A Tale of Two Cities

A Tale of Two Cities

Infobox Book |
name = A Tale of Two Cities
title_orig =
translator =

image_caption = The title page of the first edition of "A Tale of Two Cities".
author = Charles Dickens
cover_artist =
country = United Kingdom
language = English
series =
genre = Historical novel
publisher = Chapman and Hall
pub_date = 1859
media_type = Print (Serial, Hardback, and Paperback)
pages =
isbn = NA
preceded_by =
followed_by =

"A Tale of Two Cities" (1859) is the second historical novel by Charles Dickens, set in London and Paris before and during the French Revolution. It depicts the plight of the French proletariat under the brutal oppression of the French aristocracy in the years leading up to the revolution, and the corresponding savage brutality demonstrated by the revolutionaries toward the former aristocrats in the early years of the revolution. It follows the lives of several protagonists through these events, most notably Charles Darnay, a French once-aristocrat who falls victim to the indiscriminate wrath of the revolution despite his virtuous nature, and Sydney Carton, a dissipated English barrister who endeavours to redeem his ill-spent life out of love for Darnay's wife, Lucie Manette.

The novel was published in weekly instalments (not monthly, as with most of his other novels). The first instalment ran in the first issue of Dickens' literary periodical "All the Year Round" appearing April 30, 1859; the thirty-first and final ran on November 26 of the same year.

Plot summary

Book the First: Recalled to Life

It is 1775. Jarvis Lorry, an employee of Tellson's Bank, is traveling from England to France to bring Dr Alexandre Manette to London. At Dover, before crossing to France, he meets seventeen-year-old Lucie Manette and reveals to her that her father, Dr Manette, is not really dead (as she had been told) but has been a prisoner in the Bastille for the last 18 years. Lorry and Lucie travel to Saint Antoine, a suburb of Paris, where they meet the Defarges. Monsieur Ernest and Madame Therese Defarge own a wine shop. They also (secretly) lead a band of revolutionaries, who refer to each other by the codename "Jacques" (drawn from the name of an actual French revolutionary group, the Jacquerie).

Monsieur Defarge (who was Dr Manette's servant before Manette's imprisonment, and now has care of him) takes them to see Dr Manette. Manette has withdrawn from reality due to the horror of his imprisonment. He sits in a dark room all day making shoes. At first he does not know his daughter, but eventually recognises her through her long golden hair like her mother's.

Book the Second: The Golden Thread

It is now 1780. French emigrant Charles Darnay is being tried at the Old Bailey for treason. Two British spies, John Barsad and Roger Cly, are trying to frame the innocent Darnay for their own gain. They claim that Darnay, a Frenchman, gave information about British troops in North America to the French. Darnay is acquitted when a witness who claims he would be able to recognise Darnay anywhere is unable to tell Darnay apart from one of the barristers defending Darnay, Sydney Carton, who just happens to look almost identical to him.

In Paris, the Marquis St. Evrémonde, Darnay's uncle, runs over and kills the son of the peasant Gaspard; he throws a coin to Gaspard to compensate him for his loss. Monsieur Defarge comforts Gaspard, and the Marquis tosses him a coin as well. As the Marquis's coach drives off, Defarge throws the coin back into the coach, enraging the Marquis.

Arriving at his château, the Marquis meets with his nephew: Charles Darnay. (Darnay's real surname, therefore, is Evrémonde; out of disgust with his family, Darnay has adopted a version of his mother's maiden name, D'Aulnais [Dickens 2003, p. 191 (Book 2, Chapter 16).] .) They argue: Darnay has sympathy for the peasantry, but the Marquis is cruel and heartless:

"Repression is the only lasting philosophy. The dark deference of fear and slavery, my friend," observed the Marquis, "will keep the dogs obedient to the whip, as long as this roof," looking up to it, "shuts out the sky." [Dickens 2003, p. 128 (Book 2, Chapter 9). This statement (about the roof) is truer than the Marquis knows, and another example of foreshadowing: the Evrémonde château is destroyed by revolting peasants in Book 2, Chapter 23.]

That night, Gaspard (who has followed the Marquis to his château, hanging under his coach) murders the Marquis in his sleep. He leaves a note saying, "Drive him fast to his tomb. This, from JACQUES." [Dickens 2003, p. 134 (Book 2, Chapter 9)]

In London, Darnay gets Dr Manette's permission to woo Lucie. But Carton confesses his love to Lucie as well. Knowing she will not love him in return, Carton promises to "embrace any sacrifice for you and for those dear to you" [Dickens 2003, p. 159 (Book 2, Chapter 14)] .

On the morning of his marriage to Lucie, Darnay reveals to Dr Manette that his true last name is Evrémonde, a fact which Dr Manette had asked him to withhold until then. This fact causes Dr Manette to revert to his obsessive shoemaking for "Nine Days" (the title of Book 2, Chapter 18), but he recovers. Mr Lorry and Miss Pross, who nurse Dr Manette back to health, think he was unhinged by the loss of his daughter to a husband; neither they nor the reader yet know the significance of the Evrémonde family to Dr Manette.

