A Tale of Two Cities Charles Dickens Menu 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?