Term Paper: Historical Novel in Victorian Literature

Pages: 15 (4034 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 13  ·  Level: Doctorate  ·  Topic: Literature  ·  Buy This Paper

¶ … Tale of Two Cities is long-lasting evidence to the best, and an intense analysis of the worst of human nature. Charles Dickens set out to make the French Revolution live in the minds and hearts of the reader. Human suffering is not the only problem that faced the French people in the 18th Century. With all the injustices and poverty highlighted, A Tale of two Cities is a journeying of situations that will go on just as long as inequity and violence continue to flourish. However, while the novel is a social critique, it is also an examination of the restraints of human injustice where innocent people are killed and imprisoned. In this regard, this paper highlights social upheaval and restoration of social order during the French and Victorian revolutions as highlighted in A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens.

Social Turbulence and Injustices during the French Revolution: Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

A Tale of Two Cities provides a sympathetic account of the plight of the poor and social injustices and upheavals during the 18th century that eventually instigated the French Revolution between 1787 and 1799 (Dickens 479). Charles Dickens, an active campaigner against social injustices, used his novel, A Tale of Two Cities, to focus on how social injustices affected people and how these injustices prompted the French Revolt. His hatred on social injustices is evidenced by a judicial system that treated debtors worse than criminals.

A Tale of Two Cities was written in 1859, but it highlighted the events of the French Revolution that took place between July 1787 and November 1799. Dickens had been moved by a production of a melodrama entitled, the French Revolution, and he was specifically impressed by the massiveness and power in the mob. The destructive mindlessness of mob conduct is central to A Tale of Two Cities, not just in the storming of the Bastille and the events of the Terror Reign, but also in the bloodthirsty attitudes of the English observers at Charles Darnay's trial for treason in London, and the mock funeral of Roger Cly.

A Tale of Two Cities has remained the best-known and most collectively popular literary work of the many novels and plays that retold the legends of the French Revolution. Tales of last-minute substitutions at the guillotine, buried letters, and prisoners growing old within Bastille walls were popular in the years following 1789 and became common property.

A Tale of Two Cities is a protest of social injustices, prisons and capital punishment in the nineteenth century. It is one of the most innovative and popular efforts of Charles Dickens, written in 1859 (Dickens 479). Then novel takes account of the lives of several characters before and during the French revolt. The events of the novel start in Paris, approximately fourteen years before the beginning of the French revolt.

The story is set against the fierce French revolution upheaval, and it disseminates the theme of injustice, social mayhem, resignation, brutal aristocratic feudal system that triggered the rejuvenation of spirits. A Tale of Two Cities is a fascinating English literature that demonstrated and criticized social injustices with scenes set before and in the course of the French revolution. The incidences that Charles highlights in London and Paris of the 18th Century apply in the 20th Century.

The novel focuses on social injustices such as exploitation of employees, child abuse, filled to capacity prisons and poverty. Dickens voiced outrage throughout the novel at the fact that England had continued the barbarous punishment of handing and quartering even at the end of 19th Century, the period in which the novel was set. Dickens described in scores of graphic passages the plight of poor Parisians before the commencement of the French revolution. Charles also highlighted the wealth and extravagance of the idle rich, who had little or no mercy towards the poor.

A Tale of Two Cities opens in 1775 with the speaker comparing situations in France and England, besides foreshadowing the French Revolution (Bloom 22). The story marks a transition for Charles Dickens, as he started to view the demerits of working for others, and the benefits of playing his own rules. The tale is a sensational, dramatic, and it is historically influenced by the events following the French Revolution. The story also ventures away from his well-known London, his motherland.

Charles change of voice was intentional. In his preface, he claims his debt to his friend, Carlyle Thomas, the author of "The French Revolution." By acknowledging Thomas Carlyle, Charles Dickens did not want to achieve the compassion for which his work was known; but he wanted a historical sweep. Some of the characters in the narrative are paper dolls, and the background of the revolution overwhelms almost all of these characters. At some point, the text becomes more horrific than it is necessary. However, the strength of the novel lies in its vision; huge in imagination and scope.

A Tale of Two Cities is the work of a person in his second youth, euphemistic for mid-life crisis, a man between careers and families. This is because Dickens wrote the novel when he was forty-seven years old, and during a period when he had separated with his wife following issues of infidelity on his side and issues of incompetent housekeeper and mother on Catherine's side (Jordan 23). Dickens wrote the novel during a period where he explained families crisis and it must be remembered that he had ten children whom he blamed his wife for their birth. The tale represents the changed directions that Dickens was taking as an artist and a male.

A Tale of Two Cities covers the longest span of time, 17 years (Bloom 22). It is one of Charles Dickens's shortest books, but it is extraordinarily dense and enigmatic. According to Bloom, the fury in the tale is daemonic and it rises above human sense and humanity like a perverse action of God (22). Charles echoes Carlyle Thomas by likening the French Revolution to a natural disaster. According to Charles and Carlyle, the revolt was a turbulent sea with spinning whirlpools. Innately violent Mother Nature replaces the civilized order, thereby turning the structured court committee into "a jury of dogs empanelled to put a deer on trial" (Bloom 22). By this statement, Charles Dickens meant that people are worse than wild dogs, jackals, and flies which are all animals that gather in swarms and go insane for the smell of blood.

Although, in A Tale of Two Cities Charles Dickens ignored or distorted the underlying causes of the French Revolution, he got the terror of it almost exactly right. Dickens's definition of revolution received inspiration from Thomas Carlyle's titanic, 'History of the French Revolution' but naturally enough, the novelist left out the mass of analysis and instead concentrated on definitions of suffering and violence (Sorensen 6). Charles's works is magnificently well as a novel, but if viewed as history, it is misleading and dangerous given that it promotes a search for villains whose elimination would help in solving issues which are indeed based in deeper errors ( Dickens 479). Dickens was mainly reacting to the fears and problems of his own time and place as opposed to incidences that took place in France at the end of the previous century.

The French Revolution started when the workers and peasants of France, ground down by centuries of unspeakable poverty, social injustices and feudal tyranny, eventually were overpowered by these occurrences and would not take it anymore. Motivated through the new philosophy of enlightenment and liberty, the peasants and workers rose in justifiable rage, which, because the French court and nobles refused to reform, instigated some nasty bits when the justifiable retribution of the people got out of hand and aristocrats were dragged to their well-deserved doom on the guillotine.

A Tale of Two Cities is a historical novel. While most novels are set in a well-known place and time, and sometimes refer to actual events and people, in an historical novel, people from real life are showed as having major roles in the narrative (Dickens 479). They usually speak with the fictional characters and get involved in actions. Historical novel authors wishes to dramatize a particular time in history for the reader so as to bring historical people and events to life through combining imaginative reconstruction of occurrences with fact known from modern records and other historical sources.

The authors of historical novels normally do have a point to drive home regarding historical procedures that lead to the events, or regarding the psychological difficulties of the persons involved. Charles Dickens chose the Revolution of French that took place between 1787 and 1799 as the foundation of his novel, A Tale of two Cities (Sorensen 6). Charles chose the French Revolution not only because it was a historical occurrence, but also because it encompassed ordinary citizens whom he could identify. Charles Dickens highlights the incidences as exciting, uplifting, out of control and… [END OF PREVIEW]

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