Are there any similes, metaphors, personification, satire in Book 2 Chapter 2?A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It is customary for authors to employ figurative language in their narratives as the prose is enlivened by such language.  For, there is a vividness to the use of metaphor and the like as the reader's imagination is ignited in descriptions and characterizations.  In Charles Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities, Book the Second, Chapter II, there is, indeed, the use of several examples of literary techniques. One of these is immediate as Jerry Cruncher, who ironically terms himself "an honest tradesman," finds himself called upon to be a porter early in the morning.

As Jerry is sent to the Old Bailey, Dickens narrates that the gaol was a vile place where much "debauchery and villany were practised" and where "dire diseases were bred." 


Using personification, Dickens describes the action of these diseases as those of people:

 ...that came into court with the prisoners, and sometimes rushed straight from the dock at my Lord Chief Justice himself, and pulled him off the bench.

Another example of personification describes the pillory as "a wise old institution" that inflicted a punishment....

...the whipping post, another dear old institution

...the ocean is one day to give up its dead


Dickens makes comparisons with the words like or as:

...the Old Bailey was famous as a kind of deadly inn-yard, from which pale travellers set out continually, in carts and coaches,

All the human breath in the place, rolled at him, like a sea, or a wind, or a fire. 

Haunted in a a most ghastly manner that abominable place would have been, if the glass could ever have rendered back its reflexions, as the ocean is one day to give up its dead.


Dickens describes the horrors of the criminal justice system with implied comparisons:

...the pale travellers [the criminals] set out on a violent passage into the other world:  traversing some two miles and a half of public street and road, and shaming few good citizens, if any.

Jerry Cruncher is "an honest tradesman," a metaphor for his gravedigging.

Mr. Attorney-General rose to spin the rope, grind the axe, and hammer the nails into the scaffold. (this action is metaphoric.  The attorney-general will figuratively "grind the axe," for example, as he questions the defendant.)



Along with the use of personification in mentioning the forms of torture and punishment that were prevalent in the times of the setting of his novel, Dickens certainly satirizes these various methods as he calls, for instance, the whipping-post "very humanising and softening to behold in action."

Clearly, Dickens satirizes the judicial system as he writes,

Altogether, the Old Bailey, at that date, was a choice illustration of the precept that "Whatever is is right:" an aphorism that would be as final as it is lazy, did not includ the troublesome consequence, that nothing that ever was, was wrong.

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A Tale of Two Cities

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