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A Tale of Two Cities

by Charles Dickens

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What are the major themes in "A Tale of Two Cities"?

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One of the major themes in this novel is sacrifice/selflessness. This is exemplified in the heroic figure of Sydney Carton who at the end of the story allows himself to be executed in the place of Charles Darnay, the husband of the girl he loves.

Another major theme is that of resurrection, or redemption. Carton gives up his physical life but might be said to be spiritually reborn in doing this; in fact he appears almost as a Christ-like figure in this supreme act of self-sacrifice in order to save others. The theme of resurrection is also related to the character of Dr Manette, who is released from a long and unjust imprisonment in the first book of the novel, which is actually entitled 'Recalled to Life'. More fundamentally, this theme could be said to relate to the French Revolution as a whole. The revolution were often grim and bloody, as depicted in this book, but in Carton's closing vision he sees these terrible events as hopefully paving the way for a better, more just society. In this way the Revolution is seen to mark the death of one world and the birth of another.


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