Dickens never employed greater skill or more consummate craftsmanship on any other of his works than he did on A Tale of Two Cities, his magnificent historical novel set during the turbulent era marking the end of Louis XVI's reign.
His passionate portrayal of the lives of two groups, one English, one French, caught up in the net of revolutionary intrigue and cruelty, has never been equalled. The novel depicts the plight of the French peasantry demoralized by the French aristocracy in the decade prior to the revolution, the corresponding brutality demonstrated by the revolutionaries toward the former aristocrats in the early years of the revolution, and many unflattering social parallels with life in London during the same time period. It follows the lives of several protagonists through these events. The most notable are Charles Darnay and Sydney Carton. Darnay is a French ex-aristocrat who falls victim to the indiscriminate wrath of the revolution despite his virtuous nature, and Carton is a dissipated British barrister who endeavours to redeem his ill-spent life out of his unrequited love for Darnay's wife, Lucie Manette.Written in 1859, the novel is a tale of renunciation and resurrection created at a point of crisis in Dickens' personal life. The title suggests the basic dichotomy of the story: the choice of attempting to change society or the more difficult choice of attempting to change one's self...the choice between revolution or evolution. In Sydney Carton, Dickens created the perfect protagonist for his thesis.
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