Atmosphere in the Opening of 'A Tale of Two Cities'

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A Tale of Two Cities Essay

In ‘A Tale of Two Cities’, Charles Dickens creates a significant atmosphere in every major event of the plot, in several different ways; firstly, the ghostly mood of the messenger’s arrival at the Dover Mail provides strong indications at things of the future. Then, Dickens uses actions of characters to build an atmosphere in Dr Manette’s room in the tower in France. Within this, Dickens attributes these places to different concepts and ideas.

When Jerry travels to find the Dover mail so that he can give a message to Mr Lorry, Dickens creates a very mysterious, gloomy atmosphere that seems to allude to a darker end. Firstly, the mist is ‘an evil spirit’, which suggests that it is alive or has ‘unfinished business’ on earth. It suggests that the mist has an agenda, and given that it is ‘trying’ to engulf the carriage in itself, it appears that it has some sort of agenda against something or someone in the carriage. Secondly, everyone on the mail suspects each other of something; they don’t know anything about each other because the passengers feel that that is information that could be used against them. Both of these things don’t necessarily mean anything, but it plants the idea in the reader’s mind that something significant is about to happen, specifically something bad, involving someone on the Dover Mail.

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In the attic, where Dr Manette is staying following his release from 18 years of captivity, a rather different atmosphere is created. The three men who are being shown Manette stay by the doorway, rather than going in, and also, when Lucie Manette enters she doesn’t go straight to him but she ‘crept around the wall’ to the edge of the room. It suggests something at least mysterious, if not ominous, about Manette and he seems to be literally repelling people from him, all except Lucie in the end. One could argue that this is because Manette is really dead ...

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