It is July 14, 1789. The Defarges help to lead the storming of the Bastille. Defarge enters Dr Manette's former cell, "One Hundred and Five, North Tower" [Dickens 2003, p. 330 (Book 3, Chapter 9)] . The reader does not know what Monsieur Defarge is searching for until Book 3, Chapter 9. (It is a statement in which Dr Manette explains why he was imprisoned.)

In the summer of 1792, a letter reaches Darnay from Gabelle, a servant of the former Marquis. Gabelle has been imprisoned, and begs the new Marquis to come to his aid. Darnay leaves for Paris to help Gabelle. Some readers are troubled by this: they assert that Darnay is foolish to underestimate or ignore the great danger he will face, and note that Darnay leaves without informing his wife of his plan.

Book the Third: The Track of a Storm

In France, Darnay is denounced for emigrating from France, and imprisoned in the La Force Prison in Paris. [This happens even though emigration has not been made illegal yet, but is only about to be. See Dickens 2003, p. 258 (Book 3, Chapter 1)] Dr Manette and Lucie — along with Miss Pross, Jerry Cruncher, and "Little Lucie", the daughter of Charles and Lucie Darnay — come to Paris and meet with Mr Lorry to try to free Darnay. A year and three months pass, but Darnay is finally tried and Dr Manette, who is seen as a hero for his imprisonment in the hated Bastille, is able to get him released.

But that very same evening Darnay is again arrested and put on trial again the next day, under new charges brought by the Defarges and one "unnamed other" (we soon discover this other is Dr Manette, through the testimony of his statement; Manette does not know that his statement has been found, and is horrified when his words are used to condemn Darnay).

On an errand, Miss Pross is amazed to see her long-lost brother, Solomon Pross, but Pross does not want to be recognised. Sydney Carton suddenly appears (stepping forward from the shadows much as he had done after Darnay's first trial in London) and identifies Solomon Pross as John Barsad, one of the men who tried to frame Darnay for treason at his first trial in London. Carton threatens to reveal Solomon's identity as a Briton and an opportunist who spies for the French or the British as it suits him. If this were revealed, Solomon would surely be executed, so Carton's hand is strong.

Darnay is confronted at the tribunal by Monsieur Defarge, who identifies Darnay as the Marquis St. Evrémonde and reads the letter Dr Manette had hidden in his cell in the Bastille. [Defarge is able to identify Darnay as Evrémonde because John Barsad told him Darnay's identity when Barsad was fishing for information at the Defarges' wine shop in Book 2, Chapter 16.] The letter describes how Dr Manette was locked away in the Bastille by the deceased Marquis Evrémonde (Darnay's father) and his twin brother (who held the title of Marquis when we met him earlier in the book, and is the Marquis who was killed by Gaspard) for trying to report their crimes against a peasant family. The younger brother had become infatuated with a girl. He had kidnapped and raped her and killed her husband, brother, and father. Prior to his death, the brother of the raped peasant had hidden the last member of the family, his younger sister, "somewhere safe". The paper concludes by condemning the Evrémondes, "them and their descendants, to the last of their race". [Dickens 2003, p. 344 (Book 3, Chapter 10)] Dr Manette is horrified, but his protests are ignored - he is not allowed to take back his condemnation. Darnay is sent to the Conciergerie and sentenced to be guillotined the next day.

Carton wanders into the Defarges' wine shop, where he overhears Madame Defarge talking about her plans to have the rest of Darnay's family (Lucie and "Little Lucie") condemned. Carton discovers that Madame Defarge was the surviving sister of the peasant family savaged by the Evrémondes. [The only plot detail that might give one any sympathy for Madame Defarge is the fact that she is without a (family) name. "Defarge" is her married name, and Dr Manette is unable to learn her family name though he asks her dying sister for it. Her family has, perhaps, been shamed out of existence; could a feminist do something with this? See Dickens 2003, p. 340 (Book 3, Chapter 10)] The next morning, when Dr. Manette returns shattered after having spent the previous night in numerous failed attempts to again save Charles' life and again reverts to his obsessive shoemaking, Carton urges Mr Lorry to flee Paris with Lucie, her father and "Little Lucie".

That same morning Carton visits Darnay in prison. Carton drugs Darnay and Barsad (whom Carton is blackmailing) has Darnay carried out of the prison. Carton - who looks so similar to Darnay that a witness at Darnay's trial in England could not tell them apart - has decided to pretend to be Darnay, and to be executed in his place. He does this out of love for Lucie, recalling his earlier promise to her. Following Carton's earlier instructions, Darnay's family and Mr Lorry flee Paris and France with an unconscious man in their coach who carries Carton's identification papers, but is actually Darnay.

Meanwhile Madame Defarge, armed with a pistol, goes to the residence of Lucie's family, hoping to catch them mourning for Darnay (since it was illegal to sympathise with or mourn for an enemy of the Republic); however, Lucie, her child, Dr,. Manette and Mr. Lorry are already gone. To give them time to escape, Miss Pross confronts Madame Defarge and they struggle. In the fight, Madame Defarge's pistol goes off, killing her; the noise of the shot and the shock of Madame Defarge's death cause Miss Pross to go permanently deaf.

