Characters Analysis in A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

This is FREE sample
This text is free, available online and used for guidance and inspiration. Need a 100% unique paper? Order a custom essay.
  • Any subject
  • Within the deadline
  • Without paying in advance
Get custom essay

Although this description of Miss Manette seems to be more imagery than character analysis, we can see in the extensive way that Mr. Lorry describes her that he is misogynistic. Men typically only notice so many things about a woman’s appearance because all they see in their character is the female gender. When Mr. Lorry notes all the things about Miss Manette that contributes to her overall physical femininity, we can see how Mr. Lorry feels about her value as a woman. He feels strongly about women playing the role of arm candy, which is apparent since the only qualities he deems important enough to mention are the oddly specific phenotypic values.

Based on the way Charles Dickens describes him, we presume Mr. Lorry to be a simple yet successful man. Usage of matter-of-fact vocabulary like ‘orderly and methodical’ constructs an image of straightforwardness when it comes to Jarvis Lorry’s character. In addition, he also carries a watch under his coat, suggesting that he has deadlines and a need to tell time, something that is further elaborated later, but even now it is apparent that he is an extremely wanted man in the business. His body language also gives away his entire demeanor – to place ‘a hand on each knee’, the most comfortable position would be to sit with your knees rather far apart, which is a way of subtly asserting dominance.

Sitting with your legs spread farther apart makes the human body seem bigger, therefore asserting confidence and leadership. Miss Pross, the servant that Mr. Lorry described in the quote above, is shown to be a woman of great strength and conviction as opposed to her mistress, Miss Manette. When the shocked Miss Manette goes into a state of unconsciousness, Miss Pross rushes into the room at first cry for help, pushes Mr. Lorry away, and demands a variety of items to be fetched in order to make Miss Manette regain composure.

In several ways, Miss Manette and her servant are literal polar opposites; one is the model feminine lady character that hasn’t known labor in her life, and another is one who works with her hands for a living and makes decisions for herself. The irony in this is the woman who worked less is master to the woman who worked hard and did not have luck on her side. Although we see the fruit of his labor in the fashion that Mr. Lorry dons, he shows that he is also humble and caring when he keeps attempting to placate Miss Manette. The typical business man is someone who wouldn’t care about the well-being of others and only about financial gain, but Mr. Lorry already extends his hand emotionally towards Miss Manette despite not seeing her for several years. In addition to exposing his own humanity, Mr. Lorry also reveals himself to be someone who avoids confrontation.

Throughout his talk with Miss Manette, he continued to call her father a ‘matter of business’ as if it were some justification to his imprisonment and is visibly unsettled in contrast to the smooth, stereotypical businessman. This fact sets him apart from other men in the same era – men were often treated better and regarded more seriously in society, and so most men did not shy away from confrontation or the opportunity to talk freely. Monsieur Defarge’s sarcastic tangent shows the audience his pessimistic view of the world, mostly due his bitterness over Mr. Manette’s mental conditions. In even the most religious of times, Monsieur Defarge openly berates the world and its nature of suffering. He goes further to say ‘long live the devil,’ a risky statement considering how important religion was in the 18th century.

The fact that Monsieur Defarge seems to have abandoned all hope of a god who regulates the ways of the earth characterizes him as one of the most down to earth and direct personalities in this book, just a few chapters in. From the way that the wine spill is written to the literal printing of ‘BLOOD’ on a wall with the wine, this wine spill represents more than an alcoholic accident on the roads of Paris. Dickens writes the wine the same way one would write blood, ‘stain[ing] the ground…many hands…many faces, and many naked feet, and many wooden shoes.’

The specific color of the wine is also notes multiple times before, confirming that it is red and marking those that come to lap it up. With the hints that Charles Dickens uses to convey his comparison to blood, this quote foreshadows violence and bloodshed in the streets of Paris, and copiously so – we expect it to be in the amount that the wine spilled; collecting in the streets and in great abundance. This is the second problem presented by Dickens as predicaments of the public, the first being the dropped wine casket. By introducing another problem using words like ‘scanty’, ‘farthing’, and ‘reluctant’, it foreshadows a rebellion amongst the dissatisfied masses.

A classic way to back the claim the foreshadow makes is that history repeats itself; before the Western Roman empire fell, the saying meant to appease the mistreated poor is ‘panem et circenses’, or ‘bread and circuses,’ stating that as long as the less fortunate were provided with entertainment and food they would be content. Once the government became incapable of providing those, the internal struggles of the Roman empire mostly originated from the poorer groups, leading to its collapse. In 18th century France, the public has been deprived of wine, a source of entertainment, and food. Without bread and circuses, we can predict an almost certain uprising that will wreak havoc upon the city of Paris and turn the wine spillage into one of blood.

