illustration of a guillotine

A Tale of Two Cities

by Charles Dickens

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What is suggested by the coin image in A Tale of Two Cities?

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The Marquis St. Evremonde, when returning in his carriage from a meeting with the Monseigneur, runs over a peasant boy and kills him. The Marquis tosses the coin to Gaspard, the father of the boy, to compensate him for his son's death. This symbolizes the attitude of not only St. Evremonde, but of the whole wealthy upper class, toward the peasants. This shows the disdain the wealthy felt toward the peasants, looking down on  as inferior barbarians who have no value or worth to society. St. Evremonde actually believes the coin is a kind gesture on his part to the boy's father. When Madame Defarge throws it back at him, he's insulted and shouts to the crowd of peasants that he would willingly kill all the peasants of France.

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