A Tale of Two Cities — Reader Q&A
"A Tale of Two Cities" Discussion Questions
How sympathetic is Dickens towards the French Revolution? Which details illustrate his revulsion or attraction to the movement? Compare the adherence to traditional gender roles by Lucie Manette and Madame Defarge. Is Dickens constrained by literary or social conventions, for example by making a manly woman the villain and a feminine woman the sentimental heroine? How does religion color the attitudes of the characters in this novel? Does the plot's reliance on fate and coincidence--including the resemblance of Carton to Darnay, the discovery of Dr.
Discuss at least one way in which Dickens parallels the personal and the political in A Tale of Two Cities. Throughout the novel, Carton struggles to free himself from a life of apathy and meaninglessness while the French lower classes fight for political emancipation. Each of these struggles involves death—Carton decides to give his life so that Charles Darnay may escape, and the revolutionaries make a spectator sport out of the execution of aristocrats. Still, each struggle holds the promise of renewed life. Here, Carton envisions a new city rising up from the ashes of the ruined Paris as clearly as he sees Lucie, Darnay, and their son celebrating and extending his life as a man of worth and honor.
Discussion Questions 1. A Tale of Two Cities opens with a passage that has become one of English literature's best known: "It was the best of times…" It is a passage well worth parsing. What does Dickens mean by setting the stage with such polarities? For whom was it the best and the worst of times? Dickens also mentions that the era about which he writes was very much "like the present period," which when he was writing meant the late s.
The novel tells the story of the years leading up to the French Revolution. Here are a few questions you can use for study groups or for your next book club meeting.
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