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A Tale of Two Cities

by Charles Dickens

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When the man writes "Blood" on the wall, what literary devices are being used in chapter 5, book 1 of A Tale of Two Cities

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In the opening of chapter 5 of book 1 in A Tale of Two Cities, there is a wine cask that bursts open in the streets of Paris. The peasants and other poor in the street rush to drink the wine, which shows the dire straits that the people of France are experiencing. Dickens uses plenty of literary devices to show not only the depths of the poverty that the people of France are experiencing but also to set up for the future plot of the story.

The first act of the people rushing toward the wine cask uses imagery to show the desperation of the people of Paris. Dickens devotes a very long passage to describe what the event looked like:

Some men kneeled down, made scoops of their two hands joined, and sipped, or tried to help women, who bent over their shoulders, to sip, before the wine had all run out between their fingers. Others, men and women, dipped in the puddles with little mugs of mutilated earthenware, or even with handkerchiefs from women’s heads, which were squeezed dry into infants’ mouths; others made small mud-embankments, to stem the wine as it ran; others, directed by lookers-on up at high windows, darted here and there, to cut off little streams of wine that started away in new directions; others devoted themselves to the sodden and lee-dyed pieces of the cask, licking, and even champing the moister wine-rotted fragments with eager relish.

He describes the image of what these people look like. Phrases like "two hands joined" and "run out between their fingers" or "mutilated earthenware" all help to create the image of these people in the mind of the reader. The vivid imagery helps cement in our minds not only what these people look like, but also the effort and energy they put into getting what little sustenance they can from the spilled wine.

Dickens uses a metaphor to create the mood of the scene by describing the whole scenario as a "game" or "sport." He says:

There was little roughness in the sport, and much playfulness.

The mood is made light by the metaphor—he compares the desperate situation of people scrounging dirty wine to survive to a game or sport. The people were happy in the situation; they feel lucky to be getting the wine, and the author shows their camaraderie in their disposition towards one another. The writing makes the mood of the scene seem light—almost fun.

However, this metaphor also creates a juxtaposition with the reality of the situation that these people are in. Dickens crafts all of these conflicting messages together to drive home the seriousness of the situation and to foreshadow the future events that will take place.

The starkest contrast in the juxtaposition (and the greatest of the devices for foreshadowing ) is when "blood" is written on the wall in wine. The wine stands in symbolically for the blood that will run in the streets of Paris during the...

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revolution, and the same peasants that are scrounging for wine to help keep them alive will later be "drinking" the blood of the aristocracy.

The use of the wine as a symbol therefore shows the duality of Dickens's opinion on the revolution. On one side, he sympathizes with the people—who he accurately describes in their poverty, showing that they aren't evil in the way they share the spilled wine. On the other side, he also does not discount the violence of the later revolution, showing that, like the wine, the blood is on their hands.

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When the citizen of St. Antoine writes the word "Blood" on the wall with his finger dipped in the muddy wine of the street, his is a symbolic act. The wine symbolizes the bloodshed and foreshadows the violence to soon take place during the French Revolution.

In addition, there is foreshadowing of the forthcoming rebellion with the symbolic imagery of the wine/"blood" flowing everywhere in the street. Then, too, the desperate soaking of cloths and whatever the citizens could find with the symbolically flowing wine in order to obtain a few drops of this drink, followed by a mother's squeezing of the "lee-dye cloth," the wine-soaked cloth, in the desperate hope that her starving baby would obtain some nourishment from the drops of wine suggests the terrible conditions of the generations of starving people, symbolically shown conditions that are ripe for revolution.

That this flow of blood/wine takes place in St. Antoine is also significant for symbolism and foreshadowing since the wine-shop is owned by Monsieur and Madame Defarge, revolutionaries themselves who meet with others--all called "Jacques"--and who shelter an old prisoner of the Bastille.

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