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Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities

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Erin Timmons

on 31 January 2013

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Transcript of Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities

Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities Victorian England's most beloved novelist Charles Dickens
1812-1870 CHARLES DICKENS was born in England in 1812, the second of eight children.

Lived a childhood of poverty. Father struggled with debt. Constantly moved around, until they moved to London.
Two days before his 12th birthday, Dickens began work at a shoe-blacking factory. Labeled bottles for 6 shillings a week.
Two weeks later, his dad was arrested and sent to debtor's prison.
For two months, Dickens lived in a boarding house; this traumatic experience profoundly shaped him.
At 15, he worked as a clerk in a law office.
Then worked as a freelance newspaper reporter.
In 1836, began writing fiction.
Serialization shaped the reading habits of his generation.

Famous Novels: Great Expectations, Oliver Twist, A Christmas Carol, and David Copperfield. Charles Dickens'
A Tale of Two Cities Builds Character
Highlights Social Injustices
Creates tension beyond plot Dickensian Style - Repeated set of of gestures, phrases, & metaphors - Mannerisms represent emotional fixations & social distortions Plot does not merely drive the tension.
Characters, weather, place -- all contribute to social analysis. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” (Dickens 1).

“It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known” (Dickens 352). Have you heard? Grown increasingly dismayed at the social and economic inequality of British society
the terrible living conditions of the urban poor, an arrogant and uncaring ruling class, and ravages of the Industrial Revolution
Hunger, disease, poverty, and ignorance characterized daily fabric of the nation’s poor Why was it the worst of times? Tells the story of people whose lives interrupted or wasted, then reawakened with a new purpose
Shows how mistakes of the past and the evil they cause be turned into triumphs through suffering & virtuous actions What's the Tale about?
Two cities, aye? TWO CITIES: London, England and Paris, France Set during the French Revolution Historical Context Tension grows between French nobles and peasants in 1700s
Despite growing middle class, the poor angry because of the taille exemption (tax on land income)
Poor galled by fancy habits: balls, hunting parties, blissful ignorance of true conditions
During late 1700s, food grew scarce, prices soared, French gov. faced bankruptcy
The King tries to reform… but too late What caused the French Revolution? Food scarce
Newly wealthy middle-class without political power
Peasants hated the ancient feudal system
New ideas about social & political reforms were spreading King Louis XVI Robespierre 1789
Angry mobs storm Bastille (7/14/1789)
New Constitution formed
Emigres leave for Soho
1793: Reign of Terror
Jacobins (Robespierre)
Louis & Marie Antoinette
40,000 beheaded “Liberty, equality, and fraternity—or death!”: The Revolution As a gentleman of those days, you would have worn a triangular cocked hat on your powdered hair, which would be tied back with a black ribbon.
Your coat, of satin, possibly striped in light blue and pink, would be open to disclose an elaborate waistcoat and knee-length breeches of pale yellow, trimmed with pink bindings and blue buttons. Your long white silk stockings, embroidered with blue clocks and fastened by blue garters, would show to advantage your well-shaped leg, for you would make a sorry figure in the minuet if your legs did not measure up to the current idea of manly good looks. In addition, as a well-dressed gentleman of fashion, you would wear silver buckles on your black shoes, a ring on your finger, and you would carry a handsome jewelled or enameled snuffbox which would be used with exaggeratedly graceful gestures as you flirted back your long, ruffled lace cuffs.
The original back-scratcher was used, not for the back, but for the perukes which sometimes reached a height of six feet and which would become verminous between trips to the hairdresser! Can you imagine yourself as a fashionable young man or woman
living at the time of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette? As a lady of the late eighteenth century, your dress would be elaborate and heavy in contrast to the delicacy of the gentleman’s costume.

The material of stiff brocade would be fashioned into a long whale-boned waist, beneath which would billow a skirt with panniers or heavy folds looped over the hips. Down the front would show a petticoat trimmed with lace, velvet bows, and artificial flowers.

Most characteristic of the period, however, would be the mountainous headdress which you, as a lady in keeping with the times, would wear. Coiffures varied from one to three feet in height, and were so intricate in design that they could not often be taken down or combed. Reign of Terror
The first stage of the French Revolution ended in 1793 with the execution of Louis XVI and his wife, Marie Antoinette.

The Reign of Terror followed from 1793 to 1794.

During this period, France was ruled by the Jacobins, a group of extremist revolutionaries led by Maximilien Robespierre.

The Jacobins kept France in fear, executing thousands for opposing the Revolution. Mere suspicion of royalist sympathies was reason enough to be put to death during the Reign of Terror.

Although the French revolt against the aristocracy rid the country of oppression by the elite,
a new tyranny arose at the hands of the Jacobins. This, then, truly was “the best of times and the worst of times” in French history (Tale of Two Cities 1).
The guillotine was a frequently used form of punishment in revolutionary France.

