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Explain a significant symbol in A Tale of Two

cities
Probably the most memorable and most inspired symbol in Dickens' A Tale of
Two Cities is Madame Defarge and her perpetual knitting. According to the
eNotes summary:

She knits into a scarf growing longer by the day the names in symbols of
those who will later die at the hands of the revolutionaries.

The slow, patient, silent process of knitting symbolizes the hatred that is
building up among the French people and will ultimately be…..

Probably the most memorable and most inspired symbol in Dickens' A Tale of
Two Cities is Madame Defarge and her perpetual knitting. According to the
eNotes summary:

She knits into a scarf growing longer by the day the names in symbols of
those who will later die at the hands of the revolutionaries.

The slow, patient, silent process of knitting symbolizes the hatred that is
building up among the French people and will ultimately be released in one of
the most violent and dramatic explosions in human history. Most of the people
whose names are being recorded in Madame Defarge's knitting will end up
under the infamous guillotine, a towering device which is itself a supreme
symbol of the French Revolution. There were so many people being
decapitated that the executioners needed a machine to keep up with the
work.The guillotine is a horrible tool and seems to represent the horrors of the
revolution and especially of the so-called Reign of terror.

One significant symbol that I always remember from reading the book is that
of the word "blood" being written on the wall in wine that had spilled out into
the streets. The wine running through the streets of Paris was very symbolic
of the blood that was being shed in this revolution, and it was chilling that the
man who wrote it on the wall was the father whose son was run down by the
carriage of the Marquis St. Evremonde.
This book is full of symbolism, and a careful read of it, along with
the information contained on eNotes, will help you discover those symbols
and their meaning. Good luck!

You have asked an excellent question. To answer it, how do you feel Dickens presents the
situation in France under the French aristocracy? And then how do you think he presents the
revolutionaries once the revolution is underway?

Answering these questions, for me, it is clear that Dickens regards the French Revolution with
some ambivalence. He seems to support the revolutionary cause but also to condemn the way the
Revolution was conducted, often criticising the evil of the revolutionaries themselves.

It does appear clear however that Dickens shows great empathy for the situation of the French
working class and highlights the necessity of a social change. We can see this through the
heartless attitude of the Marquis Evremonde to the child his carriage has killed. The Marquis
seems to be a symbol of the aristocracy that is used to shamelessly exploiting the nation's poor
for its own ends. So whilst this is condemned, Dickens also equally frowns on the method of
revolution employed by the peasants. The message seems to be that in fighting oppression with
oppression, and acts of barbarism with acts of barbarism, there is no true revolution; rather they
are only serving to continue the cycle of violence which they themselves were victims of. This
fine line between oppressed and oppressor is perhaps best summed up in the following quote:

Sow the same seed of rapacious license and oppression over again, and it will surely yield the
same fruit according to its kind.

So although Dickens viewed the Revolution as a symbol of resurrection and renewal (key themes
within the novel), this focus is undercut through the constant emphasis on the violence that was
associated with the Revolution, and ultimately did not contribute towards a favourable outcome.

Dickens's attitude towards the French Revolution is somewhat ambiguous. On the one hand, his
portrayal of the French aristocracy is far from flattering. He laments the great poverty, injustice,
and exploitation that existed in France during the ancien régime. He understands why it was that
so many people wanted to get rid of the old system. Despite this, Dickens was profoundly hostile
to the violence and social upheaval caused by the French Revolution. This is explicitly shown
throughout A Tale of Two Cities.

Nonetheless, Dickens still has enormous sympathy with the condition of those who felt they had
nothing to lose and proceeded to turn the country upside-down. But what he won't tolerate is one
form of violent repression being replaced by another. And he's incredibly anxious to avoid the
same thing happening in England. Indeed, one of the running themes of A Tale of Two Cities is
the enormous contrast between the relative peace and stability of England and the bloody chaos
of Revolutionary France.