Serialization in A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

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In Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, serialization is an important and effective tool that divides the literary work into episodes, creating a suspenseful plot. In addition, serialization also creates a “soap opera” effect on the novel’s readers, leaving them with a cliff-hanger scenario at the end of each episode.

A major effect of serialization is the change it renders in character development. Sydney Carton would be a prime example. In the novel’s beginning, he is portrayed as a drunk, a loser with no purpose to his life. However, as the readers go on, they find that Carton is, indeed, not what he seems to be. Ultimately, our reprobate saves Charles Darnay’s life from certain death and is instrumental in having him escape to England with his beloved Lucie, their daughter, and his father-in-law, Dr. Manette.

Charles Dickens uses an unusual method of serialization that resembles that used by daytime soaps. After covering several plot developments of several characters, usually primary ones, he switches to a series of subplots involving other characters, usually secondary ones. For example, after Dickens covers the adventure of the Marquis St. Evremonde, he jumps back to Darnay. The effect is a narrative hook that encourages the readers to go on. This leads to suspense and, of course, a successful tale.

A final, and obvious, effect of serialization is the steady advancement of plot development. As the novel is divided into thematic parts, it gives the readers a definite feeling for the plot and causes them to think about possible outcomes.

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