One of the titles for this novel considered by Dickens and later rejected was "Buried Alive." In what way might this have been an appropriate title?Charles Dickens's "A Tale of Two Cities"

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Charles Dickens's "A Tale of Two Cities," several characters follow the motif and are "buried alive."  First of all, Mr. Lorry is "buried alive" in Tellson's Bank, a parody of the Bastille, as he works in the darkened space in which "young men enter and old men depart," figuratively "buried" under the paperwork and darkness of the teller's cells.  Then, Mr. Lorry is called upon to rescue Dr. Manette in France. On his rescue trip with the Dover Mail, Mr. Lorry, like the other passengers, is "buried" in his thoughts, locked in his own skin and mind, vulnerable and mortal.  Later, when Lorry reaches France he looks upon the physician has been "buried alive" in prison for fourteen years so he cannot identify aristocratic brothers who commit murder.  Dickens writes of Dr. Manette: 

Only his daughter had the power of charming this black brooding from his mind.  She was the golden thread that united him to a Past beyond his misery, and to a Present beyond his misery.

Sydney Carton is "buried alive" in his dissipation and his being "shouldered around" by Mr. Stryver for whom he works.  Carton's burial in self-imposed misery finds him later resurrected in the novel through his becoming a sacrificial victim for Charles Darnay, whose "buried" name of Evremonde is uncovered after the Revolution begins in France.  Darnay's imprisonment is effected by the evil heart of Mme. DeFarge whose one desire in life is to avenge the death of her brother "buried alive" at a young age because of the evil of the Evremonde brothers. 

Charles Darnay is arrested by the sans-coulottes  of the Revolution and would have been "buried alive" in prison if not for Carton's becoming the sacrificial victim.  Carton's death serves to render life to Darnay and his family and to him as one of the Darnay children are his namesake.


Read the study guide:
A Tale of Two Cities

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question