Symbolism in A Tale of Two Cities

A change can be discovered and recognized by other changes. In the novel, A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens uses significance, allusions, and foreshadowing to communicate his mindset towards the Reign of terror while likewise increasing the thriller of the upcoming turmoil.

Importance is utilized in A Tale of Two Cities to convey Charles Dickens’ attitude towards the upcoming revolution. Charles utilizes the sea as a symbol for the social discontent of individuals of France, “the sea did what it liked and what it liked was damage.

”( 22) The sea is utilized here as a representation of the rising Reign of terror that was not only affecting France, but England also, marking the start of rebellious actions that started to sneak their way into the people’s minds. Though the indications of revolt are everywhere, Dickens offers Lucie Manette an appearance of hope and compassion in the dark world revealing the women’s function of acquiring trust and raising spirits for the ones involved in the Revolution.

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Charles Dickens utilizes the spilt wine outside of Monsieur and Madame Defarge’s red wine shop to signify the blood that is going to be spilt throughout the transformation when a, “big cask of wine,” was, “dropped and broken.”( 32) The white wine going through the streets is being utilized to symbolize the blood that is soon going to be going through the exact same streets during the Revolution. The fact that it was outside of Madame Defarge’s wine store signifies the blood that is spilt around her throughout the rest of the book.

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Allusions are also utilized in this novel to convey Charles Dickens’ attitude towards the females in the French transformation. Madame Defarge is utilized as an allusion to The Fates from Greek folklore as she knit’s the names of individuals she wants dead such as, “John,” the name she was, “deftly knitting.”( 187) As Madame Defarge knit’s the names of her enemies she is efficiently sealing their deadly fate. Though the women had little political intervention, they made themselves important in their own method, either giving themselves a bad credibility (Madame Defarge) or a great credibility (Lucie Manette).

Dickens also uses Lucie Manette as an allusion to The Fates from Greek mythology saying that, “She was the golden thread that united him to a past beyond his misery,”(84). Like the Fates and Madame Defarge, Lucie controls the destiny of the people around her though, unlike Madame Defarge, uses this control to bind the people into a better destiny. Lucie is a symbol of hope and compassion and Dickens conveys this through her ability to help people in the times of trouble, like the revolution that the French are about to set off.

Foreshadowing is used in A Tale of Two Cities to heighten the suspense of the upcoming French Revolution. The wine running through the streets is a symbol, but is also used to foreshadow the spilling of blood that was about to take place as the wine poured over, “the rough, irregular stones of the street.”(32) Because the wine is a symbol of blood, as the wine spills over the street a certain apprehensive feel is established, creating a heightened suspense of the revolution that is being foreshadowed in this passage.

Once again, this significant moment takes place outside of Madame Defarge’s shop, signifying her participation in the revolution and the blood that will be spilled around her. After the Marquis kills the boy, “one woman,” still, “knitted on with the steadfastness of Fate.”(117) This woman is Madame Defarge knitting his name into the pattern so that some harm will come of him, this is foreshadowing his death that will come later in the book. This is another example of Madame Defarge’s importance in the book as shown by Charles Dickens, and makes it suspenseful, all wondering when the Marquis might meet his demise.

Dickens use of symbolism, allusions, and foreshadowing show his attitude towards the subject of the French Revolution and heighten the suspense of the upcoming revolt. It also shows the importance that the women had in the revolution and how they functioned in the book.

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Symbolism in A Tale of Two Cities. (2016, Nov 15). Retrieved from

Symbolism in A Tale of Two Cities

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