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A Tale of Two Cities

by Charles Dickens

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What is Dickens' attitude toward law in A Tale of Two Cities?

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Dickens had a very jaded view of the law and demonstrated this view in several ways in A Tale of Two Cities.  In the very first section of the book he comments on the lack of law and order in England as " Daring burglaries by armed men and highway robberies took place in the capital itself every night."  However, the law could not stop these burglaries but the hangman continued to hang "miscellaneous criminals," including a "wretched pilferer who had robbed a farmers boy of sixpence."  In France, the murder of a poor child by a member of the nobility was nothing, but the murder of the Marquis by the father of that child was harshly punished. 

He continues his to show the basic unfairness of the law in both England and France through the trials of Charles Darnay, first in England and then in France.  In both locations it is not truth that decides the trials, but theatrical performances on the part of the participants:  first Sidney's Carton's performance in Darney's treason trial in London decided the case rather than solid evidence (though the outcome was just).  Then Madame Defarge's dramatic testimony brought an unjust verdict in France.  Although France was worse than England, Dickens definitely saw injustice in both the French and England legal systems which he felt were biased against the poor.

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Dickens expresses his feelings toward crime and legal structures in literature. His upbringing gave him insight into the impoverished, and the desperation that results in crime and imprisonment. He saw firsthand that socioeconomic factors had a hand in those who got into trouble with the law, and he expresses his concern in his writing . Criminals are not just "evil", there are factors that lead to a cycle of criminal activity.

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