The novel concludes with the guillotining of Sydney Carton. Carton's unspoken last thoughts are "prophetic" [Dickens 2003, p. 390 (Book 3, Chapter 15)] (that is, they come to pass): Carton foresees that many of the revolutionaries, including Monsieur Defarge and Barsad, will be sent to the guillotine themselves, and that Darnay and Lucie will have a son who they will name after Carton, a son who will fulfil all the promise that Carton wasted. [Lucie and Darnay have a first son earlier in the book who is born and dies within a single paragraph. It seems likely that this first son appears in the novel so that their later son, named after Carton, can represent another way in which Carton restores Lucie and Darnay through his sacrifice. Dickens 2003, p. 219 (Book 2, Chapter 21)]


"A Tale of Two Cities" is one of only two works of historical fiction by Dickens ("Barnaby Rudge" is the other one). It has fewer characters and sub-plots than a typical Dickens novel. The author's primary historical source was "" by Thomas Carlyle: Dickens wrote in his Preface to "Tale" that "no one can hope to add anything to the philosophy of Mr CARLYLE'S wonderful book" [Dickens 2003, p. 398] Carlyle's view that history cycles through destruction and resurrection was an important influence on the novel, illustrated especially well by the life and death of Sydney Carton.


Dickens uses many literal translations of French idioms (such as "What the devil do you do in that galley there?"), which are presumably intended to make Paris seem more foreign in comparison to London. The Penguin Classics edition of the novel dryly notes that "Not all readers have regarded [this] experiment as a success." [Dickens 2003, p. 455]


Dickens is renowned for his humour, but "A Tale of Two Cities" is one of his least comical books: Nonetheless, Jerry Cruncher, Miss Pross, and in particular Mr Stryver provide much comedy.Dickens also uses sarcasm as humour in the book to show different points of view.


"A Tale of Two Cities" positively overflows with foreshadowing. Carton's promise to Lucie, the "echoing footsteps" heard by the Manettes in their quiet home, and the wine spilling from the wine cask are only a few of dozens of instances.Cartons promise to Lucie- He tells her he would die for her because he loves her so much.Echoing footsteps- can either be: the people coming into their lives, or the revolutionaries.The wine spilling in the streets- can be blood running thorugh the streets of France.The wine casket breaking- is a corrupted government, freedom, or blood from guillotine.


"Recalled to Life"

The theme of resurrection runs through the entire novel; it is the first theme invoked (in Jarvis Lorry's thoughts of Dr Manette) as well as the last one (in Carton's sacrifice). Dickens originally wanted to call the entire novel "Recalled to Life". (This instead became the title of the first of the novel's three "books".)

In Dickens' England, the idea of resurrection always sat firmly in a Christian context. Most broadly, it is Sydney Carton who is resurrected in spirit at the novel's close (even as he, paradoxically, gives up his physical life to preserve Darnay's — just, of course, as Christians believe that Christ died for the sins of all mankind.) More concretely, "Book the First" deals with the rebirth of Dr Manette from the living death of his incarceration.

The theme of resurrection first appears as Mr Lorry thinks repeatedly of the words "buried alive" during his coach ride to Dover. He regards himself as the vehicle for Dr Manette's revival when he passes on the message "Recalled to Life" to Jerry Cruncher. He sees the candles on the table in the inn as being buried "in deep graves of black mahogany". He believes that he will physically "dig" Dr Manette from his grave.

Jerry is also drawn into the theme: he himself is involved in death and resurrection in way that the reader does not yet know. The first piece of foreshadowing comes in his remark to himself: "You'd be in a blazing bad way, if recalling to life was to come into fashion, Jerry!" The black humour of this statement becomes obvious only in hindsight. One stormy night five years later (in June 1780 [Dickens 2003, p. xxxix] ), Mr Lorry reawakens the reader's interest in the mystery by telling Jerry that it is "Almost a night ... to bring the dead out of their graves". Jerry responds firmly that he has never seen the night do that. [Dickens 2003, p. 107-108 (Book 2, Chapter 6)]

It turns out that Jerry Cruncher's involvement with the theme of resurrection is that he is what the Victorians called a "Resurrection Man", one who (illegally) digs up dead bodies to sell to medical men (there was no legal way to procure cadavers for study at that time).

The flip side of resurrection is death, which also appears often in the novel. Dickens is angered that in both France and England, courts hand out death sentences for insignificant crimes. In France, peasants are even put to death without any trial, at the whim of a noble. The Marquis tells Darnay with pleasure that " [I] n the next room (my bedroom), one fellow ... was poniarded on the spot for professing some insolent delicacy respecting his daughter - "his" daughter!" [>The daughter the Marquis is speaking of is surely the girl he raped and let die; it was to conceal this act that he had Dr Manette imprisoned. The Marquis emphasises "his" because Dickens is alluding to the (probably mythical) Droit de seigneur, under which any girl from the Marquis's land would belong to the Marquis rather than to her parents. Dickens 2003, p. 127 (Book 2, Chapter 9)]

