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A Tale of Two Cities

by Charles Dickens

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Why is A Tale of Two Cities important?

A Tale of Two Cities is important as a popular depiction of the French Revolution and as a classic of world literature.

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The importance of A Tale of Two Cities lies on two fronts: firstly, it is perhaps the most influential presentation of the French Revolution in popular culture. Dickens drew heavily from Thomas Carlyle's massive history of the revolution published in 1837, trying to create as vivid a portrait of the period as possible. He was reacting to his own fears of violent revolution in his own time, and so he was able to mingle his modern anxieties with the horrors of the past. His efforts succeeded: when most imagine the French Revolution, Dickens's images of frenzied mobs surrounding the guillotine or even the earlier scenes of the nobles casually abusing the lower classes come to mind for many people.

Secondly, A Tale of Two Cities is considered one of the great novels of world literature, especially as its critical reputation has grown in the years following its original publication. Representative of Dickens's later period, it features less of the author's more comedic characterizations and more of a tightly-knitted, interwoven plot. Though not his most characteristic book, it is among Dickens's most-read and beloved works, still appearing on school reading lists, still gaining film and stage adaptations, and still influencing modern authors.

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