A Tale of Two Cities

by: Charles Dickens

Foreshadowing

Foreshadowing is used in the novel to create a sense of significance and inevitability. Since all of the plot events happen in the historical past and are recounted retrospectively by someone looking back on them from the present day, foreshadowing arises naturally. The narrator is not trying to create suspense about what could possibly happen in the future--- readers already know what some of the major events will be. Instead, foreshadowing is used to heighten the impact of waiting for events to occur, and the feeling that no one can control the dark events of history.

The Spilt Wine

The first time the Defarge wine shop and the St. Antoine neighborhood are introduced in the novel, “a large cask of wine had been dropped and broken in the street.” The red wine flows everywhere and the Parisians rush around trying to drink it. The spilling of the wine foreshadows the violence and bloodshed of the revolution. The enthusiastic reaction of the Parisians also foreshadows the way they will get caught up in the violence, and become “drunk” on chaos and bloodshed.

Carton preventing Darnay from Getting Convicted

When Sidney Carton and Charles Darnay first appear in the novel, Darnay is on trial for treason. When the court’s attention is drawn to how much Carton and Darnay look alike, the jury is unwilling to convict Darnay because they cannot be certain he is not being mistaken for someone else. This event foreshadows how Carton will later save Darnay’s life a second time: in France, he will assume Darnay’s place in prison and eventually be executed. The foreshadowing is important on a plot level, because it introduces the strong physical resemblance between the two men, and on a symbolic level, because it hints at Carton having integrity and compassion. For much of the novel, Carton seems like a dissolute and selfish character, but this act hints that he will later show a much more noble side of his nature.

Dr. Manette’s Imprisonment

At the start of the novel, Dr. Manette has just been released from many years of imprisonment in the Bastille on false charges. Although this imprisonment seems to have been resolved, it foreshadows ways other characters will be treated unjustly by the law in both England and France. Darnay will be tried falsely in both France and England, and Carton will eventually be among the many innocent individuals executed during the Revolution. Dr. Manette’s imprisonment foreshadows how injustices perpetuated during the Old Regime will continue to exist even as the Revolution claims to create more justice.