Introduction of A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

Setting of the Novel

The dual setting of London and Paris serves as a central motif, contributing to the exploration of contrasts. The novel unfolds in two time periods, with key events occurring in 1775 and 1793. The settings allow Dickens to compare and contrast the two cities, criticizing London for its conservatism and Paris for its chaos during the Revolution. The juxtaposition of the two settings enhances the thematic exploration of societal and political differences.


The grandiose style of the novel, coupled with the omniscient narrator, contributes to the motif of style. The narrator possesses the ability to see both past and future events, allowing commentary on human nature and foreshadowing. The style's grandiosity is particularly evident in Sidney Carton's prophetic vision, emphasizing the role of style in shaping the outcome of unfolding history.


The threatening and philosophical tone emerges as a motif throughout the novel. The narrator employs foreshadowing and dark imagery to create a tone that anticipates the countless sufferings to come. The tone enhances the overall atmosphere of tension and contributes to the novel's thematic depth.

Point of View

The motif of point of view is reflected in the third-person omniscient perspective employed in the novel. The narrator, possessing all-knowing and all-seeing qualities, provides insights into characters' thoughts and emotions. This panoramic view enables a thorough understanding of historical events in London and Paris, reinforcing the motif of perspective.


The historical fiction genre is a significant motif in the novel. Although published in 1859, the main plot is set in 1775, preceding the French Revolution. The novel's opening line establishes a sense of time, and the genre allows for a critical exploration of past events, encouraging readers to think critically about historical facts presented by historians.

Motifs in A Tale of Two Cities


The motif of doubles is prevalent throughout the novel, emphasizing the theme of duality. The opening words, "It was the best of times; it was the worst of times," set the tone for the dual nature of the narrative. The plot itself revolves around two cities, London and Paris, and characters are often paired to highlight opposing traits. Madame Defarge and Lucie Manette, for instance, represent contrasting moral values. Even physical resemblance, as seen between Charles Darnay and Sydney Carton, plays a significant role, contributing to the melodramatic elements of the story.


The motif of imprisonment appears both literally and metaphorically in the novel. Characters such as Dr. Manette and Charles Darnay experience physical imprisonment in the jails of Paris, reflecting the struggle against external constraints. Additionally, past memories serve as a form of imprisonment, haunting characters like Dr. Manette and Sydney Carton. The motif underscores the theme of personal and historical entrapment.

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