Study Guide

A Tale of Two Cities Life, Consciousness, and Existence

By Charles Dickens

Life, Consciousness, and Existence

(Click the themes infographic to download.)

Dickens the storyteller is closely linked to Dickens the philosopher. Sure, A Tale of Two Cities is a rollicking good story. More than that, though, it’s also a meditation on some of the most pressing existential questions that trouble humankind.

Do we really know anything at all about the people around us—even the people we love? Can a single life make a difference in a world filled with hatred, rage, and violence? Times of strife make these questions all the more pressing to answer, but, as Dickens reminds us, that doesn’t mean that the answers are easy to find.

Questions About Life, Consciousness, and Existence

  1. Is Sydney Carton a hero, or is his death just a continuance of his fatalistic logic?
  2. Is Carton a Christ-like figure? Why or why not?
  3. How does the young woman who dies with Carton change our understanding of his character?

Chew on This

Sydney Carton’s death is the ultimate example of his masochism.

Sydney Carton’s death might appear to be the ultimate example of his masochism, but it actually occurs because of a complete shift in his self-understanding.

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