A tale of two cities
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A Tale of Two Cities. Charles Dickens. Born in England in 1812 to a lower-middle class family Moved at age 10 to a poor area of London because of family’s financial trouble Worked in a dirty, rat-infested shoe polish factory at age 12 after his father was imprisoned for debt

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Charles dickens
Charles Dickens

  • Born in England in 1812 to a lower-middle class family

  • Moved at age 10 to a poor area of London because of family’s financial trouble

  • Worked in a dirty, rat-infested shoe polish factory at age 12 after his father was imprisoned for debt

  • Acquired a strong sympathy for the poor which is reflected in his novels.

Hard times in london
Hard Times in London

  • In the 1850’s, England was full of social and economic inequality. The urban poor was suffering “the worst of times” while the ruling class was enjoying the “best of times”

  • Dickens feared that a revolution such as the one that shook France could not be avoided.

  • During this time, Dickens wrote A Tale of Two Cities (1859) as well as some other novels that sympathized with the lower classes.

About the novel
About the novel

  • Dickens called it, “The best story I have written”

  • stylistically different from his other novels, which feature comic characters and are set mostly in England during his own time.

  • Many of his characters in this novel are allegorical in nature, representing ideas rather than individuals.

  • A Tale of Two Cities is one of his two historical novels.

  • Like most of his novels, it was published serially, in two-chapter monthly magazine installments, and later as a complete book. Why might this be advantageous to an author?

  • A Tale of Two Citiesis his twelfth novel of fifteen. Great Expectations was written only a year later.

Time and place of a tale of two cities
Time and Place of A Tale of Two Cities

  • The action takes place over a period of eighteen years, from 1775 (about ten years before the Revolution) to 1793 (height of Revolution), some of which takes place as a flashback.

  • Novel is set mostly in London and Paris (the “two cities”).

  • For the historical background, Dickens relied on The French Revolution, a History (1837) written by his friend Thomas Carlyle.


  • The balance of two or more words, phrases, or clauses in grammatically similar ways. This shows that each element of the sentence has the same importance.

    EX: “We came, we saw, we conquered.”

    “We like hiking, swimming, and biking.”


  • A statement or group of statements that seems contradictory but could be analyzed as having some truth.

    • He hears but does not listen

    • Under the surface he is very shallow

    • The more you know, the more you realize how little you know.

    • The truth is, I lie all the time.

    • There is a method to his madness

    • “Someday you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again” ~C.S. Lewis

    • “What a pity that youth must be wasted on the young.” ~George Bernard Shaw


  • Contrast of ideas in balanced or parallel structure

    • Love is an ideal thing; marriage is a real thing.

    • You’re easy on the eyes; hard on the heart.

    • “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” ~Martin Luther King Jr.

    • “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” ~Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities


  • Contrasting scenes, ideas, or items placed close together for the purpose of contrast and/or emotional effect.

    • Ex: A love song playing during violent war scenes in a movie

    • A sweet, high-pitched voice juxtaposed with hard, heavy metal rock music

    • Romeo’s death juxtaposed with Juliet’s awakening


  • The repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of successive phrases, clauses, or lines.

“We shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills. We shall never surrender.” ~Winston Churchill