Interestingly, the demolition of Dr Manette's shoe-making workbench by Miss Pross and Mr Lorry is described as "the burning of the body". [Dickens 2003, p. 212 (Book 2, Chapter 19)] It seems clear that this is a rare case where death or destruction (the opposite of resurrection) has a positive connotation, since the "burning" helps liberate the doctor from the memory of his long imprisonment. But Dickens' description of this kind and healing act is strikingly odd:

So wicked do destruction and secrecy appear to honest minds, that Mr Lorry and Miss Pross, while engaged in the commission of their deed and in the removal of its traces, almost felt, and almost looked, like accomplices in a horrible crime. [Dickens 2003, p. 214 (Book 2, Chapter 19)]

Sydney Carton's martyrdom atones for all his past wrongdoings. He even finds God during the last few days of his life, repeating Christ's soothing words, "I am the resurrection and the life". [John 11.25-6] Resurrection is the dominant theme of the final part of the novel. Darnay is rescued at the last moment and recalled to life; Carton chooses death and resurrection to a life better than that which he has ever known: "it was the peacefullest man's face ever beheld there ... he looked sublime and prophetic".

In the broadest sense, at the end of the novel Dickens foresees a resurrected social order in France, rising from the ashes of the old one.


Many in the Jungian archetypal tradition might agree with Hans Biedermann, who writes that water "is the fundamental symbol of all the energy of the unconscious — an energy that can be dangerous when it overflows its proper limits (a frequent dream sequence)." [Biedermann 1994, p. 375] This symbolism suits Dickens's novel; in "A Tale of Two Cities", the frequent images of water stand for the building anger of the peasant mob, an anger that Dickens sympathises with to a point, but ultimately finds irrational and even animalistic.

Early in the book, Dickens suggests this when he writes, “ [T] he sea did what it liked, and what it liked was destruction.” [Dickens 2003, p. 21 (Book 1, Chapter 4)] The sea here represents the coming mob of revolutionaries. After Gaspard murders the Marquis, he is “hanged there forty feet high - and is left hanging, poisoning the water.” [Dickens 2003, p. 178 (Book 2, Chapter 15)] The poisoning of the well represents the bitter impact of Gaspard's execution on the collective feeling of the peasants.

After Gaspard’s death, the storming of the Bastille is led (from the St. Antoine neighbourhood, at least) by the Defarges; “As a whirlpool of boiling waters has a centre point, so, all this raging circled around Defarge’s wine shop, and every human drop in the cauldron had a tendency to be sucked towards the vortex...” [Dickens 2003, p. 223 (Book 2, Chapter 21)] The crowd is envisioned as a sea. “With a roar that sounded as if all the breath in France had been shaped into a detested word [the word "Bastille"] , the living sea rose, wave upon wave, depth upon depth, and overflowed the city...” [Dickens 2003, p. 223 (Book 2, Chapter 21)]

Darnay’s jailer is described as “unwholesomely bloated in both face and person, as to look like a man who had been drowned and filled with water.” Later, during the Reign of Terror, the revolution had grown “so much more wicked and distracted ... that the rivers of the South were encumbered with bodies of the violently drowned by night...” Later a crowd is “swelling and overflowing out into the adjacent streets ... the Carmagnole absorbed them every one and whirled them away.”

During the fight with Miss Pross, Madame Defarge clings to her with “more than the hold of a drowning woman”. Commentators on the novel have noted the irony that Madame Defarge is killed by her own gun, and perhaps Dickens means by the above quote to suggest that such vicious vengefulness as Madame Defarge's will eventually destroy even its perpetrators.

So many read the novel in a Freudian light, as exalting the (British) superego over the (French) id. Yet in Carton's last walk, he watches an eddy that "turned and turned purposeless, until the stream absorbed it, and carried it onto the sea" - his fulfillment , while masochistic and superego-driven, is nonetheless an ecstatic union with the subconscious.

Darkness and light

As is common in English literature, good and evil are symbolised with light and darkness. In particular, Lucie Manette is often associated with light and Madame Defarge with darkness.

Lucie meets her father for the first time in a room kept by the Defarges: "His old white head mingled with her radiant hair which warmed and lighted it as though it were the light of freedom shining on him." Lucie's hair symbolises joy as she winds "the golden thread that bound them all together". She is adorned with "diamonds, very bright and sparkling", and symbolic of the happiness of the day of her marriage.

Darkness represents uncertainty, fear and peril. It is dark when Mr Lorry rides to Dover; it is dark in the prisons; dark shadows follow Madame Defarge; dark, gloomy doldrums disturb Dr Manette; his capture and captivity are shrouded in darkness; the Marquis’s estate is burned in the dark of night; Jerry Cruncher raids graves in the darkness; Charles's second arrest also occurs at night. Both Lucie and Mr Lorry feel the dark threat that is Madame Defarge. "That dreadful woman seems to throw a shadow on me," remarks Lucie. Although Mr Lorry tries to comfort her, "the shadow of the manner of these Defarges was dark upon himself". Madame Defarge is "like a shadow over the white road", the snow symbolising purity and Madame Defarge's darkness corruption. Dickens also compares the dark colour of blood to the pure white snow: the blood takes on the shade of the crimes of its shedders.

ocial injustice

Charles Dickens was a champion of the maltreated poor because of the terrible experience when he was forced to work in a factory as a child. His sympathies, however, lie only up to a point with the revolutionaries; he condemns the mob madness which soon sets in. When madmen and -women massacre eleven hundred detainees in one night and hustle back to sharpen their weapons on the grindstone, they display "eyes which any unbrutalised beholder would have given twenty years of life, to petrify with a well-directed gun".

