A Tale of Two Cities

by: Charles Dickens

Suggested Essay Topics

1. Some critics charge that Dickens, in much of his work, failed to create meaningful characters because he exaggerated them to parodic extremes. Do you find this a fair assessment of his characterization in A Tale of Two Cities? Does the author’s use of caricature detract from his novel’s ability to speak to human nature?

2. Dickens relies heavily on coincidence to fuel the plot of A Tale of Two Cities: letters are found bearing crucial infor-mation, for example, and long-lost brothers are discovered in crowded public places. Do such incidents strengthen or weaken the plot and overall themes of the novel?

3. Discuss Dickens’s attitude toward the French Revolution. Does he sympathize with the revolutionaries?

4. Based on Dickens’s portrayals of the villainous characters in his novel (particularly Madame Defarge), what conclusions might the reader draw about the author’s notions of human evil? Does he seem to think that people are born evil? If so, do they lack the ability to change? Or does he suggest that circumstances drive human beings to their acts of cruelty?