A Tale of Two Cities

A Tale of Two Cities

Tyranny and Revolution Theme Analysis

Themes and Colors
Tyranny and Revolution Theme Icon
Secrecy and Surveillance Theme Icon
Fate and History Theme Icon
Sacrifice Theme Icon
Resurrection Theme Icon
Imprisonment Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in A Tale of Two Cities, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Tyranny and Revolution Theme Icon

Much of the action of A Tale of Two Cities takes place in Paris during the French Revolution, which began in 1789. In A Tale of Two Cities, Dickens shows how the tyranny of the French aristocracy—high taxes, unjust laws, and a complete disregard for the well-being of the poor—fed a rage among the commoners that eventually erupted in revolution. Dickens depicts this process most clearly through his portrayal of the decadent Marquis St. Evrémonde and the Marquis' cruel treatment of the commoners who live in the region under his control.

However, while the French commoners' reasons for revolting were entirely understandable, and the French Revolution was widely praised for its stated ideals of "Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity," Dickens takes a more pessimistic view. By showing how the revolutionaries use oppression and violence to further their own selfish and bloodthirsty ends, in A Tale of Two Cities Dickens suggests that whoever is in power, nobles or commoners, will fall prey to the temptation to exercise their full power. In other words, Dickens shows that while tyranny will inevitably lead to revolution, revolution will lead just as inevitably to tyranny. The only way to break this cycle is through the application of justice and mercy.

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Tyranny and Revolution Quotes in A Tale of Two Cities

Below you will find the important quotes in A Tale of Two Cities related to the theme of Tyranny and Revolution.
Book 1, Chapter 5 Quotes
The children had ancient faces and grave voices; and upon them, and upon the grown faces, and ploughed into every furrow of age and coming up afresh, was the sign, Hunger. It was prevalent everywhere. Hunger was pushed out of the tall houses, in the wretched clothing that hung upon poles and lines; Hunger was patched into them with straw and rag and wood and paper; Hunger was repeated in every fragment of the small modicum of firewood that the man sawed off; Hunger stared down from the smokeless chimneys, and started up from the filthy street that had no offal, among its refuse, of anything to eat. Hunger was the inscription on the baker's shelves, written in every small loaf of his scanty stock of bad bread; at the sausage-shop, in every dead-dog preparation that was offered for sale.
Page Number: 32-33
Explanation and Analysis:

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Book 2, Chapter 8 Quotes
Expressive signs of what made them poor, were not wanting; the tax for the state, the tax for the church, the tax for the lord, tax local and tax general, were to be paid here and to be paid there, according to solemn inscription in the little village, until the wonder was, that there was any village left unswallowed.
Page Number: 119
Explanation and Analysis:

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Book 2, Chapter 9 Quotes
"Repression is the only lasting philosophy. The dark deference of fear and slavery, my friend," observed the Marquis, "will keep the dogs obedient to the whip, as long as this roof," looking up to it, "shuts out the sky."
Related Characters: Marquis St. Evrémonde (speaker), Charles Darnay (a.k.a. Charles Evrémonde)
Page Number: 128
Explanation and Analysis:

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Book 2, Chapter 16 Quotes
Another darkness was closing in as surely, when the church bells, then ringing pleasantly in many an airy steeple over France, should be melted into thundering cannon; when the military drums should be beating to drown a wretched voice, that night all potent as the voice of Power and Plenty, Freedom and Life. So much was closing in about the women who sat knitting, knitting, that they their very selves were closing in around a structure yet unbuilt, where they were to sit knitting, knitting, counting dropping heads.
Related Symbols: Knitting and the Golden Thread
Page Number: 193-194
Explanation and Analysis:

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Book 2, Chapter 21 Quotes
The sea of black and threatening waters, and of destructive upheaving of wave against wave, whose depths were yet unfathomed and whose forces were yet unknown. The remorseless sea of turbulently swaying shapes, voices of vengeance, and faces hardened in the furnaces of suffering until the touch of pity could make no mark on them.
Page Number: 229
Explanation and Analysis:

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Book 2, Chapter 23 Quotes
With the rising and falling of the blaze, the stone faces showed as if they were in torment. When great masses of stone and timber fell, the face with the two dints in the nose became obscured: anon struggled out of the smoke again, as if it were the face of the cruel Marquis, burning at the stake and contending with the fire.
Related Characters: Marquis St. Evrémonde
Page Number: 241
Explanation and Analysis:

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Book 2, Chapter 24 Quotes
Like the mariner in the old story, the winds and streams had driven him within the influence of the Loadstone Rock, and it was drawing him to itself, and he must go. Everything that arose before his mind drifted him on, faster and faster, more and more steadily, to the terrible attraction. His latent uneasiness had been … that he who could not fail to know that he was better than they, was not there, trying to do something to stay bloodshed, and assert the claims of mercy and humanity.
Related Characters: Charles Darnay (a.k.a. Charles Evrémonde)
Page Number: 252
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.

Book 3, Chapter 1 Quotes
Not a mean village closed upon him, not a common barrier dropped across the road behind him, but he knew it to be another iron door in the series that was barred between him and England. The universal watchfulness so encompassed him, that if he had been taken in a net, or were being forwarded to his destination in a cage, he could not have felt his freedom more completely gone.
Related Characters: Charles Darnay (a.k.a. Charles Evrémonde)
Page Number: 255
Explanation and Analysis:

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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:

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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 6 Quotes
Looking at the Jury and the turbulent audience, he might have thought that the usual order of things was reversed, and that the felons were trying the honest men.
Related Characters: Charles Darnay (a.k.a. Charles Evrémonde)
Page Number: 292
Explanation and Analysis:

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Book 3, Chapter 9 Quotes
Before that unjust Tribunal, there was little or no order of procedure, ensuring to any accused person any reasonable hearing. There could have been no such Revolution, if all laws, forms, and ceremonies, had not first been so monstrously abused, that the suicidal vengeance of the Revolution was to scatter them all to the winds.
Page Number: 327
Explanation and Analysis:

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Book 3, Chapter 10 Quotes
The boy's eyes, which had been fixed on mine, slowly turned to the looker-on, and I saw in the two faces that all he said was true. The two opposing kinds of pride confronting one another, I can see, even in this Bastille; the gentleman's, all negligent indifference; the peasants, all trodden-down sentiment, and passionate revenge.
Related Characters: Dr. Alexandre Manette (speaker), Marquis St. Evrémonde
Page Number: 337
Explanation and Analysis:
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Book 3, Chapter 14 Quotes
There were many women at that time, upon whom the time laid a dreadfully disfiguring hand; but, there was not one among them more to be dreaded than this ruthless woman, now taking her way along the streets … imbued from her childhood with a brooding sense of wrong, and an inveterate hatred of a class, opportunity had developed her into a tigress. She was absolutely without pity.
Related Characters: The Vengeance
Page Number: 375
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.