English 2 H
14 May, 2018
Duality in A Tale of Two Cities
Contrast between two themes or characters creates deeper meaning and allows for the author to put his own opinions in their piece of literature. Charles Dickens uses similarities and differences between his characters and other objects and themes to make statements or to create deeper meaningful themes in A Tale of Two Cities. The novel mainly features two cities and their development through one main conflict, the revolution. The revolution splits up France into two sides, those who want to fight against the higher class, and those defending. This structure Dickens has created allows for many examples of duality to be sourced from. By pairing the cities Dickens illustrates how the two countries deal with conflict, through light and dark passages Dickens illustrates contrasts between different themes, and through the different identities people during the revolution had created to endure the revolution.
The novel, being entirely based around two cities, creates many opportunities for comparisons to be formed. St. Antoine and London, although in different countries are connected through the plot. Through the characters traveling between the countries, Dickens is able to display the culture and conflict that is shared between the nations, as well as how they differ and cope with such struggles. Paris is where disorder reigns, the poor are anguishing from the overpowering upper class. When the revolution is finally upon the French people, they become chaotic and violent, destroying everything to get what they want. Peace is absent during this time and numerous rich and poor French citizens die. However in England, they are able to endure struggles because they have an established government system already. “Darnay had yesterday pleaded Not Guilty to an indictment denouncing him for that he was a false traitor” (Dickens 87). While Darnay was able to be tried for his crime, and was ultimately found innocent, in France things were not as civil. The conflict between the different estates in France were not settled in a court, but instead taken care of through a civil war, using violence to find justice. Additionally, France’s ‘leaders’ at the time could do whatever they wanted to the citizens of France, and as Charles Dickens’ wrote this novel, they gave no remorse for doing such. The Marquis for example, had run over and murdered a child unintentionally, however brushed it off like nothing had happened and offered no apologies other than a payment towards the family. If this were to have happened in England, the Marquis would have been met with consequences for such a violent act, however this was not the case in France.
Charles Dickens’ begins the novel addressing multiple themes of duality that occur in the story he had created, with one of the most memorable opening lines, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times… it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness… ” (Dickens 1). In this opening line he specifically uses capitalization on the first letter of light and darkness, which is not normally used in formal writing unless the word is a name. In this case Dickens’ wanted the words light and darkness to be more personified, so he did address these themes as names, this was done so because in the novel his characters know ‘Light’ and ‘Darkness’ much like how they would know a figurative person. The characters he creates have been through such a significant amount of conflict- darkness, and so much reward- light. An example of this is Dr. Manette, although he had been in a depressed state, alone in the dark of his jail cell, he had found a new hope within his daughter when they finally met she could see him,”she now stood looking at him… it looked as though it had passed like a moving light, from him to her” (Dickens 60). Lucie symbolizes light because of its unique color, which Dr. Manette is able to recall from his wife’s hair but she also is the light to him because she is able to get him out of his despondent state. Settings are also described with this contrasting diction to emphasize the plot happening at the time, or the deeper meanings. “The cathedral shone bright in the light of the moon… the moon and the stars, turned pale and died… But, the glorious sun… straight and warm to his heart in its long bright rays… a bridge of light appeared to span the air between Carton and the sun…” (Dickens 449). Carton was taking a walk reflecting upon the thought of resurrection, and watches the night turn into morning. At this point of the plot Darnay had just been arrested for the second time and Carton sees a lot of himself in Darnay. This use of light and dark foreshadowed Carton giving up his own life for Darnay’s. In this passage he thinks about death, and prepares himself for what comes after it, or the ‘bridge of light’ that appeared at sunrise. He thinks about how every dark night has a sun to come up the next morning, which resembles resurrection. Dickens writes this novel with darkness and light contrasting off of each other, creating little to no middle ground between the two, only the two extremes.
Through the various personalities in this novel many comparisons can be made between them, some characters even have two contrasting sides within themselves. Characters like the mender of roads, who later becomes the wood sawyer for sole purpose of watching what Lucie was doing outside of the prison is an example of how far people would go because of the revolution. Another character similar to the wood sawyer is Jerry Cruncher, who to the average person was just believed to be an innocent banker. However, Cruncher was not just a banker but a grave robber, who would sell bodies to medical schools. Some characters like Darnay and Carton although two seperate people also demonstrate this theme of duality, “… so like each other in feature, so unlike each other in manner—standing side by side” (Dickens 109). Carton and Darnay look alike but have total opposite clashing personalities. Carton is untrustworthy, while Darnay is adored by many and much more trusted, their characters balance each other out in the novel. Ultimately as these characters develop, Carton feels it is his duty to give his life for Darnay, as if it is his purpose in life.
Charles Dickens demonstrates duality in his novel A Tale of Two Cities through his diction and use of the light and dark analogies, through the culture and conflict between two cities miles apart- how they differ, and in his characters which play off of each other from their similarities and differences.