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A STEP BEYOND

TERM PAPER IDEAS

 

  1. Compare and contrast the doubles, Charles Darnay and Sydney Carton. In what sense do they form halves of a single personality? How are they individuals in their own right?
  2. Explore Lucie Manette's role in the novel. Include her influence on the plot, and her symbolic importance.
  3. Madame Defarge: human being, or robot of vengeance? Support your answer, considering motivation and character traits.
  4. Analyze minor characters who personify emotions and/or social classes. Include in your discussion The Vengeance, Monseigneur, and the little mender of roads/wood-sawyer.
  5. Discuss the following characters in terms of the habitual actions or occupations attributed to them: Stryver- "shouldering"; Madame Defarge- knitting; Jarvis Lorry- business. How do these actions illuminate the characters' respective personalities?
  6. Liberty, Equality, Fraternity- or Death. Time and again Dickens repeats the Revolutionary slogan. How does the theme of death figure in the novel? Discuss its influence on the plot, the number and varieties of death, and Dickens' attitude toward the subject.

  7. Examine the theme of prisons in A Tale of Two Cities. How do prisons affect the atmosphere and plot?
  8. Dickens' themes of resurrection and sacrifice are closely joined. Discuss, with particular attention to the death of Sydney Carton.
  9. At the end of the novel love conquers all. True or false? Support your answer with examples of loving characters- Lucie Manette, Sydney Carton, Miss Pross- giving their influence on the novel's outcome.
  10. The world of A Tale of Two Cities is a world of lights and darks. Identify the forces of light and dark in the story (characters, institutions, natural phenomena), and discuss their contribution to the overall atmosphere.
  11. Reality versus unreality: Dickens' characters often find it hard to distinguish between the two. List some of the images, characters, and incidents belonging to each state; discuss which is preferable- reality or unreality- and why.
  12. How does the novel's Christian imagery relate to its themes and plot? Discuss in terms of Carton's sacrifice, and Dickens' references to the "religion" of the guillotine.
  13. Nearly every character in the novel has something to hide. Name the leading secrets, and explain their influence on the story's events.
  14. Discuss Dickens' use of parallelism, citing three examples from the novel.
  15. How is mirror imagery used in the story? List three mirrors in the novel, and relate them to character and theme development.
  16. A Tale of Two Cities is weakest when theatric and melodramatic elements intrude. Support or refute, giving incidents from the story.
  17. The novel was first published in brief, weekly installments. Trace the consequences of this format on Dickens' form and style.
  18. The story is narrated almost entirely in the third person. Discuss the significance of the storyteller's occasional shifts to first person, citing two examples from the text.
  19. Explore the symbolic connection between wine and blood, with special reference to the broken wine cask at the Defarges' shop.

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