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A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. Love! Jealousy! Betrayal! Revenge! Violence! Murder! Sacrifice! Redemption!. (What’s not to like, eh?!) . Charles Dickens. Born February 7, 1812 in Portsmouth Married Catherine Hogarth in 1836; had 10 kids (ouch!)

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a tale of two cities by charles dickens

A Tale of Two Citiesby Charles Dickens

Love! Jealousy! Betrayal! Revenge!

Violence! Murder! Sacrifice! Redemption!

(What’s not to like, eh?!) 

charles dickens
Charles Dickens
  • Born February 7, 1812 in Portsmouth
  • Married Catherine Hogarth in 1836; had 10 kids (ouch!)
  • Legally separated in 1858 (didn’t divorce)
  • Died June 9, 1870
  • Published works include:
    • A Christmas Carol,
    • David Copperfield,
    • Oliver Twist,
    • Hard Times, and
    • Great Expectations

Let’s watch a nifty cartoon about Dickens, eh?

Dickens Cartoon

random facts
Random Facts…
  • Dickens was shocked by the rude manners of
  • Americans on his visits – he hated spitting. (Eww!)
  • He was friends with great men like Henry
  • Wadsworth Longfellow, Edgar Allan Poe, and
  • William Thackeray.
  • Myth: Dickens was paid by the word.
  • Reality:He was paid by installment! Most of Charles Dickens' novels
  • were originally published in a monthly serial format. It was only later
  • that they were released in book form.
  • He actually made his fortune through public readings of his works –
  • he was a brilliant speaker and actor.
  • He is buried in the Poet’s Corner in London’s Westminster Abbey.
england during dickens day
England during Dickens’ day…
  • The Seven Year War between France and England

ended in 1763

  • 1780s England was peaceful and prosperous
  • Political and literary radicals imported ideals of French


  • Social inequalities
  • Fear of revolution persisted in Dickens' day
  • Industrial Revolution
  • Underclass:
    • Ignored by society
    • No rights
    • Could not vote in elections
    • Could not form unions
  • Upper-class
    • Feared educating the poor
    • Liked the cheap labor

Hmmm…this is pretty much the way MOST of Europe was at this time – and the way it had been for HUNDREDS of years!

And it bloody well should be!

france during the time of the novel
France during the time of the novel…
  • Economic Issues:
    • A poor economic situation and an unmanageable national debt, both caused and exacerbated by the burden of a grossly inequitable system of taxation, the massive spending of Louis XVI, and the many wars of the 18th century
    • High unemployment and high bread prices causing more money to be spent on food and less in other areas of the economy
    • Food scarcity in the months immediately before the revolution. (Interestingly, a recent study of El Nino patterns suggests that the poor crop yields of 1788-89 in Europe resulted from an unusually strong El-Niño effect between 1789-93…Hmmm!)
france during the time of the novel1
France during the time of the novel…
  • Social and Political Issues (many of them involving resentments and aspirations given focus by the rise of Enlightenment ideals):
    • Resentment of royal absolutism
    • A resentment of noble privilege and dominance in public life by the ambitious professional classes
    • Resentment of manorialism by peasants, wage-earners, and, to a lesser extent, the bourgeoisie
    • Resentment of clerical privilege (anti-clericalism) and aspirations for freedom of religion
    • Aspirations for liberty and (especially as the revolution progressed) republicanism
the french revolution
Lasted from 1789 – 1799

King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette


1st Estate: clergy

2nd Estate: nobility

3rd Estate: everyone else!

July 14, 1789: Bastille Day

Set. 2 – 6, 1792: September Massacre

September 1793 – July 1794: The Reign of Terror

Napoleon Bonaparte

The French Revolution
a tale of two cities
A Tale of Two Cities
  • Dickens’ 12th novel
  • AToTC was published as a weekly serial in All Year Round from April 30 to November 26, 1859.
  • The novel begins in 1775…(significance anyone?! )
  • It’s set in both London and Paris, beginning in 1775 and covering a period of 18 years.
  • Dickens wrote AToTC to address contemporary social issues in England, and used the context of the French Revolution to highlight the possible consequences of class separatism and mistreatment of the poor – thus the line in the novel’s opening paragraph, “in short—the period was so far like the present period…”
things to watch for as you read
Themes (there are many!):

Resurrection / rebirth

Love and sacrifice

Justice vs. revenge

Importance of family

Struggles of the poor

Causes of revolution

Abuse of money, power, and privilege

Mob mentality

Motifs (recurring images):

Shadows / darkness

Mist / fog

Imprisonment / confinement


Doubles / duality


Secrecy / mystery

Things to watch for as you read…
things to watch for as you read1
Symbols (there are many!):

The broken wine cask

The color red




Stone / rock

Character Archetypes:

Devil figure

Christ figure

Hunting group of companions





Damsel in distress

Amazon warrior

Things to watch for as you read…

Never thought you’d see these again, did you?!



Bring your novels


highlighters / colored pens

to class tomorrow!

lettres de cachet
Lettres de cachet…
  • Lettres de cachet were letters signed by the king of France, countersigned by one of his ministers, and closed with the royal seal, or cachet. They contained orders directly from the king, often to enforce arbitrary actions and judgments that could not be appealed.
  • The best-known lettres de cachet were penal, by which a subject was sentenced without trial and without an opportunity of defense to imprisonment in a state prison or an ordinary jail, confinement in a convent or a hospital, transportation to the colonies, or expulsion to another part of the realm. The wealthy sometimes bought such lettres to dispose of unwanted individuals.
  • In this respect, the lettres de cachet were a prominent symbol of the abuses of the ancien regime, monarchy, and as such were suppressed during the French Revolution.
the bastille
The Bastille…
  • The building was made up of eight close-packed towers, around 24 m (80 feet) high, surrounding two courtyards and the armory.
  • The prisoners were held within the five- to seven-story towers, each having a room around 4.6 m (15 feet) across and containing various articles of furniture.
  • The infamous cachots—the oozing, vermin-infested subterranean cells; were no longer in use, due to the disgusting nature of the Lower cells.
  • The governor of the prison was given a daily allowance per prisoner, the amount depending on their status—from nineteen livres per diem for scientists and academics down to three for commoners.
  • In terms of standards, there were many worse prisons in France. However, in terms of popular literary accounts, the Bastille was a place of horror and oppression—a symbol of autocratic cruelty.