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A Tale of Two Cities

by Charles Dickens

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  • Investigate contemporary accounts of the French Revolution concentrating on the "Terror"—the months between the summers of 1793 and 1794—and compare them to Dickens's own version of the story.
  • Compare the character of Maximilian Robespierre, the most powerful man in France during the "Terror," to that of the fictional Madame Defarge.
  • Many critics consider Sidney Carton and Charles Darnay as two sides of a single character. Some of them have suggested that this split in the novel reflects the split in Dickens's own life: at the time he was writing, his marriage was breaking up and he was consorting with a younger woman. What evidence is there for this in the novel?
  • The title of the book A Tale of Two Cities refers to the two cities of Paris and London. Compare and contrast Dickens's presentation of the two. Why did the author consider them central to his story?
  • Dr. Manette is often said by other characters in A Tale of Two Cities to be "resurrected"—to have been rescued from the grave and brought back to life. Trace the way this theme of "resurrection" occurs throughout the novel.
  • Research the history of the Chartist Movement and other reform movements in Victorian Britain. What parallels does Dickens draw between the abuses of the French Revolution and the kind of society that opposed reform in England during his own life?

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Topics for Discussion


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