The reader is shown the poor are brutalised in France and England alike. As crime proliferates, the executioner in England is "stringing up long rows of miscellaneous criminals; now hanging housebreaker ... now burning people in the hand" or hanging a broke man for stealing sixpence. In France, a boy is sentenced to have his hands removed and be burned alive, only because he did not kneel down in the rain before a parade of monks passing some fifty metres away. At the lavish residence of Monseigneur, we find "brazen ecclesiastics of the worst world worldly, with sensual eyes, loose tongues, and looser lives ... Military officers destitute of military knowledge ... [and] Doctors who made great fortunes ... for imaginary disorders". [Dickens 2003, p. 110 (Book 2, Chapter 7)]

The Marquis recalls with pleasure the days when his family had the right of life and death over their slaves, "when many such dogs were taken out to be hanged". He won't even allow a widow to put up a board bearing her dead husband’s name, to discern his resting place from all the others. He orders Madame Defarge's sick brother-in-law to heave a cart all day and allay frogs at night to exacerbate the young man's illness and hasten his death.

In England, even banks endorse unbalanced sentences: a man may be condemned to death for nicking a horse or opening a letter. Conditions in the prisons are dreadful. "Most kinds of debauchery and villainy were practised, and ... dire diseases were bred", sometimes killing the judge before the accused.

So riled is Dickens at the brutality of English law that he depicts some of its punishments with sarcasm: "the whipping-post, another deal old institution, very humanising and softening to behold in action". He faults the law for not seeking reform: "Whatever _en. is is right" is the dictum of the Old Bailey. [Dickens 2003, p. 63 (Book 2, Chapter 2). Dickens is quoting Alexander Pope's "Essay on Man" of 1733.] The gruesome portrayal of quartering highlights its atrocity.

Without entirely forgiving him, Dickens understands that Jerry Cruncher robs graves only in order to feed his son, and reminds the reader that Mr Lorry is more likely to rebuke Jerry for his humble social status than anything else. Jerry reminds Mr Lorry that doctors, men of the cloth, undertakers and watchmen are also conspirators in the selling of bodies.

Dickens wants his readers to be careful that the same sort of revolution that so damaged France won't happen in Britain, which (at least at the beginning of the book) [Ruth Glancy has argued that Dickens portrays France and England as nearly equivalent at the beginning of the novel, but that as the novel progresses, England comes to look better and better, climaxing in Miss Pross's pro-Britain speech at the end of the novel.] is shown to be nearly as unjust as France. But his warning is addressed not to the British lower classes, but to the aristocracy. He repeatedly uses the metaphor of sowing and reaping; if the aristocracy continues to plant the seeds of a revolution through behaving unjustly, they can be certain of harvesting that revolution in time. The lower classes do not have any agency in this metaphor: they simply react to the behaviour of the aristocracy. In this sense it can be said that while Dickens sympathises with the poor, he identifies with the rich: they are the book's audience, its "us" rather than its "them". "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 licence and oppression over again, and it will surely yield the same fruit according to its kind". [Dickens 2003, p. 385 (Book 3, Chapter 15)]

Relation to Dickens's personal life

Some have argued that in "Tale" Dickens reflects on his recently begun affair with eighteen-year-old actress Ellen Ternan, which was possibly asexual but certainly romantic. The character of Lucie Manette resembles Ternan physically, and some have seen "a sort of implied emotional incest" in the relationship between Dr Manette and his daughter. [Dickens 2003, p. xxi]

Sydney Carton and Charles Darnay may also bear importantly on Dickens' personal life. The plot hinges on the near-perfect resemblance between Sydney Carton and Charles Darnay; the two look so alike that Carton twice saves Darnay through the inability of others to tell them apart. It is implied that Carton and Darnay not only look alike, but they possess identical "genetic" endowments (to use a term that Dickens would not have known): Carton "is" Darnay made bad. Carton suggests as much:

'Do you particularly like the man [Darnay] ?' he muttered, at his own image [which he is regarding in a mirror] ; 'why should you particularly like a man who resembles you? There is nothing in you to like; you know that. Ah, confound you! What a change you have made in yourself! A good reason for talking to a man, that he shows you what you have fallen away from and what you might have been! Change places with him, and would you have been looked at by those blue eyes [belonging to Lucie Manette] as he was, and commiserated by that agitated face as he was? Come on, and have it out in plain words! You hate the fellow.' [Dickens 2003, p. 89 (Book 2, Chapter 4) p. 89]

Many have felt that Carton and Darnay are doppelgängers, which Eric Rabkin defines as a pair "of characters that together, represent one psychological persona in the narrative". [Rabkin 2007, course booklet p. 48] If so, they would prefigure such works as Robert Louis Stevenson's "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde". Darnay is worthy and respectable but dull (at least to most modern readers), Carton disreputable but magnetic.

