5 best topics for A Tale of Two Cities essay

The Charles Dickens novel A Tale of Two Cities is one of the most well-known works in the history of literature. As well as a being historical account of the French revolution and its causes it explores a variety of moral, social and philosophical issues. For these reasons it's a common subject for essays. The biggest problem with writing an essay on it is choosing a topic, because dealing with the novel as a whole can easily fill another book. Here are five possible topics.

  1. Resurrection. Dickens uses the theme of resurrection frequently, relating it to both people and societies. He stresses the injustice of pre-Revolutionary France, where peasants could be executed without trial at the whim of an aristocrat. That society is now dead but France will be resurrected as a new sort of nation. Similarly, at the end of the novel Sydney Carton is spiritually resurrected after dying to save Darnay.
  2. Sacrifice. Sacrifice is a major element of the novel. Miss Pross sacrifices her own happiness to give Lucie every chance in life, for example; Dickens stresses the extent of her selflessness. Carton makes the ultimate sacrifice; he voluntarily gives his life by impersonating the condemned Darnay and being executed in his place. His motivation is to make Darnay's wife Lucie, whom he loves, happy.
  3. Violence and revolution. Dickens shows clear sympathy with many of the aims of the French revolutionaries and portrays the degeneracy of the aristocracy vividly; foe example in one scene an aristocrat kills a child with the wheel of his carriage and casually throws the parents a coin to compensate for their loss. However he also illustrates the indiscriminate violence unleashed by the revolution itself, and uses the unjust death sentence imposed on Darnay, a virtuous man, to show this.
  4. Light and darkness. Light and dark are used as metaphors for good & evil. Arrests happen at night. Dark blood on snow slowly spreads a stain, as evil spreads through the Revolution. Madame Lafarge is followed by dark shadows.
  5. Duality. The novel is built around opposing pairs. The two cities of the title are stable but corrupt and socially divided London, and Paris with the high ideals and violent reality of the Revolution. Lucie and Madame Lafarge represent good & evil women. Carton and Darnay have a very close physical resemblance but Darnay is highly moralistic and worthy, while Carton (until he rises above himself) is dissipate and lazy.

Any one of these topics is a good basis for an essay. Each of them can be shown by many examples from the novel, which provides a lot of material to write about and gives the opportunity to produce an interesting, in-depth piece of work.