A Tale of Two Cities Introduction

by Charles Dickens

Against the backdrop of the French Revolution, Charles Dickens unfolds his masterpiece of drama, adventure, courage, and romance about a man falsely accused of treason.

Unjustly imprisoned for 18 years in the Bastille, Dr. Alexandre Manette is reunited with his daughter, Lucie, and safely transported from France to England. It would seem that they could take up the threads of their lives in peace. As fate would have it though, the pair are summoned to the Old Bailey to testify against a young Frenchman — Charles Darnay — falsely accused of treason. Strangely enough, Darnay bears an uncanny resemblance to another man in the courtroom, the dissolute lawyer's clerk Sydney Carton. It is a coincidence that saves Darnay from certain doom more than once.

This classic novel is brilliantly plotted, rich in drama, romance, and heroics that culminate in a daring prison escape in the guillotine's shadow. "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times" when injustice was met by a lust for vengeance, and rarely was a distinction made between the innocent and the guilty. In A Tale of Two Cities, Dickens critiques both the conditions leading up to the French Revolution (abuse of power by the aristocracy) and the Revolution itself (the Reign of Terror), offering dualities of political commentary as the ultimate backdrop for an engrossing work of historical fiction.