One can only suspect whose psychological persona it is that Carton and Darnay together embody (if they do), but it is often thought to be the psyche of Dickens himself. Dickens was quite aware that between them, Carton and Darnay shared his own initials. [Schlicke 2008, p. 53] Furthermore, in early drafts of the novel, Darnay and Carton each individually had the same initials as Dickens, since in early drafts Carton's forename was Dick rather than Sydneyfact|date=May 2008.


Many of Dickens's characters are "flat" rather than round, in the novelist E. M. Forster's famous terms, meaning roughly that they have only one mood. ["In their purest form [flat characters] ... are constructed round a single idea or quality. ... Part of the genius of Dickens is that he does use types and caricatures, people whom we recognise the instant they re-enter, and yet achieves effects that are not mechanical and a vision of humanity that is not shallow. Those who dislike Dickens have an excellent case. He ought to be bad." Forster 1927, p. 67, 71-72] In "Tale", for example, the Marquis is unremittingly wicked and relishes being so; Lucie is perfectly loving and supportive. (As a corollary, Dickens often gives these characters verbal ticks or visual quirks that he mentions over and over, such as the dints in the nose of the Marquis.) Forster believed that Dickens never truly created rounded characters, but a character such as Carton surely at least comes closer to roundness.

*Sydney Carton – quick-minded but depressed English barrister and alcoholic; his Christ-like self-sacrifice redeems his own life as well as saving the life of Charles Darnay

*Lucie Manette – An ideal Victorian lady who was perfect in every way, she was loved by both Carton and Charles Darnay; daughter of Dr Manette. She is the "golden thread" after whom Book Two is named, so called because she holds her father's and her family's lives together (and because of her blond hair like her mother's)She also ties almost every character in the book together. [Dickens 2003, p. 83 (Book 2, Chapter 4)]

*Charles Darnay – a young French noble of the Evrémonde family. In disgust at the cruelty of his family to the French peasantry, he has taken on the name "Darnay" (after his mother's maiden name, D'Aulnais) and left France for England. [After Dr Manette's letter is read, Darnay says that "It was the always-vain endeavour to discharge my poor mother's trust, that first brought my fatal presence near you." (Dickens 2003, p. 347 [Book 3, Chapter 11] .) Darnay seems to be referring to when his mother brought him, still a child, to her meeting with Dr Manette in Book 3, Chapter 10. But some readers also feel that Darnay is explaining why he changed his name and travelled to England in the first place: in order to discharge his family's debt to Dr Manette without fully revealing his identity. (See note to the Penguin Classics edition: Dickens 2003, p. 486.)]

*Dr Alexandre Manette – Lucie's father, kept a prisoner in the Bastille for eighteen years

*Monsieur Ernest Defarge – owner of a French wine shop and leader of the Jacquerie; husband of Madame Defarge; servant to Dr Manette as a youth. One of the key revolutionary leaders, he leads the revolution with a noble cause, unlike many of other revolutionaries.

*Madame Therese Defarge – a vengeful female revolutionary; arguably the novel's antagonist

*The Vengeance – a companion of Madame Defarge referred to as her "shadow", a member of the sisterhood of women revolutionaries in Saint Antoine, and revolutionary zealot. Many Frenchmen and -women actually did change their names to show their enthusiasm for the Revolution [Dickens 2003, p. 470]

*Jarvis Lorry – an elderly manager at Tellson's Bank and a dear friend of Dr Manette

*Miss Pross – Lucie Manette's governess since Lucie was ten years old; fiercely loyal to Lucie and to England

*The Marquis St. Evrémonde [The Marquis is sometimes referred to as "Monseigneur the Marquis St. Evrémonde". He is not so called in this article because the title "Monseigneur" applies to whoever among a group is of the highest status; thus, this title sometimes applies to the Marquis and other times does not.] – cruel uncle of Charles Darnay

*John Barsad (real name Solomon Pross) – a spy for Britain who later becomes a spy for France (at which point he must conceal that he is British). He is the long-lost brother of Miss Pross.

*Roger Cly – another spy, Barsad's collaborator

*Jerry Cruncher – porter and messenger for Tellson's Bank and secret "Resurrection Man" (body-snatcher)

*Mr Stryver – Arrogant and ambitious barrister, senior to Sydney Carton. [Stryver, like Carton, is a barrister and not a solicitor; Dickens 2003, p. xi] There is a frequent mis-perception that Stryver's full name is "C. J. Stryver", but this is very unlikely. The mistake comes from a line in Book 2, Chapter 12: "After trying it, Stryver C. J. was satisfied that no plainer case could be." [Dickens 2003, p. 147] The initials C. J. almost certainly refer to a legal title (probably "chief justice"); Stryver is imagining that he is playing every role in a trial in which he browbeats Lucie Manette into marrying him.

*The Seamstress – a young woman caught up in The Terror. She precedes Sydney Carton to the guillotine.

