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Literature: Charles Dickens

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Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens takes place in France and England during
the troubled times of the French Revolution. There are travels by the characters
between the countries, but most of the action takes place in Paris, France. The
wineshop in Paris is the hot spot for the French revolutionists, mostly because
the wineshop owner, Ernest Defarge, and his wife, Madame Defarge, are key
leaders and officials of the revolution. Action in the book is scattered out in
many places; such as the Bastille, Tellson's Bank, the home of the Manettes, and
largely, the streets of Paris. These places help to introduce many characters
into the plot. One of the main characters, Madame Therese Defarge, is a major
antagonist who seeks revenge, being a key revolutionist. She is very stubborn
and unforgiving in her cunning scheme of revenge on the Evermonde family.
Throughout the story, she knits shrouds for the intended victims of the
revolution. Charles Darnay, one of whom Mrs. Defarge is seeking revenge, is
constantly being put on the stand and wants no part of his own lineage. He is a
languid protagonist and has a tendency to get arrested and must be bailed out
several times during the story. Dr. Alexander Manette, a veteran prisoner of the
Bastille, cannot escape the memory of being held and sometimes relapses to
cobbling shoes. Dr. Manette's daughter, Lucie Manette is loved by many and
marries Charles Darnay. One who never forgot his love for Lucie, Sydney Carton,
changed predominately during the course of the novel. Sydney, a look-alike of
Charles Darnay, was introduced as a frustrated, immature alcoholic, but in the
end, made the ultimate sacrifice for a good friend. These and other characters
help to weave an interesting and dramatic plot. Dr. Manette who has just been
released from the Bastille, and Lucie, eager to meet her father whom she thought
was dead, goes with Mr. Jarvis Lorry to bring him back to England. Dr. Manette
is in an insane state from his long prison stay and does nothing but cobble
shoes, although he is finally persuaded to go to England. Several years later,
Lucie, Dr. Manette, and Mr. Lorry are witnesses at the trial of Charles Darnay.
Darnay, earning his living as a tutor, frequently travels between England and
France and is accused of treason in his home country of France. He is saved from
being prosecuted by Sydney Carton, who a witness confuses for Darnay, thus not
making the case positive. Darnay ended up being acquitted for his presumed
crime. Darnay and Carton both fall in love with Lucie and want to marry her.
Carton, an alcoholic at the time, realizes that a relationship with Lucie is
impossible, but he still tells her that he loves her and would do anything for
her. Darnay and Lucie marry each other on the premises of the two promises
between Dr. Manette and Darnay. Right after the marriage, while the newlyweds
are on their honeymoon, Dr. Manette has a relapse and cobbles shoes for nine
days straight. France's citizens arm themselves for a revolution and, led by the
Defarges, start the revolution by raiding the Bastille. Shortly before the start
of the revolution, the Marquis runs over a child in the streets of Paris. He is
assassinated by Gaspard, the child's father, who is also a part of the
revolution. Three years later, right in the middle of the revolution, Darnay is
called to France to help Gabelle, an old friend. As soon as he goes down what
seems to be a one-way street to France, he is arrested (in France) for being an
enemy of the state. Dr. Manette, Lucie, and the Darnay's daughter go shortly
after to Paris to see if they can be of any help to Charles. When the delayed
trial finally takes place, Dr. Manette, who is in the people's favor, uses his
influence to free Charles. The same day, Charles is re-arrested on charges set
forth by the Defarges and one other mystery person. The next day, at a trial
that had absolutely no delay, Charles is convicted and sentenced to death.
Because of the despondent situation, Dr. Manette has a relapse and cobbles
shoes. Sydney Carton overhears a plot to kill Lucie, her daughter, and Dr.
Manette and has them immediately get ready to leave the country. Carton, having
spy contacts, gets into the prison in which Darnay is being held, drugs him and
switches places with him. Lucie, Charles, and their daughter successfully leave
the country. Sydney Carton, making the ultimate sacrifice, partly for Lucie,
goes to the guillotine in place of Charles. Just before he dies, Carton has a
vision in which society is greatly improved and the Darnays have a son named
after him. This dramatic plot revolves around several central themes. One theme
involves revenge. Madame Defarge is the main subject of this implicit theme. She
turns into a killing machine because she must get revenge. An example of this is
when she finds out Charles Darnay is an Evermonde and is going to marry Lucie
Manette. She knits Darnay's name into the death register. Another key theme in
the novel has to do with courage and sacrifice. There were many sacrifices in
this novel by many different characters. The ultimate sacrifice was made by
Sydney Carton. Because of his love for Lucie and his friendship with Darnay,
Carton is the example of one of the most important themes implied in this book.
Carton helps others, and does not think so much of himself. Right before going
to the guillotine, Carton sees a better world, a world where he gave to others,
not thinking of himself. These themes help outline an interesting story. I think
Dickens did a wonderful job with this story. The plots were intriguing and kept
the reader involved. The changing of scenery helped to keep the action flowing.
The feelings among the characters were very real and helped the reader get to
know the characters.
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