A Tale of Two Cities is a novel written in year 1859 by Charles Dickens. The novel is set around the two cities of London and Paris before the French revolution and during it. More than 200 million copies of this masterpiece of work have been sold which makes it one of the most popular fiction novels.
The plight of peasants in France, who became victims of the French aristocracy in the revolution years, the brutality faced by aristocrats from the revolutionaries and many critical social similarities with life in London at that time has been depicted in the novel.
The novel highlights the lives of several protagonists on the way while these events are taking place.
‘Recalled to Life’ is the first book of the novel which is set in the year 1775. A Tellson Bank employee, Jarvis Lorry, travels to France from England to get Dr. Alexandre Manette back to London while returning. Before crossing the French border, Lorry meets Lucie Manette, the 17-year old daughter of Dr. Manette at Dover. He tells her that her father is alive and was imprisoned at Bastille for eighteen long years. Both of them land up in suburban Paris, Saint Antoine in order to meet Monsieur Ernest Defarge and Madame Therese Defarge. Monsieur Defarge used to serve Dr. Manette before the imprisonment and he takes him to the doctor. Due to a very long time spent in prison, Dr. Manette was affected with psychosis and had developed an obsession to make shoes, an art that he learned during his prison years. Dr. Manette does not recognize even Lucie in the beginning but he remembers it later when he finds a similarity in the golden hair of Lucie and her mother and also their blue colored eyes. He then returns back to England with Lorry and Lucie.
The second book of the novel is ‘The Golden Thread’ starts with two British spies who are trying to frame a migrant from France, Charles Darnay for their benefit. Darnay is facing trial at Old Bailey for treason. In Paris, Darnay’s uncle, Marquis drives over the son of Gaspard, a peasant and throws a coin towards him as compensation. Defarge tries to comfort Gaspard and enrages Marquis by throwing the coin back. At his château, Marquis has a meeting with Charles Evrémonde, his nephew who is now called as Charles Darnay. They have an argument because Darnay is sympathetic towards peasants and Marquis is heartless and cruel. The same night, Marquis is murdered in his sleep by Gaspard. Later in London, Darnay seeks permission to marry Lucie from her father and both of them get married. On July 14th, 1789, the Defarges lead the storming of the Bastille and during the attack; Defarge enters in the former cell of Dr. Manette. He is searching something in the cell which is not revealed until the third book.
The third book is about the story which continues after that. It is called as The Track of a Storm. The book shows the arrest of Darnay for being denounced as an emigrant. The events that follow take significant turns as the situation starts getting more and more complicated. In the further stages of the book, Carton sacrifices his life in place of Darnay just because of his love for Lucie. Lucie, Darnay, their daughter and Dr. Manette all escape back to London eventually.
With an excellent plot, the flow of events and the characterization, A Tale of Two Cities has certainly amazed people all over the world. This work from Charles Dickens is indeed an all time best seller.