Victorian woman in any sense!  She is strong, and although she may seem evil she is seeking vengeance for her family and her people.

Don't dismiss this book as Victorian soap opera!

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