Revolutionary Imagery In A Tale Of Two Cities

1393 words - 6 pages

The French Revolution began in 1789 as a respectable insurrection; however, it soon became a bloody massacre. The peasants had been oppressed by poverty and the aristocracy. Eventually, they grew weary and tired of the subjugation; therefore, they revolted against the aristocracy, who had not anticipated the revolution. However, they became frenzied and blood thirsty, becoming carried away with the bloodshed. The novel A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens tells the story of these two classes along with that of two families and two cities, London and Paris, during the French Revolution. The novel is written in such a way that allows the reader to experience the trials and tribulations of the French Revolution, while still enjoying the characters and convoluted plot. Dickens seems to believe that imagery is the key to showing the contrast between two characters, cities or classes, and he often uses it to please the reader esthetically and successfully sway the reader’s sentimentality and sympathies throughout the novel. Furthermore, to develop the theme of man’s inhumanity towards his fellow man, Dickens uses imagery to set a specific tone towards two characters, C.J. Stryver and Sydney Carton, the peasants at the beginning of the novel, and the aristocracy at the end of the novel.
C.J. Stryver and Sydney Carton are two very different characters; however, without Dickens’ use of compelling imagery, their dissimilarity would not have been so noticeable. C.J. Stryver is a man who was “free from any drawback of delicacy” and “had a pushing way of shouldering himself (morally and physically) into companies and conversations, that argued well for his shouldering his way up in life” (Dickens 60). Here, Dickens is depicting Stryver as a very pushy man that refuses to stop “shouldering” to get his way in all areas of his life; however, he also acts very domineering towards Carton, using him and treating him like he is a dog and not worthy of anything. Stryver conveys this when he says, “Sydney, I rather despair of making myself intelligible to you, because you are such an insensible dog” (106). The pompous Stryver is constantly putting Carton down, comparing him to a dog and, therefore, dehumanizing him. Dickens uses riveting imagery to further expose this relationship by comparing Stryver to a lion and Carton to a jackal, “Sydney Carton, idlest and most unpromising of men, was Stryver’s great ally … Stryver never had a case in hand, anywhere, but Carton was there … and Carton was rumored to be seen at broad day, going home stealthily and unsteadily to his lodgings, like a dissipated cat … Sydney Carton would never be a lion, he was an amazingly good jackal, and that he rendered suit and service to Stryver in that humble capacity” (65). This imagery is so gripping because in folk tales, the lion did nothing and received all of the credit, while the jackal did all of the work or “prepared the meal.” This relationship perfectly describes that of Stryver...

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