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Themes

This is a novel about war. But it’s also a novel about devotion. How much will you sacrifice to ensure that your family survives? Can you shoulder the blame for the actions of the past? Even if you can, should you? These questions and others like them become central to the workings of A Tale of Two Cities. Various types of family ties thread through this novel, offering multiple opportunities to compare the ways that families deal with difficult situations. Because the aristocracy in France passed on power through inherited titles and lands, entire families became the targets of the revolutionary uprisings which sparked the new regime. Of course, this quickly becomes a novel about how families fall apart, as well. But that’s another story.

Questions About Family

  1. A Tale of Two Cities is largely a story about families. The Manettes, the Evrémondes, and the Defarges all play central roles in the novel. More specifically, however, the novel seems to focus on parent-child relationships (Lucie and Doctor Manette, Charles and the Marquis, etc). In this light, why might it be important that the Defarges have no children?
  2. Is it reasonable or realistic to expect that Lucie should give up her life to care for her father?
  3. The Manettes seem to have constructed an extended family which includes Miss Pross and Mr. Lorry. How does this change our understanding of the way that families function in this novel?
  4. How does Dickens’s depiction of the Crunchers contribute to the novel as a whole?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Because Lucie is the "golden thread" that links her family together, she never becomes a character in her own right.

Lucie’s central role in the lives of all of the other characters in the novel makes her one of the most complex characters in A Tale of Two Cities.

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