A Tale of Two Cities
Charles Dickens
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Introduction
Background
Discussion Starters
A Tale of Two Cities
Charles Dickens
A Tale of Two Cities: Introduction
Did you ever wonder if a person’s fortune is
carved in stone
or if an individual can
reach out and change
destiny?
A Tale of Two Cities: Introduction
In A Tale of Two Cities, entire populations are
asking these questions.
Especially in France, where in the late
1780s the rich live in luxury
while the poor run out of bread.
A Tale of Two Cities: Introduction
Those who try to act against the rich in any
way can be punished horribly.
When Doctor Manette tries to reveal a noble
family’s crimes, he is locked in prison, as if
“buried alive for eighteen years!”
A Tale of Two Cities: Introduction
Dr. Manette is finally freed and taken to
London.
But the “best of times”
and the “worst of times” prevail in both
cities. Villains and heroes, hope and
despair reside in both places.
A Tale of Two Cities: Introduction
In a British court of law, an innocent man is
falsely accused…
The cynical lawyer
Sydney Carton is bored
by the corrupt case
brought against
Charles Darnay . . .
Until . . .
A Tale of Two Cities: Introduction
he notices Doctor Manette, the
striking old gentleman willing
to vouch for Darnay’s
character.
And when Sydney Carton first lays eyes on the
doctor’s daughter, Lucie Manette, the lawyer
forgets that he was ever uninspired.
A Tale of Two Cities: Introduction
A revolution of the heart takes place.
Can Sydney Carton grow worthy of anyone’s love?
Can he free himself from the prison of his own
weaknesses?
A Tale of Two Cities: Introduction
A pitiless system of justice and a corrupt
government may eventually be overthrown.
But how much courage does it take
for an individual to retrieve integrity,
for a cynical man like Sydney Carton
to regain his honor?
A Tale of Two Cities: Background
Separated by the English channel, London and
Paris (the capital of France) are around 210
miles away from one another.
A Tale of Two Cities: Background
But, in the 1780s,
differences in culture and
language make Londoners
and Parisians regard each
other with suspicion and
hostility.
A Tale of Two Cities: Background
In the 1780s, the British aristocracy had begun
to share power with the middle class,
but the French
aristocracy of the time
allowed the common
people almost no input
in their government.
A Tale of Two Cities: Background
In France, three percent of the population, the
aristocracy and the clergy, control the other
ninety-seven percent.
Living in elegance,
the monarchy and
aristocracy
declared
themselves exempt
from taxation.
A Tale of Two Cities: Background
In contrast, the general population was
beset by impossible taxes and rising
prices, and often could not afford to
buy bread.
In the rough Saint
Antoine streets, Dickens
says, “Hunger. It was
prevalent everywhere.
Hunger.”
A Tale of Two Cities: Background
When starving citizens gathered to beg for
help from their government,
Queen Marie Antoinette
may not have really
answered “Let them eat
cake,”
but she and King Louis
XVI did nothing to help
them.
A Tale of Two Cities: Background
The fourteenth day of July 1789 was the
onset of a revolution that shook all Europe.
The storming of the Bastille
(a prison-fortress) and
the eventual capture of
the king and queen in
their quarters at
Versailles
Brought the french monarchy
in France to an end.
A Tale of Two Cities: Background
The French Revolution is known as one of
the most cruel in history.
• The aristocracy most directly responsible for the
suffering of the people were beheaded.
• But many of the over
40,000 people eventually
guillotined during the
Reign of Terror were
entirely innocent of the
charges against them.
A Tale of Two Cities: Discussion Starters
Discuss (1)
Throughout history, shifts in personal
circumstances and shifts in political power affect
the individual.
• Which do you think affects a person’s
happiness more, personal circumstances or the
larger world?
• How might the larger world affect a person’s
circumstances?
A Tale of Two Cities: Discussion Starters
Discuss (2)
Sacrifice is an important theme in A Tale of Two
Cities.
•What things, small or large, do family members
and friends often give up for each other?
•Is it possible to value another person’s
happiness more than your own?
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