Show how Dickens delineates the tone in A Tale of Two Cities by directing the reader’s perceptions of historical and cultural events which underlie the work. He also delineates the tone through the use of stylistic devices (imagery, diction, narrative structure and choice of details). Please provide examples.
Having been greatly affected by his reading of Thomas Carlysle's The French Revolution: a History,in his famously rhetorical first chapter, replete with irony and metaphor, Dickens establishes a duality of countries and characters which weaves itself throughout the narrative's setting and action.
Historical and Cultural Events
- [Book I]In Chapter 1, Dickens establishes the lawlessness of England with reference to the Cock-lane ghost, who supposedly haunted a residence; this story became the center of a controversy between Methodist and Anglican churches. There was also a proliferation of burglaries and highway robberies ( In Chapter 2, the passengers on the Dover coach are anxious about robbers) and angry mobs.
- In Chapter 5, with magnificent use of metaphor, Dickens paints a scene of suspicion and discontent within the Defarge wine shop, with utter poverty and the ravenousness resultant from the widespread famine exhibited in the frenzied consumption of the wine (a staple in the French diet) spilled from the broken casket.
- In Chapters 7 and 8, the effete French aristocracy is satirically depicted as the "Monseigneur in Town," one of the "great lords in power at the court,"needs four attendants to assist him in his drinking of his chocolate in the morning; then, "Monseigneur in the Country" demonstrates his sang froid and revulsion toward the peasants on his land.
- Book the Third, "The Track of a Storm," chronicles the stirring of revolution in the hearts of the French peasants as historical allusions are made to the Bastille, the guillotine, the culottes-rouges (those who call themselves "Jacques), the prison, La Force, and the Conciergerie
Stylistic Devices ( Dickens make use of rhetorical devices, foreshadowing, melodrama, archetypes, imagery, irony, formal dialogue vs. narration, author intervention, significant titles and chapters, syntactical style, diction, sentence structure, parallelism, thesis and antithesis, historical fiction, doppelgangers, and dualities) Here are examples of some of these devices:
- Symbolism - Chapter 5 of Book I certainly stands on its own as a "set piece." Replete with symbolism, as the wine spilled represents "blood" when one of the peasants writes this on a wall; the mob action and the spilled wine also foreshadow the blood bath to come with the French Revolution. The guillotine is described as a "movable framework with a sack and a knife"; characters such as the Farmer, the Mender of Roads, and the Vengeance are also symbolic. In Chapter 15 of Book the Second, Madame Defarge knits as did the Greek Fates who controlled human life, speaks symbolically as she comments, "You have seen both dolls and birds to-day" referring to the aristocrats. Earlier, in Book the Second, Chapter 7, the Marquis tosses a coin to pay for the death of the peasant boy run over by his carriage; Defarge tosses it back significantly as it will not bring back to life this boy, but it does foreshadow the payment of the Marquis's life soon to be exacted. Another symbol is the fire that burns the chateau of the Marquis d'Evremonde.
- Foreshadowing - The events of the third book are foreshadowed by the chapter "Hundreds of People" when Carton remarks to Lucie,
There is a great crowd coming one day into our lives, if that be so...The footsteps destined to come to all of us, Miss Manette, or are we to divide them among us?
- In Chapter 21 "Echoing Footsteps," the approaching storm of Revolution is again foreshadowed in Book the Second:
Among the echoes, then, there would arise the sound of footsteps at her own [Lucie's] early grave; and thoughts of the husband who would be left so desolate, and who would mourn so much for her so much, swelled to her eyes and broke like waves.
- Motifs - The motif of "storm" as in "The Sea Still Rises" as the Vengeance appears with men who "were terrible, in the bloody-minded anger with which they looked from windows." Another motif is that of Resurrection. Comically foreshadowed with Jerry Cruncher's robbery of graves, it is later given religious significance as the Sydney Carton resurrects his soul in dying for Charles Darnay.
- Melodrama - The archetype of the Victorian heroine, Lucy Manette has compassion for others, especially the less fortunate, and a gift for homemaking. Like the heroine, also, she swoons in the face of conflict that overwhelms her. Carton is the archetype of the sacrificial victim. Of course, Madame Defarge is the villain.
- Rhetorical devices - Dickens makes use of anapora, "the repeating of a sequence of words at the beginning of neighboring clauses, lending them emphasis." One example is in the beginning line,
“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, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”
The opening chapter also exemplifies thesis and antithesis with the opening line and many that follow.
Allusion is employed throughout the novel; two examples are (1) in Chapter 23, Book the Second, "The Fire Rises" as the chateau d'Evremond burns:
The mender of roads, and two hundred and fifty particular friends, stood with folded arms at the fountain, looking at the pillar of fire in the sky, 'It must be forty feet height,' said they, grimly; and never moved.
The allusion here is made to the Book of Exodus,13:21, in which God leads the Israelites out of Egypt and through the wilderness, guiding them as a pillar of cloudin the daytime, and as a "pillar of fire" to lead them at night. These pillars are images of liberation as is the pillar of fire in this chapter with the people's liberation from the tyranny of the Marquis as he dies. Another allusion occurs in Chapter 24 of this same book, "Drawn to the Loadstone Rock." Here Charles Dickens alludes to The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge' the Loadstone Rock is a mythical rock which somehow magnetizes ships, bringing sailors to their dooms, just as Charles Darnay heads to his doom by returning to Paris as he responds to the desperate letter of Gabelle.
- Doppelgangers - Doubles are notable with Charles Darnay, an ambitious young man, and Sydney Carton, who is dissolute; Dr. Manette, a physician and gentleman who has lost many years from imprisonment and Mr. Lorry, a continuously diligent "mere businessman" who endeavors to protect Lucie and befriend the damaged Dr. Manette.
- Dualities - Jerry Cruncher is the comical "resurrection man" and Charles Darnay the truly resurrected Christian. Miss Pross is heroic in her defense of Lucie, and Madame DeFarge villainous in her pursuit of her. Solomon Pross is a duality of himself in Basard. Carton is the Jackal for the Lion, Stryver and they are also ironically "The Fellow of No Delicacy" and "The Fellow of Delicacy."
- Imagery - The novel is replete with images from the titles to the narrative. Certainly, the images of the grindstone strikes fear, the "Gorgon Head," the "footsteps," the sea, fire, dusk, shadows, darkness, "the jackal and the lion," and Jerry passes himself as "The Honest Tradesman."