A Tale of Two Cities

Charles Dickens

Ashley Quiring


The book begins in 1775 and ends in 1793. It encompasses the French Revolution.

As its title suggests, the book takes place in two cities and their surrounding areas: Paris and London.

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Background Information

The novel takes place during the French Revolution (1789-late 90s) during which the French citizens revolted and overthrew their government. It was a very bloody time, and the first time that the guillotine was used widespread. Peasants and citizens looted and burned the estates of the wealthy aristocrats causing panic and a great amount of destruction. The citizens took matters into their own hands and began to try and execute prisoners. The guillotine was the most popular form of execution.


Dr. Alexandre Manette

When Dr. Manette is first introduced, he is locked away in a room above the Defarge's wine shop. He has pure white hair and beard, a thin face, bright eyes, and is very skinny. He had been unrightfully imprisoned in France, and because of this imprisonment, he lapses into moments where he forgets who he is. After Dr. Manette is rescued by his daughter Lucie, he becomes energetic and driven to help others. He loves his daughter above all else and wants her to be happy - even at his own discomfort. Dr. Manette compares with Mr. Lorry because they are both older men who love and look after Lucie.
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Lucie Manette

Lucie is the doctor's daughter. She originally believes that she was an orphan, but later finds out that her father was alive. Lucie has long blonde hair and curious blue eyes. The book is constantly referring to the furrow on her brow that she gets when she is thinking. She is a very loving person and hates to see others hurting. When she finds her father, she dedicates her life to helping him recover and transition back into a normal life. After marrying Charles, her love grows as she now has a child to look after as well. Several of the characters, including Mr. Lorry, draw comparisons in appearance between Lucie and her father. They both have the same look when they are thinking as well as an energy and passion for life.
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Charles Darnay

Charles Darnay, whose last name is actually Evremonde, is first introduced as a prisoner in London. He is accused of being a spy for France. Charles is young, handsome, and has long dark hair. After being cleared of charges, he falls in love with Lucie and eventually marries her. Charles is very energetic and intelligent. He makes a living from teaching French to students in London. Towards the end of the book, Charles is found to be a French aristocrat who hated the reputation of his family. He gave all of his possessions to the people because he refused to live off of what his family had unrightfully gained. Charles stays steadfast in his love for Lucie, and unlike Sydney Carton, has a desire to better himself and to work hard to make a name for himself.

Mr. Jarvis Lorry

Mr. Lorry is an employee of Tellson Bank and mainly plays the role of a go-between. He is the one who first notifies Lucie that her father is still alive, and periodically shows up throughout the book as a friend of the Manettes. Mr. Lorry is an older man (60 at the beginning of the novel) and is very well dressed. He is a calm man who has bright eyes and constantly wears a blond wig. He is very loyal to his job and intent on keeping Tellson's Bank from being shamed. He is the more reasonable and down-to-earth character in the novel. He is a very by-the-book type of person, but his love for Lucie and her father causes him to break the rules at times. He compares with Sydney Carton in that he's willing to do whatever it takes to ensure the Manettes safety and wellbeing.
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Sydney Carton

Sydney Carton is an attorney and partners with Mr. Stryver. He is described to be similar to Charles Darnay - at least in appearance. They both are relatively the same age, are handsome, have long dark hair, and dress nicely. This is where the similarities stop. When Sydney Carton is first introduced, he is described to be unambitious, not willing to change, and he thinks of himself as useless. Throughout his relationship with Lucie, Sydney recognizes these things and falls in love with her. He tells her his feelings, and after being rejected, he disappears from the plot line. He reappears towards the end of the book and becomes a major character. Sydney still wants the best for Lucie and tells Mr. Lorry that he wants people to remember him because of the good he has done. He comes up with a plan to save Charles.
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The Defarges

The Defarges are the antagonists of the novel. Jacques Defarge is a wine shop owner with a hot temper, stubborn personality, and short curly dark hair. His wife is extremely stubborn and powerful and controls her husband. She sees him as weak and unable to do the things he needs to. Madame Defarge constantly knits throughout the whole book - in her knitting, she records names of spies and people to be dealt with. The Defarges are the ringleaders of the French revolution. In contrast to Lucie, Madame Defarge feels no sympathy - when she kills someone, she only believes that she is righting a wrong. The Defarges are direct opposites of all the other main characters. They have no desire to show sympathy, but instead hold grudges and seek to right past wrongs.
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It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...

