A Tale of Two Cities



Immortal romance is set against violent French Revolution.

What parents need to know

Educational value

Dickens' 1859 masterpiece sets a sweet romance against the backdrop of the French Revolution. Readers will learn about the class inequality, perpetuated by aristocrats, that kept many French people in fear and abject poverty, and incited the citizens to condemn the monarchy. The novel also depicts machinations of the English legal system in the late 18th century, and shows the ways of household life, travel, and business on each side of the English Channel.

Positive messages

Personal love and devotion are the greatest virtues in A Tale of Two Cities, despite the tidal power of the political revolution. The love between father and daughter, between husband and wife, and the selfless devotion of friends become increasingly precious as they are threatened by blind vengeance. Also, though Christianity is misused by aristocrats to support their superior status, true faith is the greatest comfort in one character's darkest hour.

Positive role models

Each of the central characters in A Tale of Two Cities -- the Manette/Darnay family and their friends -- is more pure and examplary than the last. Dr. Manette is a loving father and caring physician. Lucie Manette is a devoted daughter, wife, and mother. Mr. Lorry and Miss Pross are reliable protectors. Charles Darnay gives up wealth and station out of his own sense of fairness. And Sydney Carton is the soul of loving sacrifice.


Most of the violence in A Tale of Two Cities is portrayed quite lyrically, but there is quite a bit of it. Numerous people are beheaded on the guillotine. A woman is shot and killed. Dr. Manette is called to treat a brother who has been fatally wounded, and whose sister has been impregnated and driven mad by rape and abuse.


A letter written by Dr. Manette relates the story of his being called to treat a young woman who has been raped and impregnated by an abusive aristocrat. Other than that, married couples occasionally kiss and embrace.

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Drinking, drugs, & smoking

In an early scene in the book, in the Parisian suburb of Saint Antoine, a wine barrel has fallen off of a truck and broken, and villagers partake of the spillage. The Defarges own a wine shop there, where wine and brandy are consumed. In England, men drink ale and spirits, and one important character is an alcoholic who considers himself beyond help.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Charles Dickens' masterpiece, A Tale of Two Cities, sets a riveting story of romantic and familial love against the violent drama of the French Revolution. The personal and the political are deeply connected, and complicated, and additional historical background regarding the French monarchy, feudal system, and French Revolution will help young readers appreciate the novel. It's also worth noting that though this is one of Dickens' best-loved works, it is atypical of the author in some ways. A Tale of Two Cities has fewer humorous, colorful characters than others of his most-read books (other than the Crunchers), and the plot is more grand and far-reaching.

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What's the story?

At the beginning of A Tale of Two Cities, Dr. Alexandre Manette has been released after many years of wrongful imprisonment in France. He is reunited with his beautiful, pure-hearted daughter, Lucie, who tenderly cares for him and takes him with her to England to live. During the journey across the channel, Lucie meets Charles Darnay, a French instructor who becomes part of the Manettes' family circle. A secret about Charles' background eventually causes him, the Manettes, and some of their friends to return to France, where mob rule now drives the revolution and threatens to destroy them all.

Is it any good?


A TALE OF TWO CITIES masterfully interweaves political and personal events. It reveals much about the injustice that incited the French Revolution, the gray areas between the populist ideals and blind vengeance, and the toll the rebellion took on individuals. This is one of Charles Dickens' best-loved novels, with good reason. The plot is suspenseful, the scope is far-reaching, and the characters are as rich and affecting as can be. No love was ever sweeter than Lucie and Charles', no father and daughter were ever more deeply attached than the Manettes, and no character in English literature ever had a greater purpose, or better lines, than Sydney Carton.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about what Dickens intends for readers to feel and understand about the French Revolution. What is right and wrong?

  • Why does Sydney Carton do what he does?

  • What does Dickens seem to be suggesting is similar and/or different about his two cities?

  • Think about the Defarges' cohorts, Vengeance and the three Jacques. What do these characters represent?

  • A Tale of Two Cities is considered a classic and is often required reading in school. Why do you think that is?

Book details

Author:Charles Dickens
Genre:Literary Fiction
Topics:Friendship, History
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Barnes & Noble
Publication date:April 20, 1894
Number of pages:448

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Teen, 17 years old Written byLittle Cupcake July 14, 2013

Beautiful Tale of Love, Revenge, and Chaos is as Stirring as it is Brilliant

This great novel is beautiful in so many ways. From its gorgeous language (Dickens never fails us in that area) to its lovable main character Sydney Carton, this is truly an epic story best enjoyed by mature, appreciative readers. This is not a book for impatient readers who'd prefer a "quick read". This book is not meant to entertain. It is meant to appreciate and think about. And believe me, there is a lot to think about. From the futility of Carton's love, to the chaos in revolutionary France, to the innocence of Charles Darnay, and to the secret that plagues Doctor Mannette's life, this is a novel that demands attention in every page. Because of the violence (it does take place during the French Revolution), it is best suited for mature teens, not for tweens. Nonetheless, don't underestimate this novel. It is not just "one of those old classics". It is an immortal tale of love, revenge, and chaos that is as stirring as it is brilliant.
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Teen, 15 years old Written bycinnagurl February 15, 2013

A Tale of Two Cites

its alright. Hard to understand but what do u expect? its Dickens
What other families should know
Too much violence
Teen, 16 years old Written byCarlee C August 13, 2014

Classic masterpiece for more mature readers

Honestly, This book was slow-going for me and a bit rocky in places, yet the story is timeless and calls for patience!!! Definitely better loved and appreciated with older audiences. My advice? Just Stick with it through the first half and you will find it picks up with the second. Don't set it down too early, you will miss out on an extremely rewarding read. Very educational, very beautiful. The book had me crying by the end..:')
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models


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