Irony in A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

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This paper is to explain the use of irony of a phrase from A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. The story is set during the time of the French Revolution and the phrase was the slogan of the revolutionaries: “The Republic One and the Indivisible of Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, or Death.” Each term of this phrase will be defined and once defined one will be able to see the extreme irony of it.

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First, the definition of Republic is: “a state in which the exercise of the sovereign power is lodged in representatives elected by the people.” During this time, France was not even a republic. They were simply working towards it. And in all reality, they did not even have a government at this time. Their country was in the middle of revolution and was in total chaos. The people had not elected any representatives, and there was no one who was actually in control. It was just whoever had the best troops and could kill more of the other. This does not match the definition of Republic.

The second important word is Liberty. Liberty is defined as: “A state of society so far only abridged and restrained, as is necessary and expedient for the safety and interest of the society, state, or nation. The restraints of laws are essential to liberty.” During the French Revolution there were no laws. The people were basically rebelling against each other in a bloody free-for-all. Of course they would not follow laws. They were all fighting to change the laws, and the government that they did not agree with in the first place. If they did not agree with the laws why would they abide by them?

The next word is Equality, defined as: “An agreement of things in dimensions, quantity, or quality; likeness; similarity in regard to two things compared.” During the French Revolution There was equality, but not the kind the people wanted. They had equality in that they were all able to be killed equally, without distinction, whether they had done anything wrong or not. They had equality for death. Obviously that is not the kind of equality one would desire.

“A body of men associated for their common interest or pleasure.

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