“A Tale of Two Cities:” An Analysis of the Dispositions Driving Duality

“A Tale of Two Cities:” An Analysis of the Dispositions Driving Duality

Ruby Hoffman, Staff Writer

By Ruby Hoffman

If you have yet to read Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, then it is a must-add to your reading list! The enthralling exploration of human thought and action against the backdrop of the French Revolution can be deeply felt by a variety of readers, as Dickens creates a wide range of characters set to tantalize each reader’s intellectual appetite. Mwah, chef’s kiss! 

At first glance, the contrast between life in the cities of Paris and London emerges as the central duality; but, as the novel unfolds, Dickens exposes numerous dualities as he delves into the intricacies of the minds of the characters, thus revealing innate commonalities between the tendencies of individuals who become at odds with one another. 

A Tale of Two Cities is, undoubtedly, one of the most riveting romantic novels and human-examinatory literary works of all time. As the characters spring to life, each has had some experience of love, hatred, loyalty, mistrust, endearment, and betrayal; and the subsequent course of action taken by each character is, in turn, driven by the characters’ perception of the world as molded by the convictions that they have nurtured. 

This novel is especially pertinent in our increasingly polarized world today. It provides an acute perspective as to the proclivities of individuals under intense scrutiny, under tremendous stress, under the suffering of grief, and under the weight of bitter resentment. While the same experience might evoke the same human emotion in characters on either side of the war, each response differs based upon the disposition bred in the individuals by their political stance. Likewise, this principle applies to people with opposing viewpoints in theoretical wars over controversial government policy, today; common humanity is ignored, and instead division is fueled by the conceptual disparity. Thus, it goes without saying that this novel has weathered the test of time; it holds as true to human behavior now, in 2020, as it did upon its publishing in 1859.

I will allow the reader to reflect upon the text as they please—as I’m sure Dickens would have me do—but, as you delve into this literary masterpiece, I leave you with something to ponder:

 If, as Dickens brings to light, the dualities that we hold are bound by common threads in the minds of individuals on either side of opposing viewpoints, then why does passionate dissention remain so prevalent in society? How might those common threads, if understood and appreciated as a part of our common humanity, be used as a resource to bridge the schisms bred by dissension within society?