English 2ACC, Period 3
28th April 2014
Charles Dickens’ Inspirations
A popular topic during the 18th century, the French Revolution, was a period in European history that thrived on violence and economic crisis. Charles Dickens, one of the best authors known to mankind, wrote the historic fictional novel A Tale of Two Cities that soon became his most successful piece. The novel, set in the 18th century, gives readers an understanding of the lifestyles the characters lived during this era. Dickens composes the details of the scenes and characters in the novel from several different aspects. The sources of the events are influenced by the hardships of the generation at the time. Although he did not have firsthand experience with the French Revolution, Dickens compiled sources that influenced the novel based on passed down information and his unique involvement and experience with the setting.
Before writing A Tale of Two Cities, Dickens was cast to play Richard Wardour in a play by Wilkie Collins called The Frozen Deep. Dickens’ role in the play altered his life as an individual and inspired him to write what came to be known his most successful novel, A Tale of Two Cities. The different elements of Wilkie’s play allowed him to brainstorm ideas for the theme of his novel. In the play, “Dickens played the part of a man who sacrifices his own life so that his rival may have the woman they both love” (Baysal). Two men, Frank Aldersley and Richard Wardour, would compete against each other to win over their dream lady, Clara Burnham. Soon after, Burnham makes a decision on who she wanted to be with and chooses Frank Aldersley over Richard Wardour. At the end, they both are stranded, and Richard Wardour ends up saving Frank Aldersley (“Where Did Dickens Get the Idea to Write A Tale of Two Cities?"). In comparison to to the plot of A Tale of Two Cities, Dickens uses the characters Sydney Carton and Charles Darnay to portray the two characters he was familiar with before, Aldersley and Wardour in Wilkie’s play. The woman that the two men compete for, Lucie Manette, chooses Charles Darnay over Sydney Carton. Progressively, Charles Darnay is sent to jail for his father and uncle’s destructive ways. He is then sentenced to death by the well-known torturous device - the guillotine. Sydney Carton later makes a decision to switch places with Charles Darnay in regards to Lucie Manette’s decision. As the story comes to a close, Carton sacrifices his life for the peace of his family.
The elaborate details and comically long illustrations of every aspect of the atmosphere - from a simple chair to an entire city - are characteristic of Dickens' writing. Dickens’ writing is uniquely detailed and descriptive due to the personal experiences he had as he uncovered the secrets and features of Paris. “With family, [Charles Dickens] traveled to Paris in 1846 and 1855” (Charles Dickens: A Chronology of His Life). Visiting Paris with his family played a large factor in fabricating his own intricate renditions in this novel. Saint Antoine, specifically, played a great role during the revolution, serving as an area of uprising. Prior to writing the novel, Dickens roamed the streets of Saint Antoine and found inspiration in the small, poor district. “The wine was red wine, and had stained the ground of the narrow street in the suburb of Saint Antoine, in Paris, where it was spilled” (Dickens 47). His portrayal of Saint Antoine is factual and evident through his own firsthand knowledge of the quaint district.
In A Tale of Two Cities, Dickens creates an imaginary institution called Tellson's Bank. It is seen to be based on the oldest, independent private bank in England called Child and Co. Child and Co. is situated in London, located in Temple Bar on Fleet Street. It has operated from this site since the 1660s, and Dickens used the bank as his very own model for Tellson's. “Temple Bar, an archway designed by Christopher Wren, was erected