A Tale of Two Cities

A Tale of Two Cities

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."

Guillotine Quotes in A Tale of Two Cities

The A Tale of Two Cities quotes below all refer to the symbol of Guillotine. 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 numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin Classics edition of A Tale of Two Cities published in 2003.
Book 3, Chapter 4 Quotes
Above all, one hideous figure grew … the figure of the sharp female called La Guillotine. It was the popular theme for jests; it was the best cure for headache, it infallibly prevented the hair from turning grey, it imparted a peculiar delicacy to the complexion, it was the National Razor which shaved close: who kissed La Guillotine, looked through the little window and sneezed into the sack. It was the sign of the regeneration of the human race. It superseded the Cross. Models of it were worn on breasts from which the Cross was discarded, and it was bowed down to and believed in where the Cross was denied.
Related Symbols: Guillotine
Page Number: 283-284
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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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)