A Tale of Two Cities
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens is an historical fiction novel set in 1775- 1793 in the cities
of Paris and London. The French Revolution serves as the historical backdrop to the story. The reliability and usefulness of A Tale of Two Cities in adding knowledge and understanding of the Reign of Terror in France will be examined.
Charles Dickens wrote this book in 1859 in London, sixty years after the key events mentioned in the book. He was greatly influenced by "The French Revolution", a book written by the historian Thomas Carlyle in 1837 for information on the time period event though it was decades old. He agreed with Carlyle that the Revolution was the necessary and inevitable outcome of the French aristocracy's oppressive power. Emotionally, however, Dickens feared the violence of the patriots far more than he did the abuses of aristocrats like Monseigneur.
This ambivalence is the reason that Dickens is so sketchy on actual dates and events of the Revolution. Rather than explain the political situation, he simply gives vivid impressions of how it must have felt to live through those times.
He states in the preface "Whenever any reference is made here to the condition of the French people before or during the Revolution, it is truly made, on the faith of the most trustworthy witnesses" so on this topic he bases all his information on other sources. That Dickens relied so heavily on decades old, secondary sources undermines its actual reliability in providing an accurate account of the historical period.
Dickens sets the atmosphere of a grim world of the very poor and the conditions of Frances's streets as they were at the time.
The peasants hated the aristocrats because of their status and the fact...