A Tale of Two Cities

A Tale of Two Cities

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Wine Symbol Icon
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.

Wine Quotes in A Tale of Two Cities

The A Tale of Two Cities quotes below all refer to the symbol of Wine. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Tyranny and Revolution Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Classics edition of A Tale of Two Cities published in 2003.
Book 3, Chapter 2 Quotes
As these ruffians turned and turned, their matted locks now flung forward over their eyes, now flung backward over their necks, some women held wine to their mouths that they might drink; and what with dropping blood, and what with dropping wine, and what with the stream of sparks struck out of the stone, all their wicked atmosphere seemed gore and fire. The eye could not detect one creature in the group free from the smear of blood.
Related Symbols: Wine
Page Number: 31
Explanation and Analysis:

Lucie, Dr. Manette, and Mr. Lorry are gathered together, anxious about the fate of Charles in the prison of La Force. As they peer out the window of the place where they are staying, the frightening, wild nature of the revolutionaries becomes immediately clear. There is an obvious connection established here between wine and blood. Not only are the liquids physically similar, but one can lead to another: drunk on wine, the revolutionaries lose their inhibitions and are even more likely to become frenzied and violent.

The images of this passage almost suggests a vision of hell rather than of an earthly city, and indeed the book wants to stress just how "wicked" – on a spiritual, even metaphysical level – the formerly oppressed peoples have become now that they have seized power. The tragedy is that they indeed were, so recently, oppressed, and yet now in their rebellion they have become shockingly brutal tyrants themselves.


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Book 3, Chapter 15 Quotes
Along the Paris streets, the death-carts rumble, hollow and harsh. Six tumbrils carry the day's wine to La Guillotine. All the devouring and insatiate Monsters imagined since imagination could record itself, are fused in the one realisation, Guillotine. … 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.
Related Symbols: Wine, Guillotine
Page Number: 384
Explanation and Analysis:

As Sydney Carton's execution approaches, the carts are described with an allusion to the carrying of Jesus on the cross to his own crucifixion, similarly paraded through the town and subject to ridicule and condemnation. Once again, the guillotine is personified, becoming the image of pure evil itself with "insatiable" hunger for blood. And once again, wine is described in relation to blood, though here the metaphor is slightly different: "wine" for the guillotine is the bodies of people that will be killed under the guillotine's power, with which the guillotine nourishes itself.

This dark, haunting scene concludes with the suggestion that these events are not limited to one time and place alone. Any time there is boundless oppression and injustice, the passage suggests, people will rise up against it, and they will be just as susceptible to replacing injustice with injustice, oppression with oppression, in turn. While the book never excuses the revolutionaries' violence, it does place the root of the inevitable process of tyranny and revolution in the original oppression of those in power.

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Wine Symbol Timeline in A Tale of Two Cities

The timeline below shows where the symbol Wine appears in A Tale of Two Cities. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Book 1, Chapter 5
Tyranny and Revolution Theme Icon
Fate and History Theme Icon
Outside a wine shop in the poor Parisian suburb of Saint Antoine, a cask of wine accidentally falls... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 22
Tyranny and Revolution Theme Icon
Secrecy and Surveillance Theme Icon
Fate and History Theme Icon
Madame Defarge, now the leader of the female revolutionaries, sits in the wine shop with her second-in-command, a stocky woman whose violent acts have earned her the name... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 2
Tyranny and Revolution Theme Icon
...men covered in blood are turning the grindstone to sharpen swords. Frenzied, blood-smeared women pour wine into the men's mouths. The mob runs howling into the streets with their weapons. (full context)