Tale of Two Cities Essay

Submitted By lucas-azcarraga
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Pages: 6

Lucas Azcárraga
Mr. Jowers
Honors English/ 2°
4 November 2012
Love and Violence in Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities
The French Revolution began due to the huge amount of pressure put upon the Third Estate in the latter 18th century. Their first act of rebellion was gathering mobs of their fellow man to protest and overthrow the higher nobility classes. In Charles Dickens’ historical fiction novel, A Tale of Two Cities, the author delivers many examples of the mobs brutal behavior and self-destructive nature during the French Revolution; Dickens’ tone suggests that the violence of the Revolution is unnecessary. Dickens is Pro-Revolution, but he uses the examples of never-ending destruction to prove that the mob’s tactics only lead to chaos. Dickens contrasts the mob’s hatred and violent means to the rejuvenating power of love by his use of tone and diction, along with developing characters and groups that mirror these ideals to prove a bloody Revolution will not create a stable Republic. Dickens presents the mobs in a negative light, for he believes they are a savage subset of society. One of the first mobs to appear in the novel is in London following a funeral of a spy known as Roger Cly. On its way to the graveyard, a mob forms from funeral goers and hooligans. Several men in the crowd have no idea who this funeral is for and just go along with the chaos. These ‘rebels without a cause’ mobs are regarded with fright by the towns people. They would “hurriedly shut up their shops; for a crowd in those times stopped at nothing, and was a monster much dreaded” (162). The mobs are not terribly violent, but were looked down upon by the people for their crude actions and lack of cause or goal. Dickens’ tone is this passage is a tool to display his disdain for violence by mobs. Revolutionaries like these thought they could change the nation through violence. However, by emphasizing the fear of the towns people, he presents his view that violence makes victims of the rich and poor alike. The French Revolution showed that real accomplishments were made not with violence, but when the Third Estate separated themselves from the National Assembly and began forming a Republic that represented all men. Another far more radical mob scene takes place in Paris later in the novel. This mob storms the Bastille in an attempt to gain arms, and brutally murders several men. As Dickens epically depicts it, Madame Defarge, “with her cruel knife ̶ long ready ̶ hewed off his head” (229). The man killed was a general, helpless against the overwhelming numbers of the mob attackers. Dickens uses his powerful tone to examine Defarges’ vengeful nature and the outcomes from this revenge driving her to kill. Later, a similar mob attacks Foulon, a man previously believed to be dead, who told the poor people to eat grass if they were hungry. Once again, Defarge leads the mob to capture the man, hang him, and then place his head on a spit with a mouth full of grass. These are examples of excessive and unnecessary violence by a vengeful mob. These events occur sequentially and are clear evidence that the mobs will only achieve more violence every time they attack. Even though the storming of The Bastille becomes a symbol for the Revolution, and men loyal to the king were killed, it sent the common people into a state of turmoil because many people prepared themselves for an outburst of retaliation from King Louis XVI. Dickens uses these immoral acts to exemplify the ill necessity of destruction during this much needed revolt. The theme of love that has the power to rescue people from their worst emotional downfalls is used to foil the revenge and hatred felt by the Revolutionaries. This is exemplified by many of the actions of Lucie Manette towards her father, and Sydney Carton’s sacrifices for Lucie. Alexander Manette, Lucie’s father, was a prisoner at the Bastille for over 18 years. When he finally is released, Lucie comes to find him. When they meet