A Tale of Two Cities Essays: Irony

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Irony in A Tale of Two Cities

Someone once said "Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." This is a compelling message upon which many writers have built their literature. One effective work which employs this theme is A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens. This novel is set in Paris and London during the late eighteenth century. During this period, France was engaged in a revolution in which the otherwise common man rose up against the country's aristocracy. In its outset, the novel reveals the motives behind the plebeians' actions. Dickens focuses upon the strife the townspeople experience at the hands of the merciless nobility. By the novel's end, however, Dickens achieves an about-face. The working class
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Hunger also provides a symbol which reaches beyond that of simply sustenance. It can be seen need for a mere change, whatever it be. Dickens also presents, "The village had its one poor street, with its poor brewery, poor tannery, poor stableyard for relays of post-horses, poor fountain, all usual poor appointments. It had its poor people too" (p. 111). This statement can be described as very "matter of fact." These motifs express the poverty which the citizens face and set the stage for a resolution.

Dickens also convinces the reader of the people's meagerness through imagery. In one particularly effective anecdote, cask of wine is dropped and broken in the street. All those around stop what they are doing to drink the whine. The narrator says,

"Some men kneeled down, made scoops of their two hands joined, and sipped, or tried to help women, who bent over their shoulders, to sip, before the wine had run out between their fingers. Others, men and women, dipped in the puddles with little mugs of mutilated earthenware, or even with handkerchiefs from women's heads, which were squeezed dry into infants' mouths; others made small mud embankments, to stem the wine as it ran." (p. 28)

Upon reading this, the reader senses the rocks and pebbles grinding against their teeth as they gulp the contaminated alcohol. Also, one can imagine the wine on the people clothes and running down the sides of their faces.

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