Significance of the title A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

A Tale of Two Cities” is a historical novel written by one of the famous novelists of Victorian era Charles Dickens and it was published in 1859. The title “A Tale of Two Cities” is figurative and notable as the work narrates the events happening around London and Paris, adjacent to the backdrop of the French Revolution.

Charles Dickens has delicately balanced the incidents of the two cities. Whatever transpires in London influences whatever transpires in Paris and vice-versa. Dickens wished his reader to build a relationship between the incidents in Paris and the situation in London. 

The importance of Doubles in “The Tale of Two Cities” 

A Tale of Two Cities’ starting lines “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness,..” (A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens) straight away set up the importance of doubles in the novel. The novel’s story splits up between two cities, London and Paris. Dickens delineates several characters as doubles. The two leading women in the novel are at odds with each other: Lucie is as adoring and caring as Madame Defarge is bitter and spiteful. Dickens then utilizes this difference to pass judgments. Therefore, for instance, Lucie’s affection brings about her father’s inner change justifying the possibility of resurrection. The hatred of Madame Defarge only spread limitless barbarity and cruelty.

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Charles Dickens uses his doubling technique not only to show adversities, but also to disclose invisible likeness. Sidney Carton, for instance, at first appears a foil to Darney. But when the novel ends, readers don’t see Sydney Carton as Darney’s foil but as a hero whose virtue equivalents or as it happens transcends that of the respected Darnay. While Carton’s and Darnay’s physical similarity at first aids only to emphasize Sidney Carton’s worthlessness to Charles Darney, it eventually sets up Carton’s highly self-uplifting action, permitting him to fake himself as the convicted Darnay and perish in his place. 

The characters and the two cities:

In the novel, Dickens constantly juxtaposes characters in clear terms: if one appears virtuous, then the other will be savage and despicable. As we have already described, the two leading female characters in the novel: Madame Defarge and Lucie are at odds with each other.  

The Characters of the novel “A Tale of Two Cities” are connected to each other through the two cities. Dr. Mannete is confined in France for 18 years, for supporting the meager and the truth. Rehabilitation is only viable in England. After being confined in jail for 18 years in France, later Dr. Mannete goes to England where he finds peace. In the same way, Charles Everemonde also abandoned his native France, for England, where he obtained peace of mind.

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After the marriage of Lucie and Charles, Lucie, Charles, and Dr. Manette live in England but they are forced by destiny to make a move to Paris, where cruelty and barbarity engrossed them.  Whatever incidents transpire in France influences the lives of the characters in England. So, the Revolution, cruelty, and barbarity have mercy on none, not even England and its people. 

London and Paris as characters:

In the beginning, Dickens demonstrates London and Paris as two identities. The two cities are being conducted poorly. Deaths, robberies, greed, and religious discrimination are regular in London. The hangman is also busy hanging murderers and other criminals. In the same way, Paris is also in dire condition. Aristocrats exploit and oppress the masses in every corner of the city. The monarchy at that time was evenly rotten. Hunger was everywhere around the city and the overflowing wine is emblematic of the bloodshed and killing of the French Revolution. 

Two Cities as symbols:

We can also differentiate France and England in another way. While all the French characters such as Defarge, Marquis Evremonde, and Madame Defarge in the novel symbolize hatred, all the English characters like Sidney Carton, Lucie, Dr. Manette symbolizes love. The opening actions of the novel motivate us to view London as a better place than its neighbor Paris. Lucie who lives in London rescues her father from Paris and announces that the best treatment for him is to take him home. Charles Dickens links London with the Darnays – an honest and ethical, joyful married couple – on the other hand, Dickens frequently relates Paris to the Defarges – a vicious couple who doubt each other.  But as the novel progresses, the disparities between the two cities start to crumble. Dickens states that London has, in the recent past, had a wave of violation and executions. So London is no longer the London where there was peace and tranquility. However, Sidney Carton, an Englishman, sacrificed himself in Paris for her love Lucie. So eventually, love wins through the course of redemption, be it in England or in France. 


Hence Charles Dickens presents the two cities London and Paris side by side in the entire novel. In Book One, the action of the novel shifts from France to England, and in Book Two, the action of the novel consistently shifts between the two. And in Book Three, all the characters and the actions of the two cities merged together. So, in the end, we can say that Dickens has linked and merged the two cities by contrasting and comparing the actions and the characters of the two cities. The title of the novel is particularly significant and figurative because the two cities symbolize totality and humankind in general.

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