The French Revolution, beginning in 1789, served as a force for exposing man’s inhumanity to man because of the unjust actions that arose in all aspects of human existence during this time period. Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities examines the extent to which man will travel to achieve what he believes is essential to life. A look into every aspect of this epoch in both France and England reveals the faults that enable man to overlook the value of another individual’s life. Throughout the novel, Dickens analyzes the concept of man’s inhumanity to his fellow man as a force motivated by inordinate greed, destructive power, and conspicuous injustice.
In the novel, various forms of greed motivate the characters’ inhumanity by causing them to lose all knowledge of their responsibility to their fellow man. This is first displayed in the lawyer, Stryver, and the mistreatment of his business partner, Sydney Carton. Dickens writes “The more business he got, the greater his power seemed to grow of getting at its pith and marrow…”(Dickens 65). In Stryver’s attempt to gain money and popularity, he capitalizes on Carton’s long nights of hard work and takes all the credit for successes in court while Carton receives no recognition. Stryver’s cupidity to become a well-liked lawyer at the Old Bailey courthouse causes him to take advantage of his colleague. Greed and materialism are also demonstrated through Dickens sardonic descriptions of the French aristocracy. Dickens mockingly describes the Monseigneur in Town, “Of his pleasures, general and particular, Monseigneur had the other truly noble idea, that the world was made for them” (79). The Monseigneur in Town is not given a name because he is meant to symbolize a type of person, a Fren…
…l that when prompted by inordinate greed, overwhelming power, and conspicuous injustice, man reveals his inhumanity towards his fellow man. These seemingly basic human ideas seem to have a very inhuman effect on the character in the novel, causing them to become tragic shadows of humans with little knowledge of what is right and what is wrong. Whether in the French Revolution or in modern society, when these negative changes take root and grow, man loses the simple morals he was born with and does not see his neighbor as an individual. For in the end, it is Sydney Carton or those types of people who in one single act redeem humanity. Quite simply, it is, “A far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known”(293).
Dickens, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities. Mineola: Dover, 1999. Print.