How did Charles Dickens' personal life strongly influence the plot and characters of A Tale of Two Cities?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Some critics' conjecture is that the name Charles Darnay is very close to the author's name, Charles Dickens.  Having recently gone through a divorce--a scandalous action in the Victorian period--Dickens was, according to critic Holly Hughes--trying to "kill off" a side of himself "that he felt was, like Carton, lazy, dissipated, and disillusioned.

Still, Dickens may have identified with Dr. Manette, an aging, lonely ex-prisoner since he,too, was lonely from the divorce and had the scars of debtors' prison upon him.  Like Dr. Manette, Hughes adds, Dickens was dependent upon a young woman:  the golden-haired actress Ellen Ternan was his mistress.  Like Mr. Lorry who is enslaved to his "business," Dickens was enslaved to his writing, often neglecting his family.  While Mr. Lorry lives vicariously through the Manette family, Dickens lives in a like manner through his characters whom he models slightly after himself.  And, he was known to act out the parts of some of his characters.

Dickens's fear of mobs certainly comes across in A Tale of Two Cities.  In an essay of Charles Dickens, renowned author, George Orwell, writes that Dickens "broods over their [the revolutionaries'] frenzies with a curious imaginative intensity.  The passage on their dancing the "Carmagnole," for instance demonstrates his horror of revolutionary hysteria.  This fear is similar to the fear his countrymen have of the mobs in London since there was a "dangerous slum-proletariat," and, until the early middle of the 19th century there was hardly such a things as a police force.

Critic Jack Lindsay states that Dickens's writing of A Tale of Two Cities is closely aligned with another work, Little Dorrit, a novel in which Dickens condemns Victorian society:

In this dire tangle of moral consequences [in A Tale of Two Cities], we see Dickens confronting his own confused situation and trying to equate his own moment of painful compelled choice with the revolutionary moment in which a definite break is made with the old amid violent birthpangs, and makes possible the rebirth of life, the renewal of love and innocence.



praneet9g | Student

Charles Darnay is very close to the author's name, Charles Dickens.  Having gone through a divorce before writing his novel; Dickens was trying to feel better and was trying to make himself a better person by writing A Tale of Two Cities.

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A Tale of Two Cities

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