In A Tale of Two Cities, chapters 1-4, how does Dickens describe human beings?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the expositition of Dickens's novel set in 1775, people in England are very suspicious of one another as there are "daring burglaries by armed men, and highway robberies...and wretched pilferers."  On the coach for Dover, Mr. Lorry and the other passengers are "wrapped to the cheek-bones" since "travellers were very shy of being confidential on a short notice" since "anyone could be a robber."  As the passengers suspiciously eye one another, the guard on the Dover mail keeps an eye and a hand on the arm-chest near him, where

a loaded blunderbuss lay at the tope of six or eight loaded horse-pistols, deposited on a substratum of cutlass.

Then, in Chapter III, "The Night Shadows," Dickens reflects,

A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other.  A solemn consideration, when I enter a great city by night, that every one of those darkly clustered houses encloses its own secret; that every room in every one of them encloses its own secret; that every beating heart in the hundreds of thousands of breasts there, is, in some of its imaginings, a secret to the heart nearest it! 

This allusion to the inscrutableness of every human being creates a sense of mystery in these early chapters, and it also foreshadows much of the action to come--such action as that of the prisoner of One Hundred Five North Tower who has been buried alive for eighteen years, and the surreptitious activities of Jerry Cruncher. This messenger, Jerry Cruncher, is not only inscrutable to his wife when he comes home with red clay on his boots, but he is perplexed himself.  For, when he is given the message "Recalled to life,"  Jerry wonders.  After all, being "recalled to life" would not do in his profession. In addition, the sense of characters both opposing and mirroring others is introduced with Jerry's wonderment.

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A Tale of Two Cities

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