*Gabelle – Gabelle is "the Postmaster, and some other taxing functionary, united" [Dickens 2003, p. 120 (Book 2, Chapter 8)] for the tenants of the Marquis St. Evrémonde. Gabelle is imprisoned by the revolutionaries, and it is his beseeching letter that brings Darnay to France. Gabelle is "named after the hated salt tax" [Dickens 2003, p. 462] .



There have been at least five feature films based on the book:
* "A Tale of Two Cities", a 1911 silent film.
* "A Tale of Two Cities", a 1917 silent film.
* "A Tale of Two Cities", a 1922 silent film.
* "A Tale of Two Cities", a 1935 black and white MGM movie starring Ronald Colman, Elizabeth Allan, Reginald Owen, Basil Rathbone and Edna Mae Oliver. It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture.
* "A Tale of Two Cities", a 1958 version, starring Dirk Bogarde, Dorothy Tutin, Christopher Lee, Leo McKern and Donald Pleasance.

In the 1981 film "History of the World, Part I", the "French Revolution" segment appears to be a pastiche of "A Tale of Two Cities".

In the film "A Simple Wish", the protagonist's father Oliver (possibly a reference to another of Dickens' famous novels, "Oliver Twist") is vying for a spot in his theatre company's production of a musical of "A Tale of Two Cities", of which we see the beginning and end, using the two famous quotes, including "It is a far, far better thing that I do", as part of a few solos.


In June 1989, BBC Radio 4 produced a 6-hour drama adapted for radio by Nick McCarty and directed by Ian Cotterell. The cast included:

* Charles Dance as "Sydney Carton"
* Maurice Denham as "Dr. Alexandre Manette"
* Charlotte Attenborough as "Lucie Manette"
* Richard Pasco as "Jarvis Lorry"
* John Duttine as "Charles Darnay"
* Barbara Leigh-Hunt as "Miss Pross"
* Margaret Robertson as "Madame Defarge"
* John Hollis as "Jerry Cruncher"
* John Bull as "Ernest Defarge"
* Aubrey Woods as "Mr. Stryver"
* Eva Stuart as "Mrs. Cruncher"
* John Moffat as "Marquis St. Evremonde"
* Geoffrey Whitehead as "John Barsad" and "Jacques #2"
* Nicholas Courtney as "Jacques #3" and "The Woodcutter"

Television programs

An 8-part mini-series was produced by the BBC in 1957 starring Peter Wyngarde as "Sydney Carton", Edward de Souza as "Charles Darnay" and Wendy Hutchinson as "Lucie Manette".

Another mini-series, this one in 10 parts, was produiced by the BBC in 1965.

A third BBC mini-series (in 8 parts) was produced in 1980 starring Paul Shelley as "Carton/Darnay", Sally Osborne as "Lucie Manette" and Nigel Stock as "Jarvis Lorry".

The novel was adapted into a 1980 television movie starring Chris Sarandon as "Sydney Carton/Charles Darnay". Peter Cushing as "Dr. Alexandre Manette", Alice Krige as "Lucie Manette", Flora Robson as "Miss Pross", Barry Morse as "The Marquis St. Evremonde" and Billie Whitelaw as "Madame Defarge".

In 1989 Granada Television made a mini-series starring James Wilby as "Sydney Carton", Serena Gordon as "Lucie Manette", Xavier Deluc as "Charles Darnay", Anna Massey as "Miss Pross" and John Mills as "Jarvis Lorry", which was shown on American television as part of the PBS television series "Masterpiece Theatre".

In the 1970 "Monty Python's Flying Circus" episode "The Attila the Hun Show", the sketch "The News for Parrots" included a scene of "A Tale of Two Cities (As told for parrots)".

The children's television series "Wishbone" adapted the novel for the episode "A Tale of Two Sitters".


American author Susanne Alleyn's novel [http://www.amazon.com/dp/1569471975/ "A Far Better Rest"] , a reimagining of "A Tale of Two Cities" from the point of view of Sydney Carton, was published in the USA in 2000.

Diane Mayer self-published her novel [http://www.amazon.com/dp/0595346200/ "Evremonde"] through iUniverse in 2005; it tells the story of Charles and Lucie Darnay and their children after the French Revolution.

Simplified versions of "A Tale Of Two Cities" for English language learners have been published by [http://www.penguinreaders.com/ Penguin Readers] , in several levels of difficulty.

tage musicals

There have been three musicals based on the novel:

"A Tale of Two Cities", Jill Santoriello's musical adaptation of "A Tale of Two Cities", was performed at the Asolo Repertory Theatre in Sarasota, Florida, in October and November 2007. James Stacy Barbour ("Sydney Carton") and Jessica Rush ("Lucie Manette") were among the cast. A production of the musical began previews on Broadway on August 19, 2008, opening on September 18 at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre. Warren Carlyle is the director/choreographer; the cast includes James Stacy Barbour as "Sydney Carton", Brandi Burkhardt as "Lucie Manette", Aaron Lazar as "Charles Darnay", Gregg Edelman as "Dr. Manette", Katherine McGrath as "Miss Pross", Michael Hayward-Jones as "Jarvis Lorry" and Natalie Toro as "Madame Defarge". [ [http://www.playbill.com/news/article/121421.html Playbill.com, September 25, 2008] : "Best of Times: A Tale of Two Cities Opens on Broadway September 18"] , [ [http://www.playbill.com/news/article/116235.html Playbill.com, March 25, 2008] : "Tale of Two Cities, the Musical, to Open on Broadway in September"] , [ [http://www.talemusical.com/ "A Tale of Two Cities" musical official site] ]

In 2006, Howard Goodall collaborated with Joanna Read in writing a separate musical adaptation of the novel called Two Cities. The central plot and characters were maintained, though Goodall set the action during the Russian Revolution.

