A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

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Explain a significant symbol in A Tale of Two Cities.

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Probably the most memorable and most inspired symbol in Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities is Madame Defarge and her perpetual knitting. According to the eNotes summary:

She knits into a scarf growing longer by the day the names in symbols of those who will later die at the hands of the revolutionaries.

The slow, patient, silent process of knitting symbolizes the hatred that is building up among the French people and will ultimately be released in one of the most violent and dramatic explosions in human history. Most of the people whose names are being recorded in Madame Defarge's knitting will end up under the infamous guillotine, a towering device which is itself a supreme symbol of the French Revolution. There were so many people being decapitated that the executioners needed a machine to keep up with the work.The guillotine is a horrible tool and seems to represent the horrors of the revolution and especially of the so-called Reign of Terror.

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malibrarian eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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One significant symbol that I always remember from reading the book is that of the word "blood" being written on the wall in wine that had spilled out into the streets.  The wine running through the streets of Paris was very symbolic of the blood that was being shed in this revolution, and it was chilling that the man who wrote it on the wall was the father whose son was run down by the carriage of the Marquis St. Evremonde.

This book is full of symbolism, and a careful read of it, along with the information contained on eNotes, will help you discover those symbols and their meaning.  Good luck!

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florine | Student

   A symbol that is associated with the Manettes and domestic happiness is the plane-tree. The numerous occurrences of the word refer to different episodes in the novel but they are evidently linked. They are related to the Manettes' fate and fraught with positive meaning, preceded or followed by words that signify light and glory. But the plane-tree foreshadows the unfortunate developments and misery in book 3. It forebodes death. The plane-tree incarnates the remembrance of things past chapter XVII: "...one memorable evening...sat under the plane-tree together." andbook II, chapter XIII: "on that old Sunday under the old plane-tree in the garden."

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carolinesta | Student

a big symbol from the story is actually sydney carton himself.  sydney is a derivative of Saint Denis which then in turn is derived from Dionysus who is the greek god of wine(which explanes his drinking problem), Saint Denis was a martyr of Paris who was killed by decapitation, foreshadowing cartons death. Also carton, on the night he ask Gaspard to come over and talk to him to arrange to get out of jail, he asked mr.lorry to for brandy. This is unusual because his alcohol of choice is port but dickens is refering to one of Boswell's quotes "Sherry is for boys, port is for men, but he who aspires to be a hero drinks brandy." This symbolizes(brandy) cartons soon to be heroic death.

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