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A Tale of Two Cities

Charles Dickens

Themes

Main ideas Themes

Justice

Justice appears in the novel both in terms of the institutions that are supposed to serve it (courts and so on) as well as something that individuals struggle to achieve outside of those institutions. Justice is represented literally by the series of trials and imprisonments interwoven through the plot, including Doctor Manette’s lengthy imprisonment, Darney’s trial in London, and then his additional imprisonment and trial in France. While these plot episodes feature legal structures that are designed to bring individuals to justice, the courts and prisons largely subject innocent people to suffering. Perhaps because legal forms of justice so often prove incompetent, characters are also very invested in taking justice into their own hands. After Gaspard’s son is killed by the Marquis’s carriage, he knows he will never receive legal justice against a powerful man so he kills the Marquis himself. Likewise, Madame Defarge has been plotting revenge against the Evremonde family for decades because their wealth and status allowed them to commit terrible crimes against her family and evade legal repercussions.