A Tale of Two Cities

IRP by Chris Capezzuto

Similarities and differences between the movie and book: Themes, Conflicts, Settings, and more

In the beginning of the movie, it begins with a scene where Marquis St. Evremonde chucks a coin at Caspard, a peasant, as compensation for accidently killing his baby with his carriage; the then famous opening words are spoken "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times". In the book, this scene does not appear until "Book 2"; however, the director (Ralph Thomas) may have chosen to start with this scene as a visual example of how hard it was during the era of the French Revolution using characters that would later become essential to the development of the plot. In this same scene in the book, a coin that is tossed on the ground by Marquis St. Evremonde is thrown back at his carriage as he rides away by an unknown hand (possibly Madame Defarge). However, in the movie, it is clearly portrayed that Monsieur Defarge is the one who throws the coin at the carriage. The director may have changed this because of the ambiguity of the coin thrower in the book.


Similarities and differences between the movie and book: Themes, Conflicts, Settings, and more

When Gaspard is finally caught for killing Marquis St. Evremonde, he is hung infront of a crowd by a fountain. In both the movie and the book, the essence of the main themes of the book are shown here, namely those of water, time, and the ferocious nature of the mob. Gaspard is killed over a fountain, as his son was; this will inspire the revolutionaries to create their own sea and reach out for fountains of blood. Water is used in both the movie and book as a symbol for the growing rage of the peasant crowd. Although in the movie Gaspard is not hanged over a fountain, in the book he is, being described as being hanged there "forty feet high—and is left hanging, poisoning the water". The poisoning of the water of the fountain represents the bitter impact of Gaspard's execution on the collective feeling of the peasant crowd, who is getting increasingly unhappy with the times. By this removal of the true impact of Gaspard's death in the movie (choosing not to include a fountain in the scene for water), it affects the overall meaning of the play because such a vital representation of increasing hostilities of the peasants is not as accurately displayed in the movie as the book, so the development of the plot is hindered.


Similarities and differences between the movie and book: Themes, Conflicts, Settings, and more

In the very last scene of the book, Sydney Carton is executed in place of Charles Darnay so that Darnay, Lucie, and little Lucie (their daughter) can live a life of peace. In the movie, the relationship that is quickly developed by Carton and the other woman who is sentenced to the guillotine is not as fully developed as it is in the book; in the movie, the two hardly talk, and the only reason you would know that they knew each other is when she kissed Carton on the cheek before she is killed. In the book, Carton helps comfort her by assuring her that Heaven is much better than earth, and that there is no time or pain there. This scene in the book is important to the meaning because it helps the reader see how Carton has changed, and how he is a "resurrected" man (which is a huge theme in this book) by honestly wanting to comfort this doomed girl in their final hour. Although that scene was cut out in the movie, the overall theme of resurrection is still shown in this scene. Sydney Carton's martyrdom atones for all his past wrongdoings. Carton's self reflecting line of "It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known" that are his last words in both the movie and the book truly show his resurrection as a person and how he is also helping Darnay resurrect a new man as well (they are killing Evremonde, he is safe under the name Darnay). Although Carton does not get to live to see this, he is resurrected in a sense when Darnay and Lucie name their son after him and becomes a successful lawyer who helps redeem his name in the world, and who also in turn names his son after him. The meaning of the work is accurately resembled by this portrayal of the theme in both the movie and the book, and in the ways listed above are the key similarities and differences which affect meaning.