A Tale of Two Cities-Jails Essay

Submitted By claradnguyen
Words: 1929
Pages: 8

Clara Nguyen
Mrs. Brothwell
English II H: Period 1
11 April 2014
A Monopoly Game Made The most dreaded phrase of the popular board game "Monopoly" reads, Go directly to jail. Do not pass GO. Do not collect $200. By chance, circumstance, or bad timing, anyone may end up in jail. Release from incarceration requires much more than doubles on a roll of dice or a payment of $50 after three failed attempts. Unlike a board game, the prison system provides confinement for the unstable, rehabilitation for the insecure, and punishment for the miscreants; when abused, chaos in society ensues. In his historical fiction novel, A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens reveals the imprisonment the French people experienced during the revolution. Amidst literal captivity is metaphorical captivity as well. Through the prisons of time, situation, and love, Dickens describes the imprisonment of his characters as a parallel not only to warn his fellows Britons, but to warn all people against locking their lives away. The key to release is as simple as a love for life and a desire to live on--to leave a legacy. Dickens proves time as a prison that captures all of its victims in a different way. Many of the characters between Britain and France have one commonality: their past. By coincidence, the characters' paths intertwined prior to settling in their present states and create a blindness to their current lives. Dr. Manette meets his daughter Lucie in a state much more fragile and unstable than a father should be in for his child. "The task of recalling him from the vacancy" (Dickens 42) is left to Lucie to resolve. Although free for the first time in eighteen years, he is not yet free from his past. "As a captive of many years," (Dickens 43) Dr. Manette remains scarred from his experiences in the Bastille. Lucie, "the golden thread that united him to a Past beyond his misery, and to a Present beyond his misery," (Dickens 80) brings hope and light back to her father, but Manette ultimately releases himself. After using his influence over the mob of Paris to free Lucie's husband, Charles Darnay, from La Force prison, he "[felt] happy in the return he made [Lucie], he was recompensed for his suffering, he was proud of his strength" (Dickens 292). Dr. Manette reaches liberation when he finds a reason to live and leaves his legacy with his daughter and her family. In contrast, Madame Defarge never escapes her prison of the past. Portrayed as a quiet housewife until the outbreak of the revolution, she knits the names of the condemned on her registry. Filled with vengeance and hate, Madame Defarge cannot let go of the history her family has with the Evrémondes. Her lust for revenge, "not easily purified once stained red," (Dickens 223), takes over her life. The "deadly nature of her wrath" continues to corrupt her and her motives for bringing revolution to France. Because she cannot move on from the wrongdoings of her past, she only leaves a legacy of blood and cruelty, as reflected in the revolution. Madame Defarge unintentionally sacrifices her life in her showdown with Miss Pross, and the violence of the revolution draws to an end. In the same way she "doomed to destruction and extermination" the lives of the aristocracy, Defarge condemns herself to brutal death at the hands of the revolution. Dr. Manette and Madame Defarge serve as a parallel to Britain and France. Literary critic Robert Alter identifies the "pitiless French savagery and staunch English humanity...[as a battle between] Darkness and Light, evil and good, the power of hate and love" (Alter 18). Both the characters and both the countries have internal problems they must face, though one prospers and the other falls to tyranny. Good leads to triumph, whereas evil leads to oppression, no matter who is in power. Dickens attempts to warn his fellow Britons to overcome their political and social problems before they turn out like the French people. Freedom from the past provides a