Sunday, December 19, 2010

Major Themes of the Novel "A Tale of Two Cities"

Resurrection and Renunciation: A TALE OF TWO CITIES is rich in meaning and significance because it deals with several themes all of which have been skillfully coordinated and integrated with another. Some of these themes are obvious and others are less obvious and need careful examination. Dickens shows grand objectivity of historical events, but also shows personal projection in the novel.
However, A TALE OF TWO CITIES is a highly impersonal work with multiplicity of themes.  Resurrection is indeed the central theme of A TALE OF TWO CITIES. Resurrection here takes a variety of forms, and almost at every stage, we witness some manifestation of it. Resurrection has, of course, a religious connotation and generally calls up the image of Jesus Christ rising from his grave on the third day of his Crucifixion. But here resurrection requires a secular meaning. In addition to its religious meaning. Related to this is the theme of renunciation. Dickens makes use these twin themes in a very elaborate manner. Dickens derived both of these themes from Wilkie Collin’s play, The Frozen Deep in the performances of which Dickens himself had taken part as an actor.
The resurrection of Dr Manette: First Resurrection: The theme of resurrection is introduced at the very beginning when Mr. Lorry, who is traveling by the mail-coach top Dover, sends a message to Tellison’s Bank through the messenger, Jerry Cruncher. The words of Mr. Lorry‘s message are “Recalled to Life”. (Give summary of Dr. Manette’s story) Mr. Lorry begins to feel drowsy and it seems to him that he is going to Paris in order to dig out a dead man from the grave where he had been long buried. When Lorry meets Dr. Manette, it is truly a resurrection or rebirth after death for Dr. Manette.   Second Resurrection: Normal life and living with his daughter, starting his medical practice and his giving up the habit of shoe-making and the return of sanity is his second resurrection.
Charles Darnay’s Resurrection: Give Darnay’s account of Old Bailey where Dr. Manette, Lucie and Carton are present and Darnay is resurrected because of Sydney Carton from a serious crime of treason against England. Darnay’s second resurrection: When he is caught in Paris and is prisoned for fifteen months at La Force and is resurrected by the influence of Dr. Manette. (Give account of case and the prevailing condition of Paris after the revolution). Darnay’s third resurrection: which is the most important. Dr. Manette’s written paper discovered from his cell is read out in the court and Darnay is sentenced to death, but his death is replaced by Sydney Carton, a kind fellow. (Give an account his story at the prison). This is his third resurrection. This time he has almost been taken out of his grave.
The Resurrection of Carton: Though Carton dies, but he achieves a resurrection in two senses: Firstly, his death constitutes a spiritual resurrection for him. By this sacrificial death, Carton who has been leading a life of profligacy, is morally regenerated. This moral regeneration or redemption is a kind of resurrection for him. Secondly, when Carton conceives his bold plan to save Darnay’s life, the words of the Christian Burial Service are  echo in his ears, “I am the Resurrection and the life, saith the Lord: he that believeth in me though he were dead yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.” Carton had heard these words at the time of his father’s funeral, and these words now come to him as a promise that the man who believes in Lord Jesus Christ never dies. These words echo in his ears when he is actually going to be executed. Thus, Carton dies, feeling sure that he will find himself alive in another world. Carton dies with the certainty of resurrection.
The Grotesque resurrection of Cly: There are comic and serious resurrections. Resurrection in this novel assumes some comic and grotesque forms also. Roger Cly, a spy, is believed to have died and been buried in the graveyard of Saint Pancras’s Church, but later we find him alive in Paris at his old occupation of spying. So a man who was thought to be dead, came to life is also a kind of comic resurrection. His normal funeral ceremonies were performed and he was buried to avoid the wrath of certain person who had become hostile to him in London.
The comic resurrection of Solomon (Barsad): Another comic example of resurrection is Barsad – Miss Pross’ brother whom she had almost given up as dead, but he appears in Paris. Miss Pross unexpectedly sees him and is astonished, though he feels greatly embarrassed to be recognized by her.
Jerry Cruncher – A Resurrection Man: Another example of the grotesque type of resurrection is to be found in the nefarious business which Jerry Cruncher is pursuing in order to supplement his income. He and his associates dig out newly-buried coffins from their graves and take out the dead bodies in order to sell them to a surgeon for medical purposes. Young Jerry has espied his father at this kind of work and he too aspires to become “A resurrection man.”
Resurrection in the sense of Political and Social regeneration: Finally, resurrection, for the purpose of this novel, may also be taken to mean political and social regeneration. The French People having been oppressed and exploited for centuries have been clamoring for a new political and social order without any success. Ultimately they rise in revolt against the established authority and try to being about sweeping reforms. Of course, their action involves unheard-of-criminal acts. The moral of the French Revolution, according to Dickens is that the upper classes everywhere should take a warning from what happened in France and should mend their ways in order to see that the poor are contented and happy.
Renunciation as a theme: The other theme, less prominent but more valuable, is renunciation. It is through a renunciation of his claim to the family estate and the family title that Charles Darnay attains a heroic stature in our eyes. When Charles Darnay was still a child, his mother had imposed a duty on him and he had bravely promised to keep faith with her. On growing up, he decides to give up his claim to the family inheritance because he realizes that the family to which he belongs had done many wrongs to the poor people. To him the family inheritance signifies, “a crumbling tower of waste”. This act of his shows his generous heart, a spirit of self-sacrifice indicative of his humanitarian instincts.
Social injustice, violence, bloodshed and imprisonment as themes of the novel: Among the various themes of this novel is the social injustice. This theme is related of course, to the French Revolution which was largely a result of those oppressive classes. The first glimpse of social injustice is given in the chapter called the Wine-Shop. When the wine from the broken cask is spilled on the ground symbolize bloodshed in the streets of Paris and the hunger and poverty of the people who rush to drink it. The incident of the child being run over by Marquis’s carriage. He scolds the people for not caring about their children and spins a coin for the bereaved father as if for the compensation of the death of the child. The most shocking example of social injustice is the prolonged imprisonment of Dr. Manette has recorded the circumstances under which he was made a prisoner is hair-raising.  A TALE OF TWO CITIES is deeply colored by Dickens’ early experiences in life and by what was happening to his emotional life when he started writing this novel. Early in his life, he had been a miserable witness to the imprisonment of his father which had left an unforgettable impression upon his mind. Prison and Imprisonment are two themes always present in various novels of Charles Dickens. Almost every body in A TALE OF TWO CITIES is in prison.
Doubling as a theme: The two lovers of Lucie seem to symbolize the duality in Dickens’s own heart. Darnay and Carton who physically resemble each other were self-projections by Dickens. These two men represent the two different sides of Dickens’s literary personality. Darnay represents the light, sunny and optimistic aspect of Dickens’ personality who goes to France to help Gabelle without releasing the dangers he will face there. And Carton, on the other hand, represents the dark aspect of Dickens who loves Lucie but denies her by describing her as “a golden-haired doll” and he fails to claim her. Dickens’ own optimistic mood is reflected in the novel.  Doubling is also a theme in the sense that every thing in the novel is double. Double appearances, madness and sanity recurrences, the double arrest of Darnay, his double resurrection and Darnay’s and Carton’s love for Lucie is also a triangle. Doubling is a technique of symbolism in the fantasizing of reality, reappears throughout the book. The most obvious example is physical resemblance of Darnay and Carton. These two personalities represent two different worlds the social and collective on the one hand and the individual and subjective on the other. Madame Defarge is an instructive example of Dickens’ attempt throughout this novel to identity fantasy with reality, as in his own life. This is Dickens’ most personal novel in one way and the most impersonal in the other. 

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