A Tale of Two Cities Symbols

Tap here to download this LitChart! (PDF)
Sections x


Defarge's wine shop lies at the center of revolutionary Paris, and throughout the novel wine symbolizes the Revolution's intoxicating power. Drunk on power, the revolutionaries change from freedom fighters into wild savages dancing in the streets and murdering at will. The deep red color of wine suggests that wine also symbolizes blood. When the Revolution gets out of control, blood is everywhere; everyone seems soaked in its color. This symbolizes the moral stains on the hands of revolutionaries. The transformation of wine to blood traditionally alludes to the Christian Eucharist (in which wine symbolizes the blood of Christ), but Dickens twists this symbolism: he uses wine-to-blood to symbolize brutality rather than purification, implying that the French Revolution has become unholy.

Look for the red text to track where Wine appears in: Book 1, Chapter 5, Book 2, Chapter 22, Book 3, Chapter 2

Knitting and the Golden Thread

In classical mythology, three sister gods called the Fates controlled the threads of human lives. A Tale of Two Cities adapts the classical Fates in two ways. As she knits the names of her enemies, Madame Defarge is effectively condemning people to a deadly fate. On the other hand, as Lucie weaves her "golden thread" through people's lives, she binds them into a better destiny: a tightly-knit community of family and close friends. In each case, Dickens suggests that human destinies are either predetermined by the force of history or they are tied into a larger pattern than we as individuals realize.

Look for the red text to track where Knitting and the Golden Thread appears in: Book 2, Chapter 4, Book 2, Chapter 7, Book 2, Chapter 15, Book 2, Chapter 16, Book 3, Chapter 3, Book 3, Chapter 6, Book 3, Chapter 15, Book 2, Chapter 21


The guillotine, a machine designed to behead its victims, is one of the enduring symbols of the French Revolution. In Tale of Two Cities, the guillotine symbolizes how revolutionary chaos gets institutionalized. With the guillotine, killing becomes emotionless and automatic, and human life becomes cheap. The guillotine as a symbol expresses exactly what Dickens meant by adding the two final words ("or Death") to the end of the French national motto: "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, or Death."

Look for the red text to track where Guillotine appears in: Book 3, Chapter 1, Book 3, Chapter 4, Book 3, Chapter 14, Book 3, Chapter 15

Shoes and Footsteps

At her London home, Lucie hears the echoes of all the footsteps coming into their lives. These footsteps symbolize fate. Dr. Manette makes shoes in his madness. Notably, he always makes shoes in response to traumatic memories of tyranny, as when he learns Charles's real name is Evrémonde. For this reason, shoes come to symbolize the inescapable past.

Look for the red text to track where Shoes and Footsteps appears in: Book 1, Chapter 5, Book 2, Chapter 10, Book 2, Chapter 18, Book 2, Chapter 6, Book 2, Chapter 6, Book 2, Chapter 21