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Free Barron's Booknotes-A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens-Summary
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A Tale of Two Cities ... was a sacrifice of all his [Dickens'] greatest gifts; and in my opinion it shows that those gifts-of fantastic speech, of animistic description, of deeply absorbed symbolic overtones-are essential to the success of his action.

Angus Wilson, The World of Charles Dickens, 1970


The one thing that everyone who has read A Tale of Two Cities remembers is the Reign of Terror. The whole book is dominated by the guillotine-tumbrils thundering to and fro, bloody knives, heads bouncing into the basket, and sinister old women knitting as they watch.

...To this day, to the average Englishman, the French Revolution means no more than a pyramid of severed heads. It is a strange thing that Dickens, much more in sympathy with the ideas of the Revolution than most Englishmen of his time, should have played a part in creating this impression.

George Orwell, "Charles Dickens," 1940


Of all the figures in the book Sydney Carton is the one who comes nearest to being deeply realized and the one with whom Dickens identified himself most closely.

Edgar Johnson, Charles Dickens, His Tragedy and Triumph, 1952

Each of the three men grouped about Lucie Manette is "recalled to life." Her father regains his, on release from the Bastille; her husband's life is restored by his deliverance from La Force; and Carton finds his by seeking to lose it.

K. J. Fielding, "Separation-and A Tale of Two Cities," 1964

Madame Defarge is the ultimate personification of the revolution in A Tale of Two Cities , and she is a being whom the uncontrolled desire for revenge has turned into a monster of pure evil. The final struggle between her and Miss Pross is a contest between the forces of hatred and of love.

George Woodcock, Introduction to the Penguin edition of A Tale of Two Cities, 1970

If A Tale of Two Cities is the story of an innocent bourgeois doctor imprisoned by an unscrupulous elite, it is also the story of the responsible young aristocrat who disinherits himself out of disgust at his own class and tries to atone by a life of hard work. When we see Darnay as the representative of a class that needs to atone an historical culpability, he acquires new interest and depth.

Geoffrey Thurley, The Dickens Myth: Its Genesis and Structure, 1976


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