The emphasis put on the presentation of this portion reminded me of a scene in the Hunger Games, when Katniss enters the Hob, a sort of black market for the mining district. The items being sold within the Hob tell of District 12’s lack of wealth – for one, Katniss regards a soup with suspicion since the cook is known to substitute wild dog for chicken, and there isn’t one body in the market with clean fingernails or a groomed appearance. The irony in this comparison between the books is Dickens describes a scene of reality within the 18th century, and Suzanne Collins writes a world of fantastical dystopia that doesn’t actually exist. The striking similarities between the two highlights what poor conditions the streets of Paris are, and how the masses must dissent, which poses the question – what will they do about this neglect from the government?

In the very beginning, Dickens establishes the quiet presence of Fate and Death, two important factors in the human life. By characterizing them as ‘working unceasingly…silently,’ the reader is alert for hints of conflict within the setting of the country, having been told that Fate and Death are working incessantly to show themselves in Europe. In addition, their work is so quiet that none of humanity has yet to hear it, and even ‘entertain[ing] any suspicion that they were awake, was to be atheistical and traitorous.’ This closed-mindedness of one of the most religious eras in European history would ultimately lead to its downfall, and also a large deficiency of believers due to their inhumane living conditions and loss of faith.

This is the first time Miss Manette has seen her father since he supposedly ‘died’, and his haggard appearance only reflects what happened in the time that Miss Manette missed. He was imprisoned in the Bastille, a French prison, for 18 years, which generally renders a person robbed of self-thought and previous memories. The contrasting hair colors between his dark eyebrows and white hair also indicate great amounts of stress being put on him – since his eyebrows are still dark, it means the hair on his head all prematurely lost pigment to make itself dark again. The ‘bright eyes’ yet ‘hollow’ face again clash – bright eyes are associated with the mirth of youth, but hollow faces tend to develop as a person grows older.

These unexpected conflicts in Mr. Manette’s outwardly appearance are significant because they reveal an inhumane amount of stress inflicted by the Bastille to disrupt normal bodily functions. Having spent 18 years in the Bastille prison, Mr. Manette has essentially lost all sense of who he is supposed to be and how he is supposed to act outside of a prison cell. He’s become accustomed to being told what to do and how to do it and comply without complaint, so when Monsieur Defarge asks him if a little more light let in his room would be alright it doesn’t register as an option, it registers as a command. Mr. Manette feels he has no choice, as he sees all his environment as the prison cell he once spent a good portion of his life in.

If he were still imprisoned in the Bastille, he would be expected to tolerate all conditions, and he views Defarge in a similar manner – the room is his prison cell, Defarge is his guard, and his feelings are always inferior to those with authority; he has to work with the light if that is what he is given to work with. Within his work, Charles Dickens inserts his own beliefs about the government in the form of satire as to not outrightly criticize the government. In this scene, Mr. Lorry, an established banker, is self aware that he essentially disregards the feelings of other people in favor of his own personal gain and tells her to treat him as nothing more human than a ‘speaking machine.’ The banker’s blatant characterization of himself is a jab at the businessmen of Dickens’ time and age who aren’t self aware at all.

In incorporating satire, Charles Dickens wants to criticize the folly of those with power and highlight the corruption of a society where money trumps human lives using irony. The duality in this iconic quote is evident in the pairs of opposites: ‘the best of times’ pit against the ‘worst of times’, the ‘age of wisdom’ in contrast to the ‘age of foolishness’, and the ‘spring of hope’ compared to the ‘winter of despair’, to name a few. In addition, the use of anaphora in the beginning of every comparison like ‘the age of’ and ‘the season of’ and the steady, consistent flow of the sentence represents dualism, or the struggle between good and evil or light and dark. The pairs of directly opposite terms also suggest a reference to the title of the book, since ‘The Tale of Two Cities’ sets up two different sides and their points of view.


Cite this paper

Characters Analysis in A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. (2021, Jul 30). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/characters-analysis-in-a-tale-of-two-cities-by-charles-dickens/



What type of character is Charles Darnay?
Charles Darnay is a dynamic character. He is a kind, noble man who fights against the injustice of the aristocracy.
Which literary character is found in A Tale of Two Cities?
The literary character, Sydney Carton, is found in A Tale of Two Cities.
Who is the most important character in A Tale of Two Cities?
The most important character in A Tale of Two Cities is Charles Darnay. Darnay is a kind and good man who is caught in the middle of the French Revolution.
We use cookies to give you the best experience possible. By continuing we’ll assume you’re on board with our cookie policy

Peter is on the line!

Don't settle for a cookie-cutter essay. Receive a tailored piece that meets your specific needs and requirements.

Check it out