How does Charles Dickens use devices, chapter titles, foreshadowing, and cliff-hanger endings to maintain interest in his stories?A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One of Dickens's most innovative works, A Tale of Two Cities was originally a serialized novel, so Charles Dickens took liberties with various devices:


Certainly, the opening lines of the novel establish this doubling.  In Book the First, for instance, Mr. Lorry and Lucie Manette travel to Paris to retrieve Dr. Manette, who has been imprisoned for the past eighteen years. This resurrection of the "Bastille Captive" is momentous, yet it has its humorous doppleganger on the other side of the Channel with the inimical Jerry Crucher, who prides himself as a "resurrection man."  Later, in Book the Third, Jerry's being a resurrection man is pivotal to identifying a spy.  Of course, the foreshadowing for Jerry's important identification comes in Book the First with Jerry's humorous and suspenseful scratching of his spiked head as he wondered one thing while the reader wonders about what he is concerned,

No, Jerry, no!” said the messenger, harping on one theme as he rode. “It wouldn’t do for you, Jerry. Jerry, you honest tradesman, it wouldn’t suit your line of business! Recalled—! 

In both characterization and motifs as well, there are doubles. Almost every character on one side of the English Channel has a doppelganger on the other side.  This doubling is useful to continuity  as well as igniting interest in the reader.  With the motif of the judicial systems of England and France there are serious flaws evident in the courts of both countries as Charles Darnay is tried unjustly in both.  In a creative manner regarding these courts, Dickens explores the relationship of private grievance to public violence. 


Also present in Dicken's classic are select chapters that become metaphoric.  For instance, Chapter V of Book the First, "The Wine-Shop" is almost an intercalary chapter meant to foreshadow the French Revolution with the spilled wine as a metaphor for the blood of the multitude of aristocrats that will be shed by the bonnets rouges.  This chapter serves to foreshadow the upcoming revolution led by many along with the Defarges, the wineshop owners. Another chapter that also carries the motif of the Revolution is Chapter XXI of Book the Second, "Echoing Footsteps."  Like Chapter V, Chapter VII of Book the Second the monseigneur becomes an archetype for the decadent aristocracy that has been so pampered and waited upon that they are no longer able to even bring a cup to their lips without the aid of several servants.  Likewise, the Marquis d'Evermonde is the archetype of the cruel and snobbish corrupt social order with Madame Defarge as the archetype of revenge and La Violence for evil.

Symbols such as the broken wine cask and Madame Defarge's knitting, the mender of roads, the gorgon, the fountain, and the guillotine and tumbrils are serves to enhance meaning and further plot.

Foreshadowing also gives continuity and suspense to A Tale of Two Cities as "the footsteps" that Darnay hears and his promise to do anything for Lucie ignites interest.


The clever use of ironic titles and ones that are suggestive of future action furthers readers' interest.  Such titles as "The Fellow of Delicacy" and "The Fellow of No Delicacy" are examples.  Title such as "The Sea Still Rises" effects reader interest.  "The Night Shadows" finds its completion in "The Shadow" of Book the Third.






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