The novel has also been adapted as a musical by Takarazuka Revue, the all-female opera company in Japan. The first production was in 1984, starring Mao Daichi at the Grand Theater, and the second was in 2003, starring Jun Sena at the Bow Hall.



*Biedermann, Hans. "Dictionary of Symbolism." New York: Meridian (1994) ISBN 978-0-452-01118-3
*Dickens, Charles. "A Tale of Two Cities." Edited and with an introduction and notes by Richard Maxwell. London: Penguin Classics (2003) ISBN 978-0-141-43960-0
*Drabble, Margaret, ed. "The Oxford Companion to English Literature." 5th ed. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press (1985) ISBN 0-19-866130-4
*Forster, E. M. "Aspects of the Novel." London: Harcourt, Inc. (1927) ISBN 978-1-15-609180-1
*Orwell, George. "Charles Dickens". In "A Collection of Essays". New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich (1946) ISBN 0-15-618600-4
*Rabkin, Eric. "Masterpieces of the Imaginative Mind: Literature's Most Fantastic Works." Chantilly, VA: The Teaching Company (2007)
*Schlicke, Paul. "Coffee With Dickens." London: Duncan Baird Publishers (2008) ISBN 978-1-84483-608-6

Further reading

*Glancy, Ruth. "Charles Dickens's" A Tale of Two Cities: "A Sourcebook". London: Routledge (2006) ISBN 978-0415287609
*Sanders, Andrew. "The Companion to A Tale of Two Cities". London: Unwin Hyman (1989) ISBN 978-0048000507 Out of print.

External links

*gutenberg|no=98|name=A Tale of Two Cities
* [http://taleoftwocities.publicliterature.org "A Tale of Two Cities"] , full text with audio.
* [http://librivox.org/a-tale-of-two-cities-by-charles-dickens/ "Complete audio book at Librivox Project"] .
* [http://www.asiaing.com/a-tale-of-two-cities.html A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, Free Ebook]
* [http://www.gresham.ac.uk/event.asp?PageId=45&EventId=611 'Dickens: A Tale of Two Cities'] , lecture by Dr. Tony Williams on the writing of the book, at Gresham College on 3rd July 2007 (with video and audio files available for download, as well as the transcript).
* [http://talemusical.com Asolo Repertory Theatre] and [http://www.BeyondtheBookFL.org Beyond the Book] - Asolo Rep's community literacy initiative to inspire reading and community connection - featured "A Tale of Two Cities" during the 2007-08 season

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Tale of Two Cities — Tale of Two Cit|ies, A (1859) a novel by Charles ↑Dickens, set in London and Paris at the time of the French Revolution. The start of the book is very well known: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times... . Another famous part is the …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • Tale of Two Cities — a novel (1859) by Charles Dickens, set in London and Paris at the time of the French Revolution. Charles Darnay is a young French aristocrat who disagrees with the cruel way his family has been treating poor people. He moves to London and falls… …   Universalium

  • Tale of Two Cities, A — a historical novel (1859) by Dickens. * * * …   Universalium

  • Tale of Two Cities, A — a historical novel (1859) by Dickens …   Useful english dictionary

  • A Tale of Two Cities — ➡ Tale of Two Cities * * * …   Universalium

  • A Tale of Two Cities — bezeichnet: Eine Geschichte aus zwei Städten, ein Roman von Charles Dickens aus dem Jahr 1859 die Verfilmungen von Dickens Roman: A Tale of Two Cities (1910) Regie: William Humphrey erste Verfilmung des Romans, Kurzfilm A Tale of Two Cities… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • A Tale of Two Cities — Le Conte de deux cités Première édition du livre Le Conte de deux cités (en anglais A Tale of Two Cities), parfois intitulé Paris et Londres en 1793, est le deuxième roman historique de Charles Dickens. Le livre est paru en 1859 et situe l’action …   Wikipédia en Français

  • A Tale of Two Cities — [A Tale of Two Cities] a novel (1859) by Charles Dickens, set in London and Paris at the time of the French Revolution. Charles Darnay is a young French ↑aristocrat who disagrees with the cruel way his family has been treating poor people. He… …   Useful english dictionary

  • A Tale of Two Cities — Episodio de Lost Título Historia de dos ciudades Episodio nº 1 …   Wikipedia Español

  • A Tale of Two Cities —    Voir Le Marquis de Saint Évremont …   Dictionnaire mondial des Films

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.