A Tale of Two Cities
A Tale of Two Cities is a novel about the French Revolution. It was written in 1859 by English writer Charles Dickens and remains one of his most popular works, along with A Christmas Carol. It is widely considered to be one of the most famous works of historical fiction in history. The novel was originally serialized in 31 weekly installments between April and November 1859.
The novel is divided into three books, Recalled to Life, The Golden Thread, and The Track of a Storm, and opens with one of the most famous lines in all of literature: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” In book one, Dr. Manette is released from a French jail and taken to London by his daughter.
In book two, the characters of Charles Darnay and Sydney Carton are introduced. Both men look alike, a theme that will play out in the novel’s denouement. In Paris, Madame Defarge helps lead the storming of the Bastille. In book three, Charles Darnay, who has married Lucy Manette, returns to France but is imprisoned by the Revolution for being an aristocrat. He is to be sent to the guillotine, but the morning before the execution, Carton drugs Darnay and switches places with him, out of his love for Lucy. Sydney Carton goes to the guillotine in an act of self-sacrifice, with the line: “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done. It is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”