A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens


“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way–in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”

These first lines of A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens are often quoted and when you bring the book up they come to mind. It is a historical novel that takes pace in London and Paris as the French Revolution approaches during those dark days. The story twists and turns.

The story contrasts the social and political events taking place in Paris and London and draws comparisons between the two cities in how they deal with crime, poverty, aristocratic greed and capital punishment.

The main characters are Dr. Manette, his daughter Lucie, and her eventual husband Charles Darnay. Jarvis Lorry, a banker and Sydney Carton, a lawyer's clerk. Miss Pross, a servant and Monsieur and Madame Defarge.

Love and sacrifice are interconnected themes in the book . Genuine love involves sacrifice and this is shown with Carton's sacrificing his life for his love for Lucie Manette .Another theme is resurrection and it helps the characters tie their destinies together . Sydney Carton is resurrected in spirit at the novel's close of the story. Dr. Manette is presented having a rebirth from the living death of his incarceration. Dr. Manette’s 18 years in prison is referred to by saying, "Buried how long?" The character Jerry Cruncher’s story reflects the theme being referred to as a "Resurrection Man", a person who digs up dead bodies to sell to medical men.

At the end of the novel, Sydney Carton is executed at the guillotine along with many other French prisoners. Dickens ends the novel with imagining what Carton might have said.


“A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other.”

“It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”

“You have been the last dream of my soul.”

“I wish you to know that you have been the last dream of my soul.”

“‎And yet I have had the weakness, and have still the weakness, to wish you to know with what a sudden mastery you kindled me, heap of ashes that I am, into fire.”

“A day wasted on others is not wasted on one's self”

“There is prodigious strength in sorrow and despair.”

“A dream, all a dream, that ends in nothing, and leaves the sleeper where he lay down, but I wish you to know that you inspired it.”