More than 40,000 people were beheaded by the guillotine during the French Revolution (1789–94); 18,000 were executed during the Reign of Terror alone.

The guillotine was named after its inventor, a French doctor named Joseph Guillotin.

It was devised as a more humane method of execution because other, more torturous means of punishment took considerably longer to kill their victim. Punishment during the Eighteenth Century Punishments of the Eighteenth Century Quartering is execution that concludes by dividing the body into four parts.

To be more exact, a convicted person would be hanged until near death, then sliced open while still alive. The internal organs might be removed and burnt before the victim's own eyes. Finally, the head was chopped off and the body cut into quarters.

Most forms of punishment in the eighteenth century were meted out in public. Executions were well-attended events, and until 1772 the heads of traitors were often publicly displayed on spikes at the gates of London. Public hangings remained legal in England well into the 1800s. When A Tale of Two Cities takes place -
- quartering & hanging...in public Emigres
La Bastille
La Conciergerie
Saint Antoine District
La Force
Gaol Historical Terms to Know Emigres The French word émigré refers to someone who leaves his or her country for political reasons.
commonplace for French nobles to flee their country during the Revolution to reside elsewhere.
England, as Dickens' novel points out, became the “refuge of many” (Dickens 115).
Leaving behind their families and aristocratic legacies, characters in the novel settle in London, England.
The London neighborhood of Soho, a setting in the novel, was in fact a popular neighborhood among foreigners at the time, especially among émigrés from France. La Bastille La Conciergerie 1793-94, 2780 people sentenced to death, detained in La Conciergerie, then led to Place de la Concorde member of the moderate Republican party girondin: England's Reaction to the French Revolution Meanwhile...Across the Channel The upheaval in France followed closely on the heels of the American Revolution against England in 1776.

English citizens during this era showed concern for issues of rights, equality, and civil insurrection.

English wrote a number of political tracts and religious sermons that either supported the French struggle for equality or opposed armed insurrection and, in some instances, the notion of equality itself. Just eleven years prior to Dickens' publication of A Tale of Two Cities:

*Throughout Europe, people took to the streets to rebel against unjust laws.

*The reasons for many of these rebellions—heavy taxation, high prices, and overwork—were notably similar to those that spurred the French Revolution.

*1848: Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels published.

Revolution and upheaval on the minds of the people. When the novel was written... Dickens' England Domestic affairs in England were particularly strained

Class politics there in many ways resembled conditions in France before the Revolution.

Although the landed aristocracy of England enjoyed power and prosperity, the working classes suffered from crop failures, factory closures, poverty, and disease.

The conservative English upper class resisted any challenge to their monopoly of power. 1859
Depressed economic conditions -- industrial as well as an agricultural society.

The Corn Laws, for example, kept domestic bread prices high because they prevented people from importing as much grain as they wanted from foreigners.

Landlords, it contended, should lose their special power in society and politics. As the struggle to survive continued in the early 1840s, people began to speak openly of class warfare and revolution in England.
But in 1846 the Corn Laws were repealed. England faced considerable economic and political challenges. Dickens' Explicit Warning in A Tale of Two Cities Warning: conditions that have produced revolution in the past can do so again

Call to Action: the English ruling class must not continue to suppress the working classes. “Crush humanity out of shape once more, under similar hammers, and it will twist itself into the same tortured forms. Sow the same seed of rapacious license and oppression over again, and it will surely yield the same fruit according to its kind” (Dickens 347). Outlandish and often comic characters define Dickens' writing.

Jerry Cruncher and Miss Pross embody some typically Dickensian quirks—exaggerated mannerisms, idiosyncratic speech.

But, because of the vast scope and somewhat grim aspects of his historical subject, they play only minor roles in the novel. "Dickensian Character" Only book of his that takes place mostly outside the country
Very little humor
Plot is centerpiece "Dickensian Style" & A Tale of Two Cities Sympathy toward the poor and the exploited:

. Tone & Purpose in A Tale of Two Cities MOB RULE IS SCARY: He seems to caution that mob tyranny, which his characters encounter in Paris, can be as frightening as any oppressive ruler. Resurrection & Rebirth
The positive and negative consequences of revolutions Themes Motifs Doubles
Shadows/ Darkness
La guillotine
“the golden thread”
The shoemaker’s bench Motifs are recurring structures, contrasts, symbols, or literary devices that can help to develop and inform the text’s major themes It is clear in A Tale of Two Cities that Dickens was also concerned about the brutality and mayhem that may result from revolution. Because Charles Dickens grew up poor and
rose through the ranks of fortune,
he had a keen eye and a soft heart for the underclass “The best story I have written.”
Characters are symbolic representations of ideas rather than real-life individuals Systemic -- wide-reaching criticism
novels usually end in sentimental assertion of the home's virtues Two Streams of Thought Emerged:
1. Voiced concern over matters of class injustice and inequality.
2. Voiced a general fear of popular uprisings.
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