In A Tale of Two Cities, how does the author demonstrate that conflict causes a cycle of oppression?A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Opening his great novel, A Tale of Two Cities, with the paradox "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times" Dickens himself answers the question of how conflict can cause oppression.  In England, whose intractable laws were also in the superlative degree, the oppression of the ruling classes wrought conflict with the poor who suffered from poverty and were often sentenced to death for very slight offences.  While there were yet some who continued petty crimes in order to survive, the oppressive rule of the upper class of England generated a retaliatory breed of highway robbers and murderers whose lawlessness wrought, in turn, the oppression of the ruling class.  

Similarly, in France, with the callous subjugation of the peasantry to the most dire of existences, the struggle of the poor against the aristocracy--"the best of times, the worst of times"--, figuratively portrayed with the incident of the Marquis d'Evremonde's tossing of the coin to the father of the child run over by his recklessly driven carriage, a vicious conflict arises.  And, as a result, this conflict generates the bloody French Revolution with the symbolic personage of the Vengeance and the figurative Jacques depicting the punitive revenge and deadly exploitation that the peasants, now in control of France, take against the once oppressive aristocracy.

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A Tale of Two Cities

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