Notes on A Tale of Two Cities Themes

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A Tale of Two Cities Topic Tracking: Oppression/Class Struggle

Book 1, Chapter 1

Oppression/Class Struggle 1: In France, the ruling class of aristocrats has oppressed the people for so long that many are starving. The peasants are treated cruelly by the corrupt ruling class, which lives in lavish opulence. In England, an aristocracy also rules, and the harsh punishments meted out are a measure of the government's oppression of its people. Both countries are reaping what they have sowed, as a band of revolutionaries in each country is resorting to violence to overthrow the ruling classes.

Book 1, Chapter 5

Oppression/Class Struggle 2: The peasants are so hungry and thirsty that they have resorted to scooping wine out of the dirt; the scene illustrates how dire is their situation.

Book 1, Chapter 7

Oppression/Class Struggle 3: Monseigneur, a member of the corrupt aristocracy, is so depraved as to blame the boy's death on the peasants themselves, rather than his driver's irresponsibility. The scene highlights how cruel and utterly lacking in mercy the rulers of France have become.

Book 2, Chapter 9

Oppression/Class Struggle 4: Monseigneur's cruel philosophy illustrates the mindset that has crept into the most privileged class and demonstrates how power can corrupt. The contrast between his philosophy and his nephew's beliefs further underscores the suffering of the masses.

Oppression/Class Struggle 5: The tables have turned; the murder of Monseigneur is the turning point in the book where the oppressed become the oppressors.

Book 2, Chapter 15

Oppression/Class Struggle 6: Defarge's insistence that the entire ruling class be destroyed illustrates how members of his class have become so fed up with being oppressed at the hands of the aristocracy that they will stop at nothing to gain their freedom. They are so bitter, however, that their rage has turned murderous.

Book 2, Chapter 21

Oppression/Class Struggle 7: The rebels have taken on the characteristics of their long-time oppressors, threatening to murder members of the ruling class who don't obey their orders.

Book 2, Chapter 22

Oppression/Class Struggle 8: Here, the oppressed are remembering the particularly cruel and inhumane treatment they received at the hands of Foulon, and they are vowing to avenge their dead and suffering relatives by murdering him. This is another turning point signifying the change that is taking place in the peasant class.

Book 2, Chapter 23

Oppression/Class Struggle 9: The change is complete: Save for their outward appearances and other symbols of their low caste, the peasants have fully come to resemble the ruling class they sought to overthrow in their barbarity and murderous rage.

Book 2, Chapter 24

Oppression/Class Struggle 10: Dickens is referring to "Monseigneur" in the metaphorical sense; he is using the man's name to refer to the entire class. When he says, "Monseigneur was by this time scattered far and wide," he means that the ruling class has been overthrown completely--another sign that the once-oppressed are now oppressing.

Book 3, Chapter 2

Oppression/Class Struggle 11: By now, the peasants have completely lost sight of any compassion or objectivity and are now murdering prisoners without giving them fair trials. They have become so obsessed with overthrowing the old powers that they are now slaughtering innocents, exactly as their oppressors had done.

Book 3, Chapter 3

Oppression/Class Struggle 12: Here, Madame Defarge demonstrates the "eye for an eye" philosophy that makes the once-oppressed peasants so cruel and unsympathetic.

Book 3, Chapter 4

Oppression/Class Struggle 13: The peasants who have revolted are refusing to grant Charles immunity, despite the doctor's influence, because he represents the class that oppressed them for so long.

Book 3, Chapter 5

Oppression/Class Struggle 14: The mender of roads, once cursed by Monseigneur, has become utterly depraved and cruel, and he is another example of how power corrupts.

Book 3, Chapter 10

Oppression/Class Struggle 15: Dr. Manette is deeply shaken by what he has seen. The incident that he describes in his letter is a pivotal point in the book and explains a great deal of where Madame Defarge's own cruelty derives from.

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