A Tale of Two Cities


Charles Dickens

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A Tale of Two Cities: Style 1 key example

Explanation and Analysis:

Dickens’s novels all share elements of his distinctive style. A Dickens novel is typically long, with an intricate plot and a large cast of idiosyncratic characters. His stories often involve secret identities, mysterious hidden backstories, and unlikely coincidences. In a letter to writer Wilkie Collins, Dickens expressed his belief that a novel’s plot should mimic the machinations of divine Providence, which may explain why his works sometimes feel contrived or over-determined.

Dickens frequently reuses certain character types in his works—the perfect housewife, the dissipated hero, the con artist, the fallen woman—and many of these tropes are present in A Tale of Two Cities. Furthermore, he often sets up rivalries or parallels between pairs of characters, like Sydney Carton and Charles Darnay. Carton and Darnay look exactly alike and are both in love with Lucie. These character pairs are known as “Dickensian doubles.”

Though Dickens does not side with the revolutionaries in A Tale of Two Cities, his personal experiences with poverty make him sensitive to class-based oppression. During his childhood, his father spent time in debtors’ prison and he was forced to work in a factory. Dickens’s novels often satirize the excesses of the rich and incite sympathy for the struggles of the poor.