Book One

Book one begins with Mr. Lorry traveling to find Lucie. He tells her that her father really hadn't died, but had instead been wrongfully imprisoned. The two of them set out to find Dr. Manette, and find him above Monsieur Defarge's wine shop. During this time, there is a foreshadowing of the revolution that is to come (page 32). This book ends with Mr. Lorry and Lucie bringing the doctor back to England.

Book two

Book two takes place five years later back in London. Charles Darnay is accused of being a spy and is put on trial. With Mr. Lorry, Dr. Manette, and Lucie as witnesses, Charles is released. Four months after the trial, Lucie and Dr. Manette have a new home. Charles, Mr. Stryver, and Sydney Carton periodically come by to talk with Lucie.

In France, the people are beginning to get fed up with the nobles ruling them. The Monsieur the Marquis only increases this hatred by running over and killing a child with no regrets. Charles Darnay is found to be the marquis's nephew. The Marquis is killed by the citizens of France.

Back in England, Charles, Mr. Stryver, and Sydney all fall in love with Lucie. Charles talks to Dr. Manette, and when he tries to tell him what his real last name is, the doctor stops him.

In Paris, the Defarges along with the rest of the citizens, are planning a revolution.

In London, Lucie and Charles are married, and Lucie has a daughter.

In 1789, the revolution begins, and the peasants attack. The Marquis's house is set on fire, and the officials are all hung. The violence continues to get progressively worse, and three years later, Mr. Lorry decides to travel to the bank's branch in Paris. Charles receives a letter from a former servant who has been imprisoned, and also leaves to see him released.

Book three

Book three takes place solely in Paris. Charles finally arrives in Paris, but is put in the prison of La Force. Lucie and her father arrive in Paris to try to have Charles released. Dr. Manette becomes the prison doctor and assures Lucie that he will do his best to have Charles freed. Charles was imprisoned for over a year and a quarter, and Lucie would stand outside of the prison every day hoping to catch a glimpse of her husband. Charles was put on trial and eventually released. He was then taken back into custody and condemned to be killed. Dr. Manette did everything he could to have Charles released, but to no avail. At the trial, a letter is read that declares that Charles's father and uncle were responsible for Dr. Manette's unfair imprisonment. The citizens decide that Charles should be punished and set the day for his appointment with the guillotine. Sydney Carton learns of Charles's predicament and comes up with a plan. He pays a spy to allow him to have several minutes alone with Charles before his execution. He also arranges for a carriage to take Lucie, Mr. Lorry, and her father back to England. On the day of the execution, Sydney knocks Charles out and trades clothes with him. The spy takes "Sydney" back to where the carriage awaits, and they all escape. Sydney is taken to the guillotine where he dies as Charles Darnay.

Turning Point

The turning point and climax in this book is when Charles is taken and imprisoned a second time. This is when Dr. Manette's own letter is used to condemn Charles to death. At this point in time, the reader doesn't know if Charles is going to die, or if he is going to escape. From here on out, the rest of the events are part of the falling action: Sydney trades places with Charles, Madame Defarge is killed, and the Manettes escape Paris.


There were several important outcomes of the novel dealing with the revolution, Sydney Carton, and the Manettes.

1) The Revolution

Because the peasants overthrew their government, the outcome was chaos, panic, and widespread looting. Many officials were hanged, and this caused nobles to flee to London. Charles Darnay returned to Paris after receiving word that one of his trusted officials was in prison.

2) Sydney Carton's change of heart

Sydney Carton's change of character had a major effect on the story. Because he now desired to be remembered for the good he had done, he was willing to sacrifice his life for Charles. This led to the outcome of Charles escaping form prison. Another outcome from Sydney's sacrifice was that Lucie and Charles were able to live a long and happy life together.

3) Madame Defarge's death

Towards the end of the novel, Madame Defarge was killed by Miss Pross. This allowed for the Manettes and Charles to escape Paris and to return to England.



I absolutely loved this book and would recommend it to anyone who loves history. The story of two different groups of people during the French revolution was extremely interesting. If someone is looking for a book that keeps the reader thinking, A Tale of Two Cities is definitely that! The only thing that I would warn people about before reading this book is that it takes a lot of concentration. Dickens constantly shifted stories and I had to keep track of multiple characters at once. The vocabulary that Dickens used was also fairly difficult to understand. This isn't a book for someone who is looking for something "easy" to read.

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Works Cited

Background Info:

“French Revolution.” The History Channel website. n.p. 2013. Web. 1 Apr. 2013. http://www.history.com/topics/french-revolution

Guillotine video:

“The Guillotine.” The History Channel website. n.p. 2013. Web. 1 Apr 2013. http://www.history.comhttp://www.history.com/shows/modern-marvels/videos/guillotine.