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A Tale of Two Cities

by Charles Dickens

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So you’re going to teach A Tale of Two Cities. This classic novel has been a mainstay of English classrooms for generations and is one of Charles Dickens’s most iconic texts. Whether it’s your first or hundredth time guiding students through the novel, this teaching guide will ensure a rewarding experience for everyone—including you. It will expose students to the rhetorical power of literary devices like allusion and symbolism, as well as important insights into one of the most politically turbulent periods in recent European history. This guide highlights the text's most salient aspects to keep in mind before you begin teaching.

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Facts at a Glance

  • Publication Date: 1859 
  • Flesch-Kincaid Reading Level:
  • Approximate Word Count: 135,400 
  • Author: Charles Dickens 
  • Country of Origin: England 
  • Genre: Historical Fiction 
  • Literary Period: Victorian 
  • Conflict: Person vs. Society, Person vs. Self 
  • Narration: Third-Person 
  • Setting: London, England, and Paris, France; late 1700s 
  • Mood: Dramatic, Anxious, Apprehensive

Texts That Go Well With A Tale of Two Cities

The French Revolution: A History by British essayist and philosopher Thomas Carlyle. This three-volume work was originally published in 1837 and, as its name suggests, navigates the entire history of the French Revolution. Charles Dickens was reportedly heavily influenced by The French Revolution: A History while writing A Tale of Two Cities

Hard Times by Charles Dickens. This is Dickens’s shortest novel and his only one that does not take place in London. Instead, the novel is set in the fictitious Coketown, a milltown. Just as A Tale of Two Cities criticizes the oppression of the French peasants by the French aristocracy, Hard Times expresses apprehension about the divide between greedy, capitalist mill owners and their impoverished and undervalued workers. 

The Monk by Matthew Gregory Lewis. Though this text falls under the Gothic fiction genre, it was published during the French Revolution in 1796 and features a great number of biblical allusions in its criticism of the Catholic Church. 

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins. This British detective novel, considered one of Collins’s best works, was, like A Tale of Two Cities, originally serialized in Dickens’s All the Year Round in 1868. 

Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray. This widely popular 19th-century novel follows the lives of Becky Sharp and Amelia Sedley (as well as their friends and family) before and after the Napoleonic Wars that followed the French Revolution. Thackeray also comedically represents the dissipated, vain bourgeois lifestyle that the French peasants revolted against. 

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. This Russian novel serves as another example of historical fiction, in which Tolstoy recounts the events surrounding the War of 1812 between France and Russia through the eyes of his characters.

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Key Plot Points