A saga of love, sacrifice and the French Revolution | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, September 26, 2016 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:18 AM, September 26, 2016

A saga of love, sacrifice and the French Revolution


Atale of Two Cities is one of the greatest novels by Charles Dickens (1812-1870). It tells the story of the French Revolution that had a profound influence on France and England and their capitals Paris and London respectively during 1789 to 1799. The French Revolution was carried out by the peasants and workers of France who had been suffering years after years from extreme poverty and exploitations imposed on them by the ruling authority of France. Louis XVI was the king of France during that time. The king and his associates had no compassion for the poverty-stricken masses of their country. Most of the people were hungry and penniless while the royal family and the aristocrats lived in a lot of luxuries and comfort. Class discrimination prevailed acutely all over France during that time. Finally, common French people lost their patience and revolted against the king. The revolutionaries invaded the Bastille fort on 14th July 1789, released all the prisoners and detained the king and the queen who were later on executed. They also killed many aristocratic people who were close to the king. Violence and bloodshed spread all over France which led to a reign of terror.

Charles Dickens depicted in his novel A Tale of Two Cities how the French Revolution impacted the lives of ordinary French and English citizens. This novel tells a story of love, dedication and vengeance. Doctor Manette, one of the leading characters of the novel, had been in prison for eighteen years on false charges. He had seen a heinous crime committed by two French landlords which is why he was imprisoned. Anyone who witnessed and spoke against injustice and offences in France during the rule of Louis XVI had to face similar consequences. When Doctor Manette was released from prison after eighteen years, his daughter Lucie Manette and his old friend Jarvis Lorry met him in Monsieur Defarge's house in Paris. Monsieur Defarge was Doctor Manette's clerk many years earlier. Doctor Manette was in a disoriented mental state after his release from prison. He could not recognize anyone, not even his daughter. However, Lucie Manette took Doctor Manette to her house in London. Lucie Manette lived in London because her mother was an English woman. She took care of her father Doctor Manette very affectionately and gradually cured him. Charles Darnay, a young Frenchman who belonged to a landlord's family, also moved away to England. He did not like his father and uncle because they were repressive landlords. They exploited their tenants severely. That's why Charles Darnay did not want to stay with them. He had no greed for ancestral wealth.

Charles Darnay got introduced to Doctor Manette and Lucie Manette while they were living in London. Charles Darnay fell in love with Lucie Manette in course of time. Sydney Carton, an Englishman, also came to know Doctor Manette and his daughter. He had a noteworthy facial similarity with Charles Darnay. He started to love Lucie Manette as well. Charles Darnay hailed from a wealthy French family while Sydney Carton had no significant identity. He was a very ordinary man with no remarkable job or earnings. However, Charles Darnay succeeded in his pursuit and married Lucie Manette with her and her father's consent. Sydney Carton, nevertheless, continued to love Lucie Manette and one day he promised to Lucie Manette that someday he would prove his selfless love for Lucie. Anyway, as French Revolution broke out all over France, people got hold of all the landlords of France and started killing them on guillotines. Gabelle, an old servant of Charles Darnay's family, sent a letter to Charles Darnay informing that he had been arrested by the revolutionaries. He requested Charles Darnay to come to Paris to get him out of prison. Charles Darnay left for France without informing his wife. He just left a letter at home. As soon as Charles Darnay reached Paris, he was detained by the revolutionaries as he belonged to the family of an exploitative landlord. Lucie Manette and Doctor Manette left for France too as they were highly worried about Charles Darnay's safety. Charles Darnay was thrown into prison by the revolutionaries and Doctor Manette found no way to get him liberated. A striking thing happened at that point. Sydney Carton appeared in Paris too. He came to know from Doctor Manette about Charles Darnay's arrest. He bribed the prison guard and took Charles Darnay out of prison and moved inside prison to replace Charles Darnay. Charles Darnay reunited with his family. As the novel ends, Sydney Carton gets executed by the revolutionaries. Sydney Carton sacrificed his own life to restore happiness in Lucie Manette's family. He saved Charles Darnay in exchange for his own life just to prove his selfless love for Lucie which was an act of supreme self-dedication.

A Tale of Two Cities illustrates how general people can overthrow a government if they are tormented continuously. At the same time, this novel tells a love story too with special emphasis on the sacrificial attribute of Sydney Carton's character.


The reviewer is a literary enthusiast.

Email: mhasib.chy@gmail.com

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