A Tale of Two Cities

A Tale of Two Cities

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Guillotine Symbol Icon
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."
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Guillotine Symbol Timeline in A Tale of Two Cities

The timeline below shows where the symbol Guillotine appears in A Tale of Two Cities. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Book 3, Chapter 1
Tyranny and Revolution Theme Icon
Fate and History Theme Icon
Imprisonment Theme Icon
...quietly asks him why he ever returned to France in this, the age of "La Guillotine." Charles asks Defarge to help him. Defarge refuses. (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 4
Tyranny and Revolution Theme Icon
The guillotine becomes an institution, and guillotines can now be found in the streets all over Paris.... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 14
Tyranny and Revolution Theme Icon
Secrecy and Surveillance Theme Icon
...and fantasizes about the blond hair and blue eyes of Lucie's beheaded child at the guillotine. The wood-sawyer and Madame Defarge promise to testify against Lucie. (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 15
Tyranny and Revolution Theme Icon
Fate and History Theme Icon
Sacrifice Theme Icon
Resurrection Theme Icon
The young woman is scheduled to be beheaded by the guillotine just before Carton. She thanks Carton for helping her stay composed, and says he must... (full context)
Tyranny and Revolution Theme Icon
Fate and History Theme Icon
Sacrifice Theme Icon
Resurrection Theme Icon
...He recognizes that Barsad, The Vengeance, and all the "new oppressors" will die by the guillotine they now celebrate. Yet he is also sure that Paris will rise up from its... (full context)