What is the overall theme of Book One of A Tale of Two Cities?

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The prevailing theme of Book One of A Tale of Two Cities is death and resurrection.

Each of the chapters of Book One center on Jarvis Lorry’s attempt to bring Dr. Manette back from the dead.  Each chapter reinforces the theme of resurrection.  In chapter 1, we are introduced to the troubling state of England and France at this time.  France was dying, and about to be reborn through revolution.

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 (1:1, p. 4)

As the book continues, we finally get introduced to characters.  We meet two resurrectionists: Jarvis Lorry and Jerry Cruncher.  Cruncher is a grave robber, so the term ressurectionist is applied to him ironically.  Jarvis Lorry, on the other hand, is about to rescue Dr. Manette from prison.  It is not an easy task, and he is worried that Manette may not want to go, or that reuniting him with his daughter will be difficult.  Dr. Manette is being reborn, his relationship with his daughter is being reborn, and Jarvis Lorry is being reborn too.  He is just a lonely bachelor, but he will become so close to the Manettes that it is almost like having a family.

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A Tale of Two Cities

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