The French Revolution, which occurred in the late 1700’s was a period in history marked by violence and cruelty among classes. In the novel, A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens powerfully depicts the cruelty of French society during this time of struggle. Throughout the novel, Dickens illustrates the theme of cruelty and inhumanity of men to their fellow countryman in France. This theme grows with each chapter and each brutal event in the novel. Dickens effectively develops the theme of man’s inhumanity toward his fellow man in A Tale of Two Cities by showing various acts of cruelty including, the horrific murder of Old Foulon by the villagers, the extremes that the Revolutionaries take in killing innocent nobles, and the noble Evremonde family’s careless and harmful treatment of a peasant family.
Dickens uses the actions of the villagers of St. Antoine, with the brutal muder of the character Old Foulon, to show the rage and inhumanity of a mob mentality towards another man or men. Old Foulon is a man, who tells the villagers to eat a certain type of grass for food. Unknown to the villagers, but known to Old Foulon, this grass is poisonous and kills many of the villagers. The villagers directly blame Old Foulon for the death of their loved ones, and seek revenge. After being found not guilty in the court, Old Foulon is to be set free from prison, the villagers of St. Antoine are furious. They quickly sweep the streets, and are ready to kill him. Dickens uses this event to clearly express the cruelty of the mob when he writes, “This Foulon was at the Hotel de Ville, and might be loosed. Never, if Saint Antoine knew his own sufferings, insults, and wrongs! Armed men and woman flocked out the Quarter so fast, and drew even these l…
… a person in a lower class than themselves.The villagers of St. Antoine killing Old Foulon, the acts of the Revolutionaries, and the Evremonde family’s treatment of the peasant boy and his family display Dickens’ theme of man’s inhumanity toward his fellow countryman. This theme depicts the persistent cruelty leading to and during the French Revolution in the late 18th century. The events demonstrate that the cruelty was not just from the Revolutionaries or just from the nobles, but from all classes. Although some of the events in the novel are fictional, they represent the spirit of the Revolution that Dickens discerned, and the events easily could have happened. Dickens’ novel very well represents the inhumanities of man and the character of the people during this time period.
Dickens, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities. Mineola: Dover, 1999. Print.