A Tale of Two Cities (April-November 1859)
Book One: Recalled to Life (1775, London--Dover--Saint Antoine)
Chapter 1: The Period
The opening paragraph of A Tale of Two Cities rings with much irony. Analyze Dickens's use of paradox and antithesis* and try to infer the author's attitude toward the time of the French Revolution and the 1850s.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
* What is an antithesis? Antithesis (from Greek antitheton, “opposition”) is a figure of speech in which irreconcilable opposites or strongly contrasting ideas are placed in sharp juxtaposition and sustained tension, as in the saying “Art is long, and Time is fleeting.”
Chapter 2: The Mail (the mail coach from London to Dover)
What enigmatic messages does Jerry Cruncher trade with Jarvis Lorry and vice versa? Why do they speak in codes like this?
Chapter 3: The Night Shadows (Jarvis Lorry wrestles the spectral memories: "To be buried alive for eighteen years!")
The narrator does not reveal the identities of "her" and "him" that haunt Lorry's restive reveries. Why do you think Dickens maintains the tone of mystery and suspense?
Chapter 4: The Preparation (The Royal George Hotel in Dover; Lorry and Lucie Manette)
Chapter 5: The Wine-shop
Saint Antoine, a suburb of Paris, has its cobblestones soaked in wine stain and someone writes "BLOOD" on the wall with wine dregs. What does this scene foreshadow?
What effect does the paragraph whose sentences invariably begin with "Hunger" produce?
Why do Monsieur Defarge and the other three men all share the same first name "Jacques"?
Chapter 6: The Shoemaker
What physical feature of Lucie Manette sparks a flash of recognition in the shoemaker?
Book Two: the Golden Thread (1780-1789)
Chapter 1: Five Years Later--Chapter 2: A Sight--Chapter 3: A Disappointment--Chapter 4: Congratulatory--Chapter 5: The Jackal--Chapter 6: Hundreds of People
How do these chapters foreshadow the advent of the French Revolution?
Sydney Carton is a dualistic character. How do others--especially Mr. Lorry and Mr. Stryver--characterize him? What do you think is his true character?
How does Carton take advantage of his resemblance to Charles Darnay? What does he resent about it?
Chapter 7: Monseigneur in Town
How does Dickens portray the pomp and luxury the Monseigneur of the court vaunts?
How are the executioners dressed?
How many gold coins does Monsieur the Marquis throw at the peasants on his way to the chateau? And what prompts him to do so?
Chapter 8: Monseigneur in the Country and Chapter 9: The Gorgon's Head
On his way to the country residence, the Marquis crosses his path with two commoners. Describe who they are and what interactions the Marquis has with them; afterwards, discuss what these encounters portend about the Marquis's future.
Why does Dickens employ allusions and similes involving stones in these chapters?
Who do you think killed the Marquis?
Chapter 10: Two Promises--Chapter 11: A Companion Picture--Chapter 12: The Fellow of Delicacy
What promises do Dr. Manette and Charles Darnay make to each other?
How does Darnay's approach to courtship differ from Mr. Stryver's?
Who does Mr. Sryver consult about his prospective proposal and what are the three criteria that in his mind make his "case" incontrovertible? And finally, who does Mr. Stryver refer to by "the mincing vanities and giddiness of empty-headed girl[s]"?
Chapter 13: The Fellow of No Delicacy
The so-called Lion (Mr. Stryver) unsuccessfully surveyed his marriage prospect to Lucie in Chapter 12. In this chapter, it is Sydney Carton who confides in Lucie his hopeless devotion for her. Why do you think Dickens uses ironic titles to compare these two men?
Chapter 14: The Honest Tradesman
In what ways does Jerry Cruncher supplement his meager income?
What does Young Jerry discover about the true nature of the moonlighting his "honoured parent" does?
Why does the father call his second job "fishing"?
Enumerate the Gothic elements the author employs in this chapter.
Why do you think "there was no fish for breakfast, and not much of anything else" the following day?
What does a Resurrection Man do?
Chapter 15: Knitting--Chapter 16: Still Knitting (France, the Defarges, and the League of Jacques)
What events does the road mender relay to the revolutionaries at the Defarges' wine shop?
How do the revolutionaries develop and maintain the registry of their enemies?
What figurative meanings do such words as "Lightning," "earthquake," "tiger," and "devil"--the coded language the Defarges use--signify?
What does the rose in Madame Defarge's hair communicate?
What information does John Barsad volunteer to the Defarges?
Chapter 17: One Night--Chapter 18: Nine Days
What do you think triggered the regression and relapse in Dr. Manette?
Chapter 19: An Opinion--Chapter 20: A Plea--Chapter 21: Echoing Footsteps
In what ways does Mr. Lorry persuade Dr. Manette to let go of the shoemaker's bench and the memories associated with it?
Why does Dickens juxtapose the quiet mundane life of the Darnays in England and the storming of the Bastille in France?
Chapter 22: The Sea Still Rises--Chapter 23: Fire Rises--Chapter 24; Drawn to the Loadstone Rock
What imagery does Dickens use to characterize the violent swarm of revolutionaries?
What does the loadstone rock symbolize?
What is the narrator's attitude to the French Revolution and those who carried it out?
Book 3: The Track of a Storm
Chapter 1: In Secret--Chapter 2: The Grindstone--Chapter 3: The Shadow--Chapter 4: Calm in Storm
Identify the paragraphs in which the narrator introduces La Guillotine. What literary devices are used in them and what affect do they produce?
List the external signs or changes the French Revolution has brought forth.
Chapter 5: The Wood-Sawyer--Chapter 6: Triumph
Chapter 12: Darkness
Why do you think Sydney Carton makes a visit to the Defarge wine shop?
Chapter 13: Fifty-Two
How does Carton engineer Charles Darnay's release from prison?
Chapter 14: The Knitting Done
What relevance does the title bear to the character of Madame Defarge?
What values does Miss Pross embody? In contrast, what values does Madame Defarge employ?
How does Dickens exemplify the fear and terror of the revolutionary era?
Chapter 15: The Footsteps Die Out Forever
In what ways does Carton live beyond his death? What literary devices does Dickens use to help this conclusion resonate in the reader?
What emotional affect does the dying scene of the unnamed seamstress create?
Great Expectations (1860-1861)
Read and/or listen to Great Expectations: etc.usf.edu/lit2